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"Taoism explains art and art explains Taoism. Art validates Taoism's identification of the fundamental principles of reality." (B. Willis). How far would you agree with this view?

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Coversheet Chinese Studies Coursework "Taoism explains art and art explains Taoism. Art validates Taoism's identification of the fundamental principles of reality." (B Willis). How far would you agree with this view? Derek Matthew Lam Word Count: 2046 "Taoism explains art and art explains Taoism. Art validates Taoism's identification of the fundamental principles of reality." (B. Willis). How far would you agree with this view? Taoism is one of the most important and influential philosophies in China. It is a philosophy that is extremely hard to define, because when attempting, we are already challenged by the first sentence of the Tao-te ching "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the real way."1 However, by scrutinizing Chinese art and paintings, we may catch a fleeting glimpse of Tao, the mysterious energy of the universe which is the source of life.2 Many of the fundamental concepts and ideas of Taoism are expressed through Chinese paintings, and by studying them, we may get a better grasp and understanding of this abstract yet beautiful philosophy. Taoism is the combination of a religion, philosophy and tradition that has shaped the lives of the Chinese for more than 2000 years.3 However, what are 'the fundamental principles of reality' of Taoism? ...read more.


paintings, which effectively gave voice to the most dynamic aspects of Taoist philosophies, the principle of yin-yang.27 Yin-yang is a doctrine that conceived all action and events as the effect of two primary elements or forces, the positive and the negative28. Painters would work to achieve a perfect balance of elements through composition of the painting. Mountains and foothills were balanced by rivers and streams, long views of land by clouds and trees, and negative space by positive space.29 These opposing forces, yin-yang, were not meant to oppose each other, "The forces of yin and yang must work together, will work together, or the unnatural state of disharmony, inquietude and suffering will result"30. Yin-yang are complements of each other, providing a unified and creative universe between the two. 31The goals of the Taoists and Chinese artists were to find the equilibrium between these two negative and positive principles.32 In order to find the balance between these two different extremes, the Taoist practitioners avoid all excess, all points of possessions and oppositions, and instead harmonize such conflicts by stilling them with their minds and their creative spirits.33 This spiritual equilibrium comes neither from yin nor yang, but lies somewhere in between.34 Many Chinese ...read more.


individual spiritual interpretation of the artist, unlike western artists, where realistic depiction is given much thought.56 The paintings of the Chinese artists are based solely on the impression of the artist towards the landscape. Rather than aiming for a faithful depiction of the landscape, the Chinese artist would try to bring out the spiritual harmony and inner beauty of nature in their drawings.57 Hence Chinese artists would be drawing from their very own heart, letting their intuition take lead and paint the picture from within, unconsciously. There's a saying that art sees the universal in the particular. This suggests that there is a single essence which runs throughout life that can be identified and revealed by art. To the Taoists, this is the Tao. In my opinion, not only did the Tao principles permanently alter the techniques of the Chinese artists and result in their taking on the Taoist ideas and principals,58 but it also influenced their painting theory and their philosophy of art.59 Yet, art also served as a medium for the application of the Taoist principles, and in return, had its own influence on Taoism.60 Therefore, I totally agree with the statement that Taoism explains art and art explains Taoism. ...read more.

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