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November 07, 2009


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Hi Sam,

So, I am finally getting around to reading the Ames book (is Thinking through Confucius the only book??) and, well first of all, I am puzzled by the back cover's promise of "an unconventional interpretation of Confucius"--I am hopeful and continue to keep looking for something unconventional.

The second thing, though, is going back to integrity, what do you do about the fact that there already was a perfectly good word for this concept in ancient Chinese? It's my best friend's husband's name 誠 but doesn't that really capture the idea in English? (see Ames) To me, integrity, or 誠 grows out of a firm understanding and comitment to 徳-- so the 2 concepts should not be conflated in the translation maybe?

Anyway, I thought I would just add this to see what you thought.

You leave so little to add or discuss except to say that your posts that include a window to your soul and inner feelings are always my favorites.

And although I'm sure some art historians, critics and scholars would greatly debate philosopy and argue with me - what you describe is what makes any art great. It's not any specific form or style - but that it has the power to invoke a deep chord of a reaction with you.

Some "great art" is "great" because of the social or political message it sends - often this is the case in Western art.

But what's greater still - in any and all art (in my opinion) is the power to capture imagination, feeling and soul.

That's probably why you never tire of it. As I would expect you never would.

Of course, it is suprising that you don't also have a Persian scene as well...

Hi Eric, that was such a nice comment, thank you.

I really liked what you said about art too. Do you remember my Post (which not surprisingly has seen the largest number of accesses of anything I have written here) Sex and the Getty Bronze? At the very end of that post (you probably remember), I wrote about Csikszentmihalyi's work on aesthetics:

I am re-reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, The Art of Seeing. Utilizing his usual socio-science method, he and his team interview a group of curators and educators in the museum world, and then from those interviews, go on to try and pin down (like a frog in biology class) what exactly is the aesthetic experience of the expert.

His conclusion is that the expert response is based on the following 1) Emotional response (which of course differs hugely between people). This, by the way, is the trait they all unanimously agree on, but what was interesting was the variations on stress put on this emotional response by historians in different fields of art history (see below).

2) knowledge (the intellectual skills the viewer brings with them that contributes to their experience; this includes an intellectual appreciation of excellence). Yes, I am thinking of Our Man Utz.

3) Perception was the next and 4) this was followed by something they (not Csikszentmihalyi) termed “communication” and “transformation (which is what they described as being a direct communication or connection they felt with the creator of the piece and the piece itself. That is; how the piece of art "spoke" to them).

Of interest here is that when Csikszentmihalyi broke down which characteristics had the greatest value placed on them by field, it turns out that museum professionals in the field of classical art all placed the intellectual aspect on top. I believe this is due to the reason I hinted-- that classical sculpture has become in many ways inaccessible to us and no longer "speaks to us;" Dreyfus would most likely say, that is because we no longer live in that understanding of being.... and because of this background knowledge becomes more important for aesthetic appreciation. Csikszentmihalyi found this to be in direct contrast to the professionals working in modern art who claimed that direct perception and emotion were the most important aspects of their aesthetic experience.

In Dream Journey, there is something that goes even beyond the intellectual and emotional elements, though-- which is, of course, the moral component. And, this encompasses not only the viewer but the artist as well; for as Su Shih said, "only a scholar and a gentleman can create art that is moral." For the viewer too, art has a morally uplifting affect-- and this painting was within the tradition of literati self-cultivation practices (like tea).

I would say that is pretty unique in non-religious art history...(Conrad, of course, might say differently??)

The other thing, though, I was trying to say, I have already really said at length here in the post, Anatomy of an Art Collector: Utz Part 2. And that is that fascination -- as the Beloved, as Art, as Virtue-- perhaps have these things in common: desire to possess (誠)and desire to know(知)
("Obsession" might not sound very Confucian, I can just hear the good professor saying, but just tjink of it as an "virtuous occupation of the heart" and you will understand what I am trying to think about maybe...?)

This is from Utz Part 2:

So, eros appears in the form of this tiny blue and white vase. Kurita falls in love and thereafter is obsessed, and his obsession-- like Utz's-- has two aspects: the desire to possess 誠 and the desire to know 知. This can be said of all love affairs, and it could only be hoped that a love affair between two people could last as long as this one did for Kurita . This desire to know, in fact, is what separates the true art collector from the aesthete and is again connected to Alsop's ideas of categories; that is a true art collector is the person who sets out to build a collection of a certain category and in the process becomes something of an expert in this category.

