By Kang Liu
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Extra resources for Aesthetics and Marxism: Chinese Aesthetic Marxists and Their Western Contemporaries
As a person, he remains a controversial figure. A scholar of formida18 aesthetics and marxism ble erudition in philosophy, aesthetics, history, and literary criticism, Wang was perhaps the first to incorporate modern Western concepts into studies of Chinese literature in sophisticated ways. Fiercely hostile to social reform and revolution, Wang in his later years occupied himself entirely with Confucian classics. Politically speaking, Wang was a staunch conservative. Many years after the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by the 1911 Republican Revolution, he remained till his death a loyalist to the dethroned emperor.
Such a selfabnegating aesthetic state of desire, or attitude of life, seemed to fit Wang perfectly. His intellectual upbringing was deeply ingrained with the sub20 aesthetics and marxism missive and nihilistic strains of Taoism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism. It is little wonder that Wang was enamored with Schopenhauer’s thought. ’’ Wang asked rhetorically, and then answered with absolute assurance: It is nothing but yu [desire]. Desire by its nature is insatiable, which originated in the state of lack.
28 This ‘‘popular image of citizenship,’’ in turn, comes from Liang’s aesthetic ideas. ’’30 It can be said that Liang’s notion of modernity itself rests on a historical understanding of Western culture, in which aesthetics or fine arts are privileged over science: One who only has some rudimentary knowledge of the history of the West would know modern Western culture evolved from the Renaissance. I do not need to repeat the common knowledge that the foundation of modern culture is science.
Aesthetics and Marxism: Chinese Aesthetic Marxists and Their Western Contemporaries by Kang Liu