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Theory of Literary Pneuma (Wenqi): Philosophical Reconception of a Chinese Aesthetic


Literary pneuma (wenqi 文氣) is a foundational idea in Chinese literary thought and the theory of literary pneuma one of the major aesthetic theories in Chinese literature and art. Since its first appearance, however, this aesthetic has remained an elusive concept despite its central importance. This article adopts an interdisciplinary approach to examine major statements of wenqi in Chinese thought in relation to similar ideas in modern philosophy, aesthetics, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism. It attempts to understand its rationale, locate its conceptual groundings, and reconceptualize it into an aesthetic theory for our time.

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Correspondence to Ming Dong Gu.

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Gu, M.D. Theory of Literary Pneuma (Wenqi): Philosophical Reconception of a Chinese Aesthetic. Dao 19, 443–460 (2020).

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  • Literary pneuma
  • Yin-yang 陰陽 theory
  • Personality
  • Aesthetics
  • Literary criticism