And about beauty plus virtue, I will just repeat mantra of the month:

...based firmly in human emotion, the aim of self cultivation-- rather than negating emotion or extinguishing desire-- rather is to refine them. And, perhaps no where is this linking of beauty and virtue more pronounced than in Japan-- indeed, is this not the hallmark of Japanese traditional arts and literature?

I have been working on an editing job about the murals of Kizil. Part of the great "pearl necklace" of Buddhist murals that form a great arc across Asia, from Ajanta to unforgettable Alchi; up to Kizil, Bezeklik, Dunhuang-- straight across to the phenomenal murals at Horyuji in Nara; Kizil is said to have been perhaps one of the finest. I already wrote a bit about the lavish use of ultramarine that so stunned the German expedition team here, but thinking about the murals again today, I was imagining what it must have been like before the murals were cut out of the caves and shipped overseas. Pilgrims would have entered the cave from the blinding sunlight of the desert outside-- and much like pilgrims at the Borobudur, they would have moved along an "iconographic program": like any ritual, it would have been structured in such a way to aim at an inner transformation-- achieved bodily as one performed the ritual.

Emotions (émouvoir) as that which most moves us cultivated through physical movement (practice/pilgrammage). This is the task of the Lady of Ren. And you will notice that its opposite (Enlightenment) is characterized by non-movement, stillness and extinguishing. Anyway, it's interesting to think of it that way, at least

And, you know I reserve Persian scenes for Paradise!

I am influenced more by Taoism in my reading of Te, which leads me to that notion of particularity and the full expression of particularity in Tao. A question came up in my class Monday, which we will return to today perhaps: can there be a "bad" Te-Integrity? That is, what if one's particularity is at odds with standard understandings of ethical behavior? This is a distinct possibility for Taoists, as is the subsequent sense that a "bad Te-Integrity" should be allowed to be expressed in the world - something that Confucians would very much resist.
Cheng, to my mind (and remember: I'm not a translator and do not have your experience and knowledge of the universe of meanings for these terms) is more confined than the "Integrity" suggested by Te. Cheng is more at "sincerity," especially in terms of living up to what you say. That is certainly a part of Te-integrity, but it is not all of Te-integrity.
As to Hall and Ames, you will find that they have written a lot, but Thinking Through Confucius is one of their earliest collaborations (1987) and lays out the basics of their process philosophy interpretation (I will leave it to trained philosophers to explicate that interpretation further). That is what made it "unconventional" in its time. Twenty two years ago their reading was fresh and creative. It is still controversial (i.e. immanence v. transcendence).....

I looked around your archives & couldn't find the comment either which leads me to think it might have been in one of our email exchanges. I remember talking about the abundance of red stamps on the painting & the attached calligraphy…
Unfortunately I just went on a cleaning frenzy in my inbox & seem to have deleted it.

Hi MW,

It has just disappeared. It was definitely on the blog-- in a comment response to you. We must have been talking about the other piece of art-- the print by Hiratsuka Unichi-- that I travel in. Well, you know Japanese prints are so flat against the surface that you cannot really travel in them, but I like to go and sit in that one...

This below is what I wrote about the print (in a comment to Motoki san), but there was nothing about the calligraphy-- isn't that bizarre? I guess I will go back and re-write it. Thinking about the calligraphy (which is by one of my favorite calligraphers Dong Qichang) I got out an art book I like a lot last night, Chinese Pictorial Art by Robert Van Gulik who has an interesting chapter on collector's seals. But then I remembered the author's Judge Dee mysteries-- did you ever read any of those? I discovered this book on Van Gulik's life and work that now I would love to read. He had an interesting life and did really interesting work that I always think that I'd like to find out more about....

