Chinese Art and Aesthetics in Transcultural Perspectives

Dr. Volker Heubel (何心鹏)
Course proposal: Chinese Art and Aesthetics in transcultural perspectives

The course is conceived as an introduction into the field of Chinese art and aesthetics, which tries to give basic insights

into the field from a contemporary and transcultural perspective. It will do this by focusing on three arts: the art of writing, landscape

painting and the art of tea, which formed an important part of traditional literati culture.  We will - in an exemplary way - look at their

contemporary forms, examine how they relate to their tradition and further ask how certain traditions could  function as resources for

possible developments in the future .


In a first step the approach of the course is twofold:

1. It examines contemporary art works and performances of selected artists in each field.

2. It reconstructs aesthetic positions related to these art works.


Starting from this contemporary reconstruction  the course will in a second step draw lines of historical reference.

On which historical background are the contemporary discussions relaying and in which ways? This will be done in

a selective way focusing especially on artistic and aesthetic positions within the literati culture of the Song- and



In a third step the course further aims at combining a theoretical-descriptive with a practical approach that views arts as

cultural practices, which have to be experienced and exercised. Ideally these two approaches enhance and elucidate

each other.

This will be done by practical exercises of the students, in form of dialogues with artists and specialists in the relevant field

and by excursions in the area. This gives the students the chance of direct cultural experience and to pose questions to

experts working in the field.


Because the contemporary field of art and aesthetics is basically situated in a globalizing world characterized by complex

transcultural processes the course reflects on transcultural influences in each of the described three steps which either

lead/led to certain developments or which attract the attention to certain artists or aesthetic phenomena. This transcultural

perspective not only includes the relation between China and the West but also the relation between China and East-Asian

countries like Japan. Therefore the course will at the same time introduce important contemporary Western and

Japanese aesthetic positions in selective readings,thus opening up a field of possible questions concerning the

interpretation of Chinese art and aesthetics.


The 8 sessions of the course are structured in the following way:
1.General introduction, choice of presentation subjects, reading and commenting on shorter texts concerning

the question of transculturality and exemplary aesthetic positions in small groups, short presentations and

discussions in the larger group

2.Contemporary Chinese calligraphy and its aesthetics

3.Historical contexts of Chinese calligraphy and aesthetics

4.Contemporary Chinese landscape painting and its aesthetics

5.Historical contexts of Chinese landscape painting and its aesthetics

6.Contemporary Chinese Art of tea and its aesthetics

7.Historical contexts of the Chinese Art of tea and its aesthetics

8.Parallels and differences between the three studied arts, their aesthetic conceptions and their

  relation to the studied Western and Japanese aesthetic conceptions

The course will be held on the basis of presentations by the students, group discussions,

exercises and excursions.

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