The Insights on Time, History and Memory in Chinese Classical Aesthetics
Liu Chengji;Research Center for Value and Culture, School of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University;
Over the past 20 years, the discussion in the West on the aesthetic characteristics of time and space based on Kant's studies has relocated the disciplinary boundary of aesthetics. Correspondingly, the insights on time, history and memory in Chinese classical times has gained a new possibility to be discussed as an issue of aesthetics. First, Chinese classical aesthetics was originated from traditional agricultural civilization, and its sense of time came from the awareness of the characteristics of land and natural life. Given the meaning of life, time was represented by vegetation, astronomical phenomena and the rotation of the four seasons, thus becoming emotionalized, musicalized and aestheticized. Physical image, emotional image and mirror image can fundamentally generalize the way in which this concept of time is presented in the history of Chinese aesthetics. Second, the strong historic consciousness of Chinese aesthetics was stemmed from its weak religious basis, and the philosophy characterized with the distinct generative theory equalized the advocation for history and the respect for the Tao. Against this background, the utopia of the origination of history, the ritualization and musicalization of historical process, and the orientation of historical writing following the law of beauty shaping, are the three links in the generation of aesthetics. Third, there has been no tradition of taking memory as a subject of philosophical reflection in China, but incorporating it into human emotion and imagination, thus turning the expression of memory into an aesthetic expression. In the history of Chinese aesthetics, the aesthetic value of memory has been mainly demonstrated at the individual level, the common folk level, the elite level and the national level. Together with natural time and humanistic history, this aesthetic memory has connected the whole movement of art and beauty in China's classical times. What we mean by Chinese aesthetic history, therefore, is actually a history which has been maintained and continuously constructed by time, historical consciousness and aesthetic memory.