The Problem of the Authenticity of the Aesthetic Concept qiyun shengdong

Xu Fuguan’s Analysis and Interpretation

  • Téa Sernelj University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Slovenia
Keywords: Xu Fuguan, qiyun shengdong, Xie He, Chinese aesthetics, Indian theory of painting


The article explores Xu Fuguan’s analysis and interpretation of the concept of qiyun shengdong 氣韻生動, which is considered to be one of the most important, fundamental and complex concepts in Chinese aesthetics and art. It was created by Xie He in the Wei Jin period (220–420 AD), which is marked as a turning point in the development of Chinese aesthetics. The complexity of the concept of qiyun shengdong is reflected in literary works, painting, calligraphy, and music, as well as in literary theory and the theory of painting. According to Xu Fuguan, qi refers to the external features of the artwork, while yun expresses the internal characteristics that are a matter of the human spirit. For Xu, shengdong signifies the manifestation and fusion of qi and yun in the artwork. Xu Fuguan claimed that the profound comprehension of this concept is fundamental for understanding the essence of Chinese art. The article also addresses the problem of translating this aesthetic concept into English and discusses the problem of its authenticity.


Download data is not yet available.


Cao, Pi 曹丕. s.d. Dian lun lunwen 典论伦文 (Disscusions on Literature). Accessed March 10, 2017. Liu, Xie 刘勰. s.d. “Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龙 (Literary Heart-Mind and the Carving of Dragons).” In Chinese text project. Post Han. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Mair, H. Victor, 2004. “Xie He’s ‘Six Laws’ of painting and their Indian Parallels.” In Chinese Aesthetics. The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties, edited by Cai Zong-qi, 81–122. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Rošker, Jana S. 2016. “Modern Confucianism and the Concept of Asian Values.” Asian Studies 4 (1): 153–64.

——. 2017. “Chinese Modernization and the Sinification of Marxism through the Lens of Li Zehou’s Philosophy.” Asian Philosophy 27 (1): 69–84. Accessed March 10, 2017. DOI 10.1080/09552367.2017.1290602.

Vampelj Suhadolnik, Nataša. 2013. “Chen Shizeng’s Theory of Subjectivity: The Influence of Chinese Literati Painting on the Artistic Search for Western Modern-‘isms’ in the Republican Era.” Dve domovini 37: 93–102.

Wang, Qingwei. 2004. “‘Qiyun’ and Poetic Thinking of the Chinese Classical Aesthetics.” Accessed February 26, 2017.

Wong, Ching-Ping. 1989. The Manifestation of Chinese Philosophy and Aesthetics in the Performance of the Pipa Music. Kingston: Kingston Polytechinc.

Xu, Fuguan. 2002. Zhongguo yishu jingshen 中国艺术精神 (The Spirit of Chinese Art). Xu Fuguan wenji. Wuhan: Hubei renmin chubanshe.

Zhongguo hualun 中国画论 (Razprave o kitajskem slikarstvu). 2017. Accessed March 21, 2018. 10.03.2017.

How to Cite
SerneljT. (2021). The Problem of the Authenticity of the Aesthetic Concept qiyun shengdong. Asian Studies, 9(1), 159-180.
Developments of Classical Chinese Concepts