The Aesthetics of Qiyun and Genius: Spirit Consonance in Chinese Landscape Painting and Some Kantian Echoes. Published by Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield), 320 Pages, 2021.

In The Aesthetics of Qiyun and Genius: Spirit Consonance in Chinese Landscape Painting and Some Kantian Echoes, Xiaoyan Hu provides an interpretation of the notion of qiyun, or spirit consonance, in Chinese painting, and considers why creating a painting—especially a landscape painting—replete with qiyun is regarded as an art of genius, where genius is an innate mental talent. Through a comparison of the role of this innate mental disposition in the aesthetics of qiyun and Kant’s account of artistic genius, the book addresses an important feature of the Chinese aesthetic tradition, one that evades the aesthetic universality assumed by a Kantian lens. 

Drawing on the views of influential sixth to fourteenth-century theorists and art historians and connoisseurs, the first part explains and discusses qiyun and its conceptual development from a notion mainly applied to figure painting to one that also plays an enduring role in the aesthetics of landscape painting. In the light of Kant’s account of genius, the second part examines a range of issues regarding the role of the mind in creating a painting replete with qiyun and the impossibility of teaching qiyun. Through this comparison with Kant, Hu demystifies the uniqueness of qiyun aesthetics and also illuminates some limitations in Kant’s aesthetics.

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978-1-7936-4156-4 • Hardback • July 2021 • $120.00 • (£92.00)
978-1-7936-4157-1 • eBook • August 2021 • $45.00 • (£35.00) 
Pages: 320 • Trim: 6 x 9

To get 30% discount, please use code LEX30AUTH21 when ordering. (For individual use only and may not be combined with other offers and discounts, valid until 12/31/2021.)


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations





Part I: The Notion of Qiyun in the Sixth to Fourteenth Centuries

Chapter 1. The Notion of Qiyun in Xie He’s First Law of Chinese Painting

Chapter 2. The Thread of Qiyun: A Shared Legacy in Tenth-to-Fourteenth-Century Landscape Painting

Part II: The Art of Genius: An Examination of Qiyun Aesthetics from a Kantian Perspective

Chapter 3. The Master of Qiyun: Genius As an Innate Mental Talent of Idea-Giving

Chapter 4. Spontaneity of Qiyun: Genius as the Innate Mental Talent of Rule-Giving

Chapter 5. The Impossibility of Teaching Qiyun: The Exemplary Originality of Genius in Yipin

Chapter 6. Genius as a Pure and Lofty Mind I: Aesthetic Autonomy and Balanced Human Nature

Chapter 7. Genius as a Pure and Lofty Mind II: Moral Cultivation of the Kindred Mind




About the Author

Dr. Xiaoyan Hu is Lecturer in Art Theory, at the School of Art, Southeast University, Nanjing, China. 


“This learned book seeks to answer some key questions revolving around qiyun (spiritual consonance), an important but elusive concept in Chinese art criticism. Employing a comparative approach informed by ideas of Western aesthetics, especially those of Kant and Schiller, Dr. Xiaoyan Hu has made admirable contributions to understanding Chinese and Western aesthetics. Well-researched and thoughtfully argued, it is indispensable for anyone interested in Chinese aesthetics and comparative studies of art.” — Ming Dong Gu, University of Texas at Dallas

“In this volume, Xiaoyan Hu treats us to two books in one: first, an informed study of the Chinese aesthetic concept of qiyun (which she translates as “spirit consonance”), from its origins in figure painting to later applications in landscape painting; then, an equally informed comparison of qiyun aesthetics with that of Kant, with special attention to the idea of “genius” in the Third Critique. Hu anticipates a doubtful reader’s obvious question (Is Kant the right philosopher for such a comparison?) with thoughtful responses. No, Chinese aesthetics is not Kantian, but Kant turns out to be surprisingly good to think with.” — Paul R. Goldin, University of Pennsylvania

“By placing two radically different aesthetics theories in contrast, the author illustrates the best benefit of doing comparative philosophy—one ends up gaining a better understanding of both. Interestingly, the more different to begin with, the more revealing in the end.” — Peimin Ni, Grand Valley State University

“Xiaoyan Hu’s book offers an insightful and erudite historical and philosophical exploration of qiyun (spirit consonance) in Chinese figure and landscape painting and aesthetic discourses in relation to the aesthetics of genius as a talent of idea- and rule-giving in Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment. This work is comparative and intercultural philosophy at its best in allowing each aesthetic to illuminate the other and its limits without reduction or oversimplification.” — Eric S. Nelson, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

“This book provides a scholarly analysis of a central idea qiyun in the painting tradition and the aesthetic discourse of ancient China. The analysis is carried out in a contemporary and international manner, which involves a critical comparison with European especially Kantian aesthetics. It is an important study in the field–in comparative aesthetics and comparative philosophy. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in a cross-cultural comparison between China and Europe in aesthetics and painting history.” — Jianfei Zhu, Newcastle University

“This bold experiment in letting classical Chinese aesthetics speak in its own voice deserves to be carefully studied by anyone interested in the problems typically addressed by Western aesthetics or in the practice of landscape painting. By focusing on similarities as well as differences between Kantian aesthetics, with its analytic rigor and claim to universal validity, and the more intuitive, insight-oriented focus of Chinese views on painting, Xiaoyan Hu demonstrates how both traditions can enrich and clarify the other through dialogical comparison. Significant insights abound as she unpacks the many resonances and dissonances between Chinese Qiyun (spirit consonance) and Kantian artistic genius as an innate mental talent of rule-giving.” — Stephen R. Palmquist, Hong Kong Baptist University

About the Author

Dr. Xiaoyan Hu gained her PhD in philosophy at the University of Liverpool. Her research articles have appeared in journals including Philosophy East & West, Asian Philosophy, and Proceedings of European Society for Aesthetics. She