Original Paper


, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 151-171

First online:

Musical Naturalism in the Thought of JI Kang

  • Chai DavidAffiliated withDepartment of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto Email author 

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Wei-Jin period is characterized by neo-Daoism (xuanxue 玄學), and JI Kang lived in the midst of this philosophical exploration. Adopting the naturalism of the Zhuangzi, Ji Kang expressed his socio-political concerns through the medium of music, which was previously regarded as having moral bearing and rectitude. Denying such rectitude became central for Ji Kang, who claimed that music was incapable of possessing human emotion, releasing it from the chains of Confucian ritualism. His investigation into the name and reality of musical expression gave music an “aesthetic turn” lacking in Qin and early Han thought, and by making use of concepts such as natural harmony and spontaneity, Ji Kang was able to turn away from the negative aesthetics of earlier thinkers such as He Yan and Wang Bi to one cherishing the naturalism espoused by Zhuangzi.


Ji Kang Xuanxue Musical aesthetics Zhuangzi