Different Approaches to Modern Art and Society: Li Zehou versus Xu Fuguan
Proceeding from the inseparable relation between ethics and aesthetics in traditional (and often also modern) Chinese thought, this article aims to illuminate two important approaches to the aesthetic foundations of Chinese modernity. The relation between the individual and society, which is a core question of modern ethics, is reflected in most of the ethical theories of 20th century China. In this context, the article first presents Li Zehou’s theory of aesthetics and his definition of aesthetic experience. In this way, it aims to illuminate Li’s interpretation of modern art and society, and to posit it into a contrastive position to Xu Fuguan’s ethico-aesthetic theories, especially the ones regarding modernity and Western culture. The basic approaches applied by these two important modern Chinese scholars reveal great differences in attitude towards the spiritual and material development of humanity in the 20th century, which is especially interesting since they are both rooted in the abovementioned belief that ethics cannot be separated from aesthetics. Besides, Li Zehou sincerely admired Xu Fuguan’s work on traditional Chinese aesthetics and referred to his comprehension of general concepts of traditional Chinese aesthetics in many of his own works dealing with aesthetics.
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