Anyway, this is what I wrote about "sitting" inside the woodblock print:

I have a woodblock print that I love very much by Un'ichi Hiratsuka (Hiratsuka was perhaps more famous as the teacher of Munakata Shiko). My print is of the Kanden-an teahouse in Matsue-- which was built in 1792 by the famous late-Edo period daimyo Matsudaira Fumai, who was at the time the Lord of Shimane Province. The teahouse was constructed on the estate of another man, a certain Lord Arisawa. Fumai liked to hunt in the hills near there and, therefore, desired a tea hut where he could come after hunting with his falcons to rest and enjoy a cup of お抹茶. There are actually two teahouses on the grounds and my print (from what little I can tell by the flimsy line drawing of the grounds which I finally dug up in an old library book) is the view from as one leaves the Kanden-an and enters the grounds of another teahouse, which was built by Fumai's brother on the same estate). Called Kogetsu-tei 向月亭(or "facing the moon pavilion"), this second teahouse was designed for both tea drinking and moon-viewing. It is therefore lighter, less squat and much less closed-in than the main teahouse.

I look at the print everyday and sometimes when I feel sad or stressed I imagine myself walking down the path (which is very unusual see photo 3rd from top here ) to sit on the engawa with a cup of tea. There are bamboo and I imagine them rustling in the breeze...

I've always wanted to see the teahouse-- maybe someday.

Fumai is my favorite teamaster-- his collection was not only one of the greatest in Japanese history but he was also very scholarly-minded and made it his life's work to catalog all the greatest tea ceremony wares in the country (even today when people speak of omeibutsu or chukomeibutsu-- these are all terms of his scholarship).

One of my tea books describes his great collection (known as the Unshu kuracho) as possessing "one seventh of all the greatest tea utencils under heaven" (天下の茶の名器の七分の一). There were said to be some 800 pieces, which included some of the most famous teabowls, lacquer tea caddies and other ceramic works of art found in Japan.

Well, I'm getting ready to wander around a bit myself: not in a print or a painting but a film, Mizoguchi's 1954, "Sansho the Bailiff". I have never seen this one, only "Ugetsu". (One of my favorite films ~ why wouldn't it be; there is a Heian Lady ghost with moth eyebrows & a boat ride on a foggy lake in the moonlight…) I'm expecting a sad, poignant tale in nuanced Black & White. I think that Japanese cinema of the 1950s was some of the most sensitive use of B&W ever. Ink painting with light.

Can you tell I need a heavy dose of escape?

I do remember that passage about the teahouse & the link to that amazing path. (Even a discussion about the Judge Dee books…)

You know where I stand on this MW:

If there is no Cinema God but Japanese film of the 1950s, then Ozu is His Prophet.... That is probably what started Adonis on his music box kick too. And speaking of filial piety:

Tokyo Monogatari

And in color:

This is another book that has been in my shopping basket forever

Enjoy the film!!

Great film! Stunning beauty, there are the most remarkable array of grey tones in this film & a tragic, heartbreaking story line.
Now, it's on to Ozu. (I've never seen any of his films.)

Hi Sam,

That makes perfect sense to me about integrity versus sincerity 誠。I am now, however, bothered by why you didn't choose authenticity, then? That the english word is loaded... well, I would argue integrity is even worse as far as its Stoic nuance... So, if you don't want to go with virtue, why integrity over authencity, which seems to at least hit a bit closer to that particular aspect of 徳 that you want to emphasize? I just ask for the hell of it.

And regarding bad "de" I have been searching a bit online and the only instances so far that I can find of this phrase is the [四つの悪徳] ("4 vices") which are in contrast to the 五つの美徳を尊び (the five virtues)

"the 4 vices" → 四つの悪徳 ⇒『論語』堯曰第二十2

My seach was hardly exhaustive but I am wondering (just barely wondering) if this "bad de" is not really "vice" in the same way that 美徳 or "beautiful de" is "a virtue"... which is altogether different than conveying a person's "de"

What else?

Thank you so much for reminding me what Chris already told me to watch out for in the Ames book (which, of course I had completely forgotten): immanence v. transcendence

The Ames book, by the way, is very enjoyable. You won't be surprised to hear how much I like their linguistic approach. What has been particularly interesting to me is that rather than it ringing true for pre-Qin texts (which I am in no position to talk about) the book is really ringing true for me about my life here in Japan!! Especially the way the words are used, such as 思う、知る、学ぶ、信じる、誠。。。 not to mention the idea of person and person-making.. it has been interesting how much I am nodding my head thinking yes... (By the way that is how I felt about DB'S East meets West: that is, it really worked from a Japanese perspective as well-- as long as you swtiched the word 儒教 for 和!!).

