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According to this Confucianist thought, human emotions such as joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, are the result of the condensation and dissipation of “qi”(matter-energy). Human emotions and the sounds of nature arise from the same source, thus human emotions are produced as sounds of nature and these sounds are transmitted to others who are composed of same quality and form. This results in the emotional correspndence between human beings. In this context, rulers can read the hearts of the people via music and likewise, and the dispositions of rulers are transmitted to the people. Herein, Confucianism attaches Confucian virtue to the Heavenly order. Confucianists put their volition on a par with the order and meaning of heaven. As a result, creatures have a teleological volition and voices house human emotions and will power. This is the core of Confucianist politeness music theory that posits that music has in it grief and joy (shengyougailelun). Sound connotes subjectives human emotions and fully manifests the virtue of sage. This politeness music theory (shengyougailelun) was handed down to Yuanji (210-263). Yuanji also thinks that this politeness music theory can forcibly drive home the social efficacy of music. His theory of music was in juxtaposition with Jikang’s theory of music.
II. A critique of Confucianist music theory- Jikang’s music theory
Jikang’s music theory (Shengwuaile lun: “Discourse on the Nonemotional Nature of Sound”), by contrast, insists that music has in it nor grief or joy, and is thus a frontal critique of Confucianist music theory. The reason for regarding Jikang’s music theory as the first one of aesthetics in China is that his theory is not only based on Daoist naturalism, but critizes the Confucianist music theory with rich analyses and logical suasion. Jikang’s ‘Shengwuaile lun” is in the form of a debate between the Host of Dong-ye and a guest from Jin, with the guest defending the tradditional view. The Host of Dong-ye represents Jikang himself and a guest from Jin embodies Confucianist music theoritician. In the following part, I will first deal with the incantatory magicism of music. Second, Jikang’s critical position toward an assertion that music reflects the highest virtue in politics will be analyzed. Third, a description and analysis of the claim that there exists a correspondence between emtions and sound will follow.
II-A. A critique of the belief in the magicalism of music
First, take a look at the story of Music Master Kuang. Music Master Kuang blew on the pitch-pipes and knew that the airs of the south were noncombative, that the army of Chu would be defeated. As a critique of this story and its implication, Jikang broaches the underlying principle of LuLu (pitches, representing yang and yin respectively). Lulu is a measure of the “qi” in four seasons. When in a certain season, qi will move, and this prompts the response of lulu and this consequently cause the ashes within “guan”.????? This effect is the natural result of nature, not of human action. As a result of the ‘Three-Part Subtraction-Addition” (Sanfensunyi), lulu that are created up and down will smooth out the harmony of five “sheng” and places orderly state into it. But each lu has its own sound, and even when blown in winter each sound will not lose any its uniqueness. Jikang in his 4th debate raises doubts about the magical power of Music Master Kuang. According to him, when Kuang blew on the pitch-pipes, it raised the doubts as to whether it was truly a qi from Chu because Jin and Chu are separated by a thousand li. His doubts raised the following question: If Kuang truly knew the sound was an air of Chu that came and entered his pitch-pipes, then it should be noted that south of Chu are Wu and Yue and to the north are Liang and Sung. Thus if he did not see the source, how could he know it (for sure) ?
The institutionaization of Lu and confiramtion of the pitches were verified empirically based on the natural sciences. The observation of “Qi” (known as blowing the ashes) confirms the accuracy of the pitch-pipes, and the “Three-Part Subtraction-Addition,” which follows natural laws, was used to determine the pitches of the pitch-pipe that were the basis of weights and measures. The fact that by performing the pitch-pipes, the performer can tell the result of warfare signifies nothing but the projection of human beings’ wishes and wants onto nature. This is the case of superstitious magicalims whose underlying sources Jikang debunks. The performer who blows on the pitch-pipe is from Jin and the question arises of how the wind of Chu can enter into a performer’ s pitch-pipe who is from Jin such that it changes the tones. Jikang continues that “master Kuang alone was widely learned in many things and himself possessed the knowledge to recognize the signs of victory and defeat, but, wishing to set the minds of the masses at ease, he attributed it to the divine and mysterious Po Changxian in his guarantee of long life to Duke Jing.”
II-B. A critique of music theory as a carrier of political virtue.
