Ssu-ma Ch'ien's hih chi is one of the most influential of Chinese histories, but its organization reflects a historiography quite different from that of traditional Western history. Ssu-ma divided his account of the past into five overlapping sections: basic annals , chronological tables, treatises, hereditary houses , and biographies. One result of this fragmented arrangement is that stories may be told more than once, from different perspectives, and these accounts may not be entirely consistent. From a Western perspective this (...) would seem to indicate a certain disregard for the truth, but in many hih chi passages Ssu-ma Ch'ien demonstrates a passionate concern for accuracy.In this article I examine in detail one typical set of multiple narrations--the five versions of Wei Pao's defection in c. 205 B.C.--and argue that in some ways Ssu-ma's conflicting accounts reflect the past more accurately than the unified narrative we expect from Western histories. Although Ssu-ma's methods might seem amenable to the constructivist theories of Louis Mink and Hayden White, in the end this type of analysis is inadequate to explain a work which is rooted in a non-Western tradition of historiography. Ssu-ma Ch'ien's own conception of history recognized the limitations of historians and evidence, held out the possibility of multiple interpretations, and focused on moral insight. It is a mix unfamiliar to Westerners, but it does provide a coherent picture of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's historical methodology, and it may serve as an interesting example for modern historians who seek to escape traditional modes of historical writing. (shrink)
After reading the essays of Mr. Ts'ai and Mr. Chu, I have a few immature opinions. Generally speaking, I feel that in dealing with the errors of their opponents, both Ts'ai I in his criticism of Huang Yüeh-mien and Chu Kuang-ch'ien in his criticism of Ts'ai I are quite accurate and convincing. However, in presenting their own arguments of what is right, both of them are on shaky ground and in error. That is because in one way or another, (...) consciously or unconsciously, they either deny the objective aspect of the existence of beauty or deny the social aspect of the existence of beauty . All of them consider the objective and the social aspects of beauty as being either this or that, as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable opposites. They think that if we acknowledge the social aspect of beauty, we then have to deny the objective aspect, the fact that the existence of beauty does not depend on the subjective conditions of a person ; or if we acknowledge the objective aspect, we have to deny the social aspect, the fact that the existence of beauty depends on the social life of human beings. But in fact it is not like that. On the one hand, beauty cannot be separated from human society; on the other hand, it can have an objective existence which is independent of man's subjective consciousness. It is this question that I shall discuss. (shrink)
In the realm of man's culture, among the things created by man, art should be beautiful; its primary essential characteristic should be that it be able to evoke a sense of beauty in the person, that by its beauty it be able to provide for the person the pleasure of the sense of beauty. This is a fact that no one can deny outright. However, saying that art should be beautiful is not the same as saying that all art is (...) beautiful. In fact, there is art which is beautiful and art which is not beautiful; and this too is a fact that no one can deny. (shrink)
In ancient times in our country, Wang Ch'ung was an eminent materialist and a brilliant atheist, a progressive thinker who opposed the orthodox feudal thought. This has gone basically unquestioned. This year the February 21 issue of Kuang-ming jih-pao printed in its philosophy section an article by Comrade T'ung Mo-an, "Is Wang Ch'ung a Peasant Class Thinker?" The article is an evaluation completely denying this. T'ung believes that the purpose of Wang Ch'ung's works was "to uphold the rule of the (...) Han," "ardently and unconditionally to sing the praises of the Han ruler and court," "to make sacred the rule of the Han," "to get the populace to live quietly, forever in a servile position," and "to view inimically and to slander peasant uprisings." "Wang Ch'ung was an orthodox thinker of the landlord class," "a thinker produced in the interests of the rule of the landlord class who confirmed the feudal orthodoxy." Although I myself am not praising Wang Ch'ung as a peasant class thinker or denying that in Wang Ch'ung's thought there are negative elements, I am completely unable to agree with the basic viewpoint that the author puts forward. (shrink)
Having read the works of Wang Ch'ung [A.D. 27-c. 100], I realized that they need to be recapitulated. Here I shall evaluate Wang Ch'ung and his thought and present what I feel to be the real significance that Wang Ch'ung's thought still has today.
During the past year, there has been progressive criticism and debate in the literary field centered on my former point of view in aesthetics. This has been very helpful to me. As a result of this, I have a better understanding of the errors of the basic starting point in subjective idealism. At the same time, I have gained a clearer understanding of the basic question in aesthetics and of the differences among the various opinions of those who took part (...) in the debate. This is not yet the time for summarizing; but as we shall see below, the road that we have taken and even the difficulties that we have encountered along that road have been very beneficial to our progressive inquiries. (shrink)
After reading the recent essays in the People's Daily [Jen-min jih-pao] by Comrade Ts'ai I, Comrade Chu Kuang-ch'ien, Comrade Li Che-hou, and others on the problems in aesthetics, I feel that they contain both accuracies and inaccuracies concerning the basic questions with which they have dealt, and here I would like to discuss my views on the problems involved in the debate.
The essays on aesthetics in recent publications, beginning with the criticisms of Chu Kuang-ch'ien's point of view in aesthetics and continuing down to his article "How Can Aesthetics be Materialistic and Dialectic?" [Mei-hsüeh tsen-yang ts'ai neng shih wei-wu ti yu shih pien-cheng ti?"], have focused on the problem of the relationship between the subjective and the objective in beauty and in sense of beauty. This is a fundamental problem in aesthetics, and only when we have solved this problem can (...) we answer the questions of what beauty is and wherein beauty lies. Some people have presented their own tentative answers to these questions, and these have been discussed by our comrades. (shrink)
In this issue we present Chu-Kuang-ch'ien's revised position in aesthetics and philosophy of art which reflects his effort to meet the demands of the Marxist doctrine. His new position still came under vehement attack by many younger Chinese Marxist writers, as is shown here. Chu Kuang-ch'ien was a leading and influential aesthetician and philosopher of art and literature in China before 1949.
In this issue we present discussions on aesthetic questions which took place in the People's Republic of China during its first decade. These discussions concentrate on criticisms of the original and revised positions of Chu Kuang-ch'ien, the renowned aesthetician and art critic at Peking University. Although Chu has relinquished his old Crocean view regarding beauty and art, he has frankly indicated that he cannot accept a purely materialistic account of beauty as an independent objective material quality, and this is (...) the basis for criticism of his revised position. Despite there being no definite conclusions reached, directions toward the socialist popularist aesthetic ideology of later decades can be vaguely detected in these discussions. (shrink)