Actually, the only thing that didn't ring true actually was the immanence v. transcendence part-- which of course is a core idea of their book. It isn't that I think its wrong per se, but that it doesn't seem a really good fit for the idea. I have been wondering if some kind of concepts from history.... like historicism versus non-teleological history wouldn't have captured the basic idea better.... (??) That there is a basic ontological difference in understanding that could be said to form the base for the differing ideas of truth and personhood is (in my opinion) without question... I am just wondering if immanence v. transcendence captures it...

If you ever had any recommendations for critiques of their book (particularly this part) could you let me know? Or if you had any recommendations in general regarding their work, I would love that!

Hope all is well. It snowed again here today, but didn't stick on the ground so was more like 霰.

Talk to you soon!


Which Ozu will you start with? I might walk over to the library tomorrow and borrow a "video"... (speaking of archaic terms, a translator acquaintance was surprised when he watched the "Light my Fire" video I posted and said, "Wow, I didn't know they were a real group. I saw the movie but thought they were fictional") The Acid House Generation of the late 80s...

You should write a post about the films sometime...

This is my favorite scene from ⇒Sasameyuki(1959)-- it moves very slowly....

For anyone interested: Kyoto Journal's latest issue is on Tea. Lauren W. Deutsch's article, Tea “Beyond” Japan: Chanoyu in the Diaspora , is particularly recommended.

This one perhaps is even better

Also be sure to check out High Moon's Tea Time cartoon (?) on the same page as this is pure Dreyfus.

Kyoto tea-seller
(featured in KJ #71)

I’m not Buddhist or Taoist
not a Confucianist either
I’m a brownfaced whitehaired
hard up old man.
people think I just prowl
the streets peddling tea,
I’ve got the whole universe
in this tea caddy of mine.

Hi Sam & Bao Pu,

A friend in Singapore left another comment to the "eye of virtue" post which relates eye and directness. As always he has some interesting things to say that Bao Pu might not like and that Sam should like as it really gets out this idea of "integrity" (I think it does, at least). Derek's comments on filial piety were also of interst.

it comes down to connection

a landscape
a smile
a heart opening
a helpful hand lifting

to release is to connect

peace in your dream journey
composed as a symphony
of waking moments


that deep and indeliable impression
is dream, place and heart tumbling
together as one.

Hi Casey,

"Dream and Place and Heart tumbling.." That is what it feels like... and you may have noticed that "dream journeys" is written in Chinese as "sleep/rest" 臥 and "play" 遊... I have been talking with Bao Pu about the kanji scholar Shirakawa Shizuka, and after a lifetime of studying kanji, do you know what kanji he famously said he prefered above all others? His most beloved kanji was "play."

Originally, 遊 didn't mean play but rather meant "journey." He said it displayed the image of a man going out on a journey, carrying a tall flag, like like China's first great traveler Zhang Qian who was dispatched by the emperor on a secret mission in the 2nd century BC. They say he traveled with a 6 foot tall bamboo pole with yak's hair-- a flag to signify his imperial mission... and after 30 years of hard travel, he was kidnaped, lost all of his men except one, and finally making it back to the capital, he somehow brought back that flag...

Shirakawa loved the kanji for "play" because of this image of journeying. He also loved the inherent idea of freedom-- since he said in ancient times, the idea of freedom was thought to be how the gods lived-- in perfect freedom.


"Play is something sacred. Only the gods could truly play. Play signifies absolute freedom and a rich world of the imagination that existed only for the gods. When people came to access this world of the gods, they too were able to play. And when they played, the gods would come out and join them"

I like that idea of play as a journey-- not necessarily of geography (in time and space) but rather the idea of an inner ourney of absolute freedom and rich imagination.

I know you also love this daoist idea of "play". Me too.

Western though belittles play, makes it to be a childish fad to be dropped upon becoming a serious adult boxed in by rules.

Western culture belittle play since it represents something very powerful to be controlled. It's no accident play gets dropped after the teen age years since after the teen age years, a persons journey shifts more fully from family to be within society. Society places limits how others change it

Play represents quite fully: a journey, education, exploration to discover our full nature.

To live is to play... and as a adult "play" is taken away in order to keep people in the box... to prevent them from "journeying" to greater states of being.

Play is never an idea it's boundless testing of bounds, to explore new ways to simply live

letting dreams and life tumble together
into the wind
as we blossom
ever unfolding into

our kaleidoscopic nature

of being the light
filtered by our form
mixed together
by play

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