The characteristic of Confucianism’s music theory lies in its claim to raise political accomplishments of a regime and reveal the dignity of the ruler so that it will draw voluntary obedience from the people. In this regard, music is nothing but a political instrument. The premise underlining this political purpose being that music can carry the personality of sage king. Jikang refuses to accept this Confucianist viewpoint: “When Duke Jie stayed in the Lu principality, he collected the poetry and observed rites and thus came to know the social customs of that principality. And When Confucius listened to Shao music, he exclaimed that beauty and good of sage king Shun was identical.” These are the loci classici of Confucianist music theory. Jikang opposes the idea of tones as the source of the efficacy of music. The accomplishments of sage kings come to be known and understood after the lines of music are heard and appreciated. He distinguishes between music language composed of melodies and the words of songs, and he does this because he thinks that these contain their own different principles of autonomy.
Jikang refutes the Confucianist claim that the personality of sage king is immanent in music. In the 2nd debate, the guest from Chin, a proponent of Confucianism says the following:
That the eight regions may have different customs, and crying and singing might be totally different. But people’s feelings of grief and joy can certainly be perceived. When the heart is moved on the inside, then music comes forth from the heart. Although you entrust it to other tones, or express it with a surplus of sounds, the skilled listener and examiner will necessarily understand it; this will not cause him to err. In ancient times Po Ya strummed his lute and Chung Chuzi knew what was on his mind. The criminal laborer struck the musical stones, and Chuzi knew he was grieved.
What this implies is that when you are grieved, your music will certainly express grieved hearts and produce plaintive tunes manifesting grief and sorrow of the heart. This is a natural response and cannot be avoided, but only those with spirit-like insight are able keenly to perceive it. Thus you cannot conclude that because you see the many variations in regional custom, music has in it either grief nor joy.
As to this proposition, Jikang refutes it because it contains a logical contradiction.
If a sage king’s personality is carried in music, the music itself should have its number fixed and passed onto later generations. For example, music Shao must have fixed number and expresses the personalities of both sage king Yao and Shun. In this music Shao, the fixed number cannot be mixed up with other forms of songs, nor it can be performed in other forms of number. But the logic of this proposition is in violation of the statement of the guest from Jin in the 2nd debate, which claims that there is no fixed law of vocal sound and thus that emotions of grief and joy can be expressed by using other forms of vocal sound.
Jikang criticizes the principles which motivate this contradiction in Confucian thinking. “ These are both false records (made up by) vulgar pedants. They fabricated these accounts, wishing to make sacred their affairs. They wanted the whole world to misunderstand the way of music. Hating the fact that they had not met this rare listener in their own time, they longed for the ancients and sighed with admiration. This is the way they deluded later generations.”
The critique of the Confucianism’s claim that only sage king and sage fully appreciate music is an attempt to undermine and blunt the political motive of Confucianism that purorts to use music as a ruling tool. This critique is another denunciation of secular, desire-oriented Confucianism that attempts to beautify the rule of the ruling class as an embodiment of sage king’s rule. Concurrently, this critique provides a new interpretation that will broaden aesthetical horizon. His music theory confirms that not only sage king and sage, but all of the people can have their own sense of appreciation and understanding of music. This critique also makes it possible that music arrangement becomes one of many artistic forms. Music arrangement is not to distort the original nature of original song. Arranged music is recognized as a legitimate form of music that arouses aethetical sense drawn from a change in its pitches and tunes.
In his 3rd debate, Jikang refutes the claim that music does intimate the personality of sage king. If music is to represent the nature of a sage king as a composer and carry the emotions of him, then Perfect Music could not be entrusted to professional music performers: we must have a sage to pull on the strings and blow on the pipes. Only then will these elegant songs achieve their perfect form. Yet, now as it is in the past, music is performed by professional performers and this itself proves that music does not intimate the personality of sage king.
Yet, Jikang’s refutation can be also refuted by Confucianism. By extending Confucianism’s position, Jikang’s refutation can be countered by a new interpretation which posits that if music already intimates the personality of sage king, the true nature or meaning of music can be tranmittable only if performance of music is fully executed. Further, if the performer is moved and performs music to the full while following up on the intention of sage king, he/she can transmit the motive of sage king. Hence, if actual performance of music and the role of the performer fully correspond to the motive of sage king, the intention of sage king in music composition can be truly and sufficiently transferred.
