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.
parents, if he is not able to help him with a gift, he does not ask about the cost. When he is in the company of a man who has an invalid at home, if he is not able to give him something to help feed that person, he does not ask him what he would like. Finally, when someone comes to visit, if he cannot offer him his hospitality, he does not ask where the visitor plans to spend the night. Relations with the Gentleman are like water, those of the small man like new wine. The Gentleman is bland, but
intelligence.5 61 IN PRAISE OF BLANDNESS In general, in human character, centeredness [as in the ability to remain in the center — zhong] and harmony are most valued. And in order for a character to be centered and harmonious, it must be plain, bland, and flavorless. This type of character is thus able to coordinate the five aptitudes and adapt smoothly to all situations.2 Only a person's "blandness" and "flavorlessness" (pingdan wuwei) make it possible to simultaneously encompass
times, to "repeat" it in the mouth, to "chew" it in silence.1 And this is also why the motif of literary flavor does not in the least aspire to the elaboration of a typology (as we find in the taxonomy of the Sanskrit rasa). Its significance, rather, when brought to bear on our own practice, is of a more phenomenological order: to illuminate as directly (and thus as comprehensively) as possible how consciousness experiences the full exercise 102 103 IN PRAISE OF B L A N D N E S S largely
is not absolute existence," nonexistence, from a particular point of view, cancels itself out and becomes incapable of constituting "total emptiness." "Insofar as existence is not identical to the absolute, and as nonexistence does not succeed in erasing its own traces, existence and nonexistence differ in name but are, in the end, the same."6 So the middle way is no more a part of the noumenal world than of the phenomenal world. It is limited to neither side but dissolves their duality and leads
appearance and reality brings us to true understanding. Based on this analogy, then, how does this act of overcoming the exterior take place? The virtue of mythopoeia is not so much that of protecting the truth from the eyes of the coarse and common as of stimulating the search for it by obliging us to seek it on another plane. As Proclus (410-485, regarded as the chief representative of the Neoplatonists) tells us in his Commentarium in Rempublicam Platonis (Commentary on Plato's Republic);