In The Aesthetics of Qiyun and Genius: Spirit Consonance in Chinese Landscape Painting and Some Kantian Echoes, Xiaoyan Hu provides an interpretation of the notion of qiyun, or spirit consonance, in Chinese painting, and considers why creating a painting—especially a landscape painting—replete with qiyun is regarded as an art of genius, where genius is an innate mental talent. Through a comparison of the role of this innate mental disposition in the aesthetics of qiyun and Kant’s account of artistic genius, the book addresses an important feature of the Chinese aesthetic tradition, one that evades the aesthetic universality assumed by a Kantian lens.
Drawing on the views of influential sixth to fourteenth-century theorists and art historians and connoisseurs, the first part explains and discusses qiyun and its conceptual development from a notion mainly applied to figure painting to one that also plays an enduring role in the aesthetics of landscape painting. In the light of Kant’s account of genius, the second part examines a range of issues regarding the role of the mind in creating a painting replete with qiyun and the impossibility of teaching qiyun. Through this comparison with Kant, Hu demystifies the uniqueness of qiyun aesthetics and also illuminates some limitations in Kant’s aesthetics.
Xiaoyan Hu is lecturer in art theory at Southeast University in Nanjing, China.
List of Illustrations
Part I: The Notion of Qiyun in the Sixth to Fourteenth Centuries
Chapter 1. The Notion of Qiyun in Xie He’s First Law of Chinese Painting
Chapter 2. The Thread of Qiyun: A Shared Legacy in 10th to 14th Century Landscape Painting
Part II: The Art of Genius: An Examination of Qiyun Aesthetics from a Kantian Perspective
Chapter 3. The Master of Qiyun: Genius As an Innate Mental Talent of Idea-Giving
Chapter 4. Spontaneity of Qiyun: Genius as the Innate Mental Talent of Rule-Giving
Chapter 5. The Impossibility of Teaching Qiyun: The Exemplary Originality of Genius in Yipin
Chapter 6. Genius as a Pure and Lofty Mind I: Aesthetic Autonomy and Balanced Human Nature
Chapter 7. Genius as a Pure and Lofty Mind II: Moral Cultivation of the Kindred Mind
About the Author
"This learned book seeks to answer some key questions revolving around qiyun (spiritual consonance), an important but elusive concept in Chinese art criticism. Employing a comparative approach informed by ideas of Western aesthetics, especially those of Kant and Schiller, Dr. Xiaoyan Hu has made admirable contributions to understanding Chinese and Western aesthetics. Well-researched and thoughtfully argued, it is indispensable for anyone interested in Chinese aesthetics and comparative studies of art."
"In this volume, Xiaoyan Hu treats us to two books in one: first, an informed study of the Chinese aesthetic concept of qiyun (which she translates as "spirit consonance"), from its origins in figure painting to later applications in landscape painting; then, an equally informed comparison of qiyun aesthetics with that of Kant, with special attention to the idea of "genius" in the Third Critique. Hu anticipates a doubtful reader's obvious question (Is Kant the right philosopher for such a comparison?) with thoughtful responses. No, Chinese aesthetics is not Kantian, but Kant turns out to be surprisingly good to think with."
"By placing two radically different aesthetics theories in contrast, the author illustrates the best benefit of doing comparative philosophy---one ends up gaining a better understanding of both. Interestingly, the more different to begin with, the more revealing in the end."
“Xiaoyan Hu’s book offers an insightful and erudite historical and philosophical exploration of qiyun (spirit consonance) in Chinese figure and landscape painting and aesthetic discourses in relation to the aesthetics of genius as a talent of idea- and rule-giving in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment. This work is comparative and intercultural philosophy at its best in allowing each aesthetic to illuminate the other and its limits without reduction or oversimplification.”
"This book provides a scholarly analysis of a central idea qiyun in the painting tradition and the aesthetic discourse of ancient China. The analysis is carried out in a contemporary and international manner, which involves a critical comparison with European especially Kantian aesthetics. It is an important study in the field--in comparative aesthetics and comparative philosophy. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in a cross-cultural comparison between China and Europe in aesthetics and painting history."
"This bold experiment in letting classical Chinese aesthetics speak in its own voice deserves to be carefully studied by anyone interested in the problems typically addressed by Western aesthetics or in the practice of landscape painting. By focusing on similarities as well as differences between Kantian aesthetics, with its analytic rigor and claim to universal validity, and the more intuitive, insight-oriented focus of Chinese views on painting, Xiaoyun Hu demonstrates how both traditions can enrich and clarify the other through dialogical comparison. Significant insights abound as she unpacks the many resonances and dissonances between Chinese Qiyun (spirit consonance) and Kantian artistic genius as an innate mental talent of rule-giving."
The appendix lists the original Chinese texts mentioned in the book; the translations of some texts are partially quoted or paraphrased in the book. Click Here