Here I propose to study the polysemy of "shen" in Six Dynasties texts on literature and painting. During the Six Dynasties, "shen" began to be used extensively in reference to all major aspects of literary and art criticism. The proliferation of the term is very notable in discussions on authorial qualities, the creative process, the ranking of literary and art works, and the principles of aesthetic judgment. What is more significant is that this term figures prominently in some of the most important tenets or theories of literature and the arts developed during the Six Dynasties. Focusing on these tenets and theories, I shall examine how leading Six Dynasties critics ingeniously adapted different notions of "shen" developed by Confucian, Legalist, Daoist, Buddhist, and other philosophical schools to theorize about different aspects of literature and painting. By investigating the conceptual origins of "shen" in given tenets or theories, I aim not only to demonstrate the ramifying aesthetic significance of this all-important term, but also to shed some new light on the tenets or theories under discussion. As these tenets and theories constitute the core of Six Dynasties aesthetics, any new interpretation of them could in turn help us to better understand the broad historical development of Six Dynasties aesthetics.
Contribution to Book
The conceptual origins and aesthetic significance of "Shen" in Six Dynasties texts on literature and paintingChinese aesthetics: The ordering of literature, the arts, and the universe in the Six Dynasties
Document TypeBook chapter
PublisherUniversity of Hawaii Press
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Additional InformationISBN of the source publication: 0824827910
Full-text VersionPublisher’s Version
Citation InformationCai, Z.-q. (2004). The conceptual origins and aesthetic significance of "Shen" in Six Dynasties texts on literature and painting. In Z.-q. Cai (Ed.), Chinese aesthetics: The ordering of literature, the arts, and the universe in the Six Dynasties (pp. 310-432). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.