II-C. A Critique of the viewpoint of fixed correspondence between emotion and sound
Confucianism claims that the sound of music carries the meaning and emotion of humans. In an attempt to substantiate this claim, the guest from Jin takes the example of “GeLu” who knew that his cow grieved and bellowed her lament to him that her calves had been sacrificed.
As to this case, Jikang criticizes every aspect of the implication of it. He simply says that cattle are not of the same species as man. In other words, there are no paths of communication between the two. His cut-throat refutation is as follows: if birds and animals are both able to speak and GeLu received a special talent by which he alone could understand them, then this is a case of discussing their affairs by interpreting their language, like translating and transmitting a foreign tongue. Since it is not a matter of knowing someone’s feelings by examining their music, this is not a valid criticism of my position.
In Confucianism, “if some who is wise will thoroughly understand something as soon as he comes into contact with it, and that there is nothing he will not know.” Jikang ,however, is keenly doubtful of this claim and as a counterargument. He continues by asking whether, if a sage all of a sudden found himself in the lands of the Hu barbarians, “would he understand their language or not?”
As to this doubt, Jikang sets out his analysis of knowledge by saying the following.
Must he have repeated contact and exchange with them, and then get to know their language ? Or, will be blow on the pitch-pipes and play the bamboo tuning tubes and in this way examine their music ? Or, will he observe their manner and examine their facial expressions and in this way know thir minds ? This (the latter) would be a matter of knowing one’s mind naturally from his air and appearance. Even though he himself said nothing, you could still know his mind. Thus the way of knowing does not perhaps rely on words. If you can blow on the pitch-pipes and examine their music, and in this way know their minds, then even if someone had his mind on a horse but by mistake said ‘deer,’ the examiner would definitely know from ‘deer’ that he meant ‘horse’. This means that one’s mind is not related to what one says: and what one says is perhaps not sufficient to verify what is on his mind…. Language is not something that is by nature fixed. The five regions have different customs; the same thing has different designations. We simply select one name and use it as a sign. Now the sage exhausts the principles. This means that whatever is natural can be examined; there is no obscurity that cannot be illuminated. But if the principle involved is hidden, then you will not see it even if you are close by. Therefore, the language of a different land cannot be forcibly understood
In this round of thrust and parry, Jikang argues that mind does not have an essential relationship with language and even in some cases, language is not even sufficient to manifest mind. What this implies is that the presentation of language does not possess intrinsic meaning. In this case, one meaning can be expressed in an array of languages. Likewise, the proposition that a single thing can be expressed in other different languages signifies that language does not have a fixed correspondence to human mind. The claim that language is not essentially directed to one object, but that it chooses one naming and takes it as a criterion has a common ground with the explanation of lanuguage autonomy. The meaning and the presentation of the word are not essentially related, rather they are artificially tied to each other and are embedded in social custom and are often to be used in social context. If one applies this to music language, presentation of music language itself does not entail necessarily the intention of the composer. Hence, it is natural that a multiplicity of interpretations follow upon the heels of actually listening to music. However, this does not mean that the listener is inferior in his endowed aesthetic facility, such that he cannot grasp one secured motive of the composer.
The claim that there is no fixed relationship between the expected connotation relation between the presentation of words and the meanings of words is in keeping with what is called “Yanbujinyi-lun” (the doctrine that language cannot exhaust meanings). This is embedded in Wei-Jin XuanXue thought and carries an important implication: a recipient of art can draw more diverse and profound aesthetic impressions from an artist’s intended message. Further, the claim that language is deficient to reveal the human heart amounts to a recognition of the limitation of language, thus paving the way for a world of aesthetical intuition that draws on intuition only.
Jikang verifies the absence of a fixed correspondence between emotion and sound as follows ;
Different regions have different customs; singing and crying are the done all the same. If we mix them up and use them, some hear crying and are pleased; others listen to singing and become sad. But their feelings of grief and joy are the same. Now if you use the same feelings to produce completely different sounds, is this not because music has no constant relation to emotion.
