In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics
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Already translated into six languages, Francois Jullien's In Praise of Blandness has become a classic. Appearing for the first time in English, this groundbreaking work of philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, and sinology is certain to stir readers to think and experience what may at first seem impossible: the richness of a bland sound, a bland meaning, a bland painting, a bland poem. In presenting the value of blandness through as many concrete examples and original texts as possible, Jullien allows the undifferentiated foundation of all things -- blandness itself -- to appear. After completing this book, readers will reevaluate those familiar Western lines of thought where blandness is associated with a lack -- the undesirable absence of particular, defining qualities.Jullien traces the elusive appearance and crucial value of blandness from its beginnings in the Daoist and Confucian traditions to its integration into literary and visual aesthetics in the late-medieval period and beyond. Gradually developing into a positive quality in Chinese aesthetic and ethical traditions, the bland comprises the harmonious and unnameable union of all potential values, embodying a reality whose very essence is change and providing an infinite opening into the breadth of human expression and taste.More than just a cultural history, In Praise of Blandness invites those both familiar and unfamiliar with Chinese culture to explore the resonances of the bland in literary, philosophical, and religious texts and to witness how all currents of Chinese thought -- Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism -- converge in harmonious accord.
Prologue 23 I A Change of Sign 27 Printed in the United States of America. Distributed by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Jullien, François. [Eloge de la fadeur. English] In praise of blandness: proceeding from Chinese thought and aesthetics/ by François Jullien; translated by Paula M. Varsano. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. ISBN 1-890951-41-2 (cloth) 1. Aesthetics, Chinese. 2.
immanence], 1993) constitute interesting sinological questions in their own right — questions he poses in full engagement with the work of other sinologists in France and abroad. It will be the reader's call as to whether these lines of interrogation derive directly from the author's outsider status vis-a-vis Chinese culture, as he claims. And it is not hard to find equally overt comparative studies by American and Chinese-American sinologists; IN PRAISE Of BLANDNESS cultural compasses and of
blandness of the Gentleman solidifies his friendships; but the vulgar man, because of his sweetness, destroys them.4 The same critique of the flavorful, then, arises here, but from the Daoist standpoint, which opposes all that does not accord with the spontaneous, guileless movement of our nature. Blandness is the measure of this true naivete: free from intention and thus never short of the mark. In contrast, social conventions, and all other false values imposed by civilization, stir within us
things and remains just under the surface. The physical dimension of tone is not denigrated in favor of transcendent paradigms or music of other 70 SILENT MUSIC worlds, but it does have to yield to its own deepening into silence — by exceeding its own boundaries. This intuition is, again, that of ancient Daoism. Let us once more take up the comparison opposing the root of the stem to the tips of the branches (benmo) and apply it to music. If the "bells and drums" of the orchestra and the steps
proliferation of matter and form converges on us from all directions: the entire universe seems to be sucking itself into a great metamorphic propulsion, pushing itself against the threshold of chaos. Of the many vistas of the Great Lake (Tai Hu), one painter has rendered its broadly spaced meadows, level perspective, and rarefied and sparse vegetation (figure 14.2). Another singles out the caves carved out by the water at the base of its islets (figure 14.3). There is nothing here to articulate