Here Jikang uses different customs in different regions and even strains it to the extreme case where some hear crying and are pleased and others listen to singing and become sad. This explains how identical emotions can be expressed in different sounds. The inconstancy of sound, namely expression of sounds relative to certain emotions, has no constancy and hence proves that out of internal necessity sound does not express ceertain emotions. Though Jikang’s viewpoint is based on this premise, he does not contradict the traditional view that poetry and music are expressions of human emotion. Yet, two sounds whose main characters are harmony, “gung and shang,” are considered the most moving of the cords. Namely, sound is not constant, thus this chord is not indicative of any certain emotion, those who in grief will hear the grieved sounds being created. In harmony of sound there is no fixed form, but nothing but the grieved heart has something and this signifies that those who are in grief in their hearts will hear only grief from a chord. Here, Jikang raises the question of how to know and say one of Zhuangzi’s propositions, namely the proposition that all kinds of sound is identical with all chords created in nature. The phenomenon of hearing only grief from a chord dvelopes into custom and when it reaches the point of influencing politics, all become sounds of sorrow at this point. This explains the claim that the sound of a collapsing nation provokes sorrow. Those who feel sorrow hear some chords and take them only as sorrowful. This means that by knowing responses of people toward music you can know social customs. That a chord has no form means that there is no sorrow and joy in a chord and emotion of sorrow and joy is only contained in human heart. The idea that identical emotions can be expressed in various sounds is a consequence of the proposition that sound by itself contains no form. Identical sounds can express various different emotions, and there is no essential relation between sound and emotion. The sorrow and joy of a sound is determined by sorrow and joy of a person’s heart, not by the sound itself.
Jikang sees that sound has a materialistic nature and so is distinguished from the subjective emotions of human beings. In his third debate, the assertion that “eating acrid things brings on hysterical laughter; smoke in your eyes causes grief-struck sobbing” is a case in point. In both cases, “tears are produced. But even if you have a Yi Ya taste them, he definitely will not say that the happy tears are sweet and the sad tears bitter” Jikang compares the materialistic nature of sound to wine. And a question arises this way ;“The tissues secrete water and it beads up in the flesh; when pressure is applied it comes out. It is not controlled by grief or joy. It is just like the process of straining wine through a cloth sack. Although the device used to press it through may differ, the flavor of the wine is unchanged. Musical sounds are all produced by one and the same source. Why must they alone contain the principles of grief and joy?”
How can we explain the situation where emotion is roused simply by listening to music? The answer lies not in the proposal that a chord contains any symbolic content, but rather in the idea that human subjective emotion causes the production of feelings. The following passage condenses this point and elucidates this line of thought.
When it encounters harmonious sounds, only then is it released. Harmonious sounds have no sign, but the grieved heart has its essence. If you make the grieved heart that has an essence depend on the harmonious sounds that have no sign, then you understand sounds and listen to them. The heart is moved by harmonious sounds, the feelings touched by anguished is the grief. How could you know? Those who labor sing of their woes; those who are happy dance about their achievements. If one’s heart is pained and grieved inside, then words bitter and sad are aroused. Words in sequence become poetry; sounds in sequence become music. We blend the words and chant them, put together the words. The grieved heart is stored inside. When it encounters harmonious urther, does it blow differently through the ten thousand things but causes each to be itself?
In this above passage, Jikang explains that sound has no content in orgin, but when sound arouses heart, people insert their own emotion into it. Due to this, people’s emotions are differently affected by hearing the same music.
Historically it had been thought that not few people understood this Jikang’s refutation of the idea that specific sounds inspire specific emotions. Most, in fact, took his viewpoint for a misunderstanding. But we would do better to read Jikang’s view as follows: there is no constancy between emotion and sound and thus identical sounds produces varying emotions. Further, a subject’s emotional state plays an important role in appreciation of art and the aesthetic, asthetic feelings are taken to be spontaneous and different from person to person.
All of this is reduced to Jikang’s view about a certain kind of “uncertainty” in musical expression, an uncertainty which is in fact a defining characteristic of art. If music is partial and is determined to be fixed, simple and devoid of changes, then even if it can express certain special feelings, it cannot express various feelings and multiple thoughts.
II-D. Separation thesis: heart and sound are distinct
So far I have delineated the main characteristics of Jikang’s critique of the claim that sound has a fixed form. Next we will examine the proposition that heart and sound are different objects. This proposition is a necessary implication of the contention that “sound has in it neither sorrow nor joy.” Because sound is already unrelated to sorrow or joy, and because sorrow and joy are just what our hearts are meant to feel, it follows that heart (xin) and sound are two different objects. Hypothetically speaking, if heart and sound is correlated to each other, namely sorrow and joy of heart are expressed in their corresponding counterpart in sound, it does not follow that Jikang’s claim of nonemotinal nature of sound proves to be a success. Hence, to shore up the claim that sound has in it neither sorrow nor joy, he should draw the logical conclusion that heart and sound are two different things.
Following Jikang’s assertion, it is fair to say that the sound of music will move a human heart in certain ways. Feelings or emotions of human beings are formed by words of music, thus making a clear distinction between sound of music and human emotion. Jikang refutes the Confucianist assertion that sound has in it sorrow or joy. In music, sound is an external expression thereof and feelings constitute its internal content, but they do not have constant correspondence. It is like “making sound by stimulating breath hard and making an old wind instrument produce sound by filling it with breath.” In other words, the sound of music carries natural and therefore objective responses. The following passage provides rich insights in conformity with this line of thought:
That the good or evil of the sound of a cry does not come from the good or bad fortune of the baby’s mouth is just like the fact that the turbidness and limpidity in the sound of a lute or zither does not lie in the skill or clumsiness of the player. That the mind can distinguish principles and carry on skilled conversation but still cannot make a flute play smoothly, is just like the fact that a musician can be skilled in rhythms but cannot make his instrument sing pure and clear. An instrument is good with no dependence on the refined musician; the flute is harmonious but not because of the intelligent mind. This being so, then heart and music are clearly two separate things. Since the two are truly this way, then one who is seeking to know someone else’s feelings does not spend time observing his appearance and form, and examining the mind does not rely on listening to sounds and tones.
Jikang takes music as one form of “qi” and thus assumes that it distinguishes sound as natural sound and sorrow and joy as the subjective feelings or emotions in human hearts. Given this, sound of nature and human heart are clearly two separate things.
His basic argument that heart and sound are separate things is as follows: Taste is composed of bitterness and sweetness whereas humans have both stupidity and perspicacity. Sweet taste makes people happy while bitterness makes people angry. Wise people others whereas stupid people hate others. Yet, happiness and anger lie within me, sweetness and bitterness lie in taste, and love and hatred stems from me while perspicacity and stupidity come from without.
When one cannot call sweet taste “sweet,” call bitterness “bitter,” call wise people that he loves “wise,” nor call stupid ones “hateful people,” it is because external objects (sweetness, bitterness, perspicacity and stupidity) and internal human feelings (happiness, anger, love, and hatred) are different from each other. Moreover, it is because original sweetness, bitterness, perspicacity and stupidity attributed to external objects are distingushible from human beings’ subjective feeling or emotions such as happiness, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. Sorrow and pleasure are matters of human feelings and thus are not related to sounds. This implies the conclusion that name is separable from reality. In other words, naming of sorrow and pleasure is not related to actual sounds thereof. Jikang does not rule out that happiness and anger is caused by wine, love and hatred is engendered by how wise or stupid people are, and sorrow and pleasure are created by sounds. The issue at stake here is that because of this, tastes are called sweet or bitter, people are called loving people or hating people, and sound is differentiated into sorrowful sound or joyful sound.
Herein, human’s subjective emotional judgment of things is clearly different from objective natural world. According to Jikang, these two are clearly distinguished from one other. One of the startlingly rational aspect of Jikang’s thought lies in its emphasis on the distintion between two different judgments. As described above, “sweet taste,” “bitter taste,” “people to love” and “people to hate” are not correct terms because this distintion grasps dispositions of two different tastes such as “sweetness and bitterness.” This is also true of two different dispositions claimed by human beings such as “love and hatred.” This is caused by the confusion that mistakes subjective emotional judgment for judgment of objective characters of things. The sound of grief and the sound joy sound are normally used. But grief and joy do ultimately refer to human feelings and this does not mean that they depart from human emotional dimension and contain grief and joy on their own. Sound can express emotions of both grief and joy and thus it can be said that sound contains grief and joy. Yet, to be exact, sound only makes the expression of feelings or emotions possible. Sound itself does not contain either grief or joy. Jikang’s contribution lies in its attempt to distinguish between a person’s subjective emotional judgement of things and her judgment of the objective natures of things.
The contention that the sounds of music are based on the natural world and should be distingshed from human’s subjective feelings is the core of Jikang’s critique of the Confucianist theory of music. The Confucianist view is motivated by a theory of art which purports to make the intended value of a ruler via music a universal value of a whole society. The Confucianist belief that human feelings or emotions are attributable to subjective value judgments contained in nature’s sounds is a result of an illusion – an illusion based on the conflation of the natural world of things with the social order of human beings. The very simple belief that music is an expression of humanity entails an interpretation of music only in the context of social custom and thus fails to appreciate music as a harmonious form of beauty alone. Jikang refutes the magicalistic assumption that sound can predict a certain state of affairs. Based on a scientific knowledge of lulu that was used as the basic sound and measure criterion at the time, he criticizes the unscientificness of magicalism and political intentions embodied in it.
Further, he also refutes the claim that music reflects political virtue. Not only does he pinpoint the internal contradictions of Coufucianism on this issue, but he distinguishes the words of music from the meaning of music and thus acknowledges mutual autonomous principles between the two. He also broadens the gamut of music as a source of enjoyment and promotes the view that music can be interpreted in multiple ways. The claim that there is no corresponding relation between sound and feeling or emotion lends itself to a further assertion that sound carries an objective
”materialistic nature” which is separated from subjective emotions. This explains how one’s feelings can be aroused merely by listening to music. When human beings listen to sounds, sounds are a finely tuned body with no particular content. Sounds arouse the human heart by giving a person to insert his own subjective emotions. Jikang’s theory that music has in it neither sorrow nor joy has an ontological agenda: it purports to distinguish the sounds of nature from human heart. Thus it is demanded that listener should hear sounds as such according to his viewpoint. When people transcend the human emotions of grief and joy, a true sense of the beauty of the form of music will be reached.
Jikang, in his own theory of music, takes music as nature itself, and does not regard the origin of music as standing beyond the natural world. On the contrary he searches for the foundation of music’s existence within nature world. Essentially, through the medium of music properly understood and in unison with nature with other things, human beings experience the utmost joy of spiritual value, namely joy of no music (wuyue). In order to savor this joy and attain ultimate beauty, a judgment of value of right and wrong should be forgone. The view which so highlights a transcendent union with nature actually runs parallel to the Confucianism’s emphasis on ethical consciousness as something that encompasses aesthetic consciousness rooted in value judgments of right and wrong. Daoist music is separated from magicalism, historical facts, secular emotions and so forth and thus secures its own ontological sphere and remains a form of nature. When one hears music as such, aesthetic consciousness becomes feasible. The imortance of music is not placed under philosophy and politics but now claims its own sphere and comes to guarantee its own space. At this moment, value of music is no longer instrumentalized and thus takes on its own teleology and an independent set of standards.
Now music has to possess its own existential meaning as a harmonious sound of natural world in order to further its self-creation in the dynamism of nature. When human consciousness reveals the dynamics that are at the root of its own natural existence, it can fulfill its freedom and in so doing can be created. In the place where human nature and nature’s internal forces have a common ground and in communication with each, the human mind is spirited and elastic. As human beings come to enjoy this natural character and the nature in themselves, they become free and beautiful. The harmonious sound that reveals and draws upon the natural beauty of humans is musical art. The purpose of art is to break out of the bondage of the feelings and afflictions engendered by emotions and reach the unlimited freedom of the mind.
The significance of the proposition that artistic experience can help to produce the free mind lies in criticizing and doubting the boundary of existing values while at the same time elevating our minds to a broader horizon that is no longer encumbered by present limitations. Jikang logically criticizes the Confucianist premises that purport to incorporate the sounds of music whose nature is based in natural world into the Confucianist order. He thus abandons the political and instrumentalist function of musical art. He observes that one individual is internally connected with others, but he also envisions a new subject’s consciousness to be further developed spontaneously. True art has to make possible the creation of the consciousness of the free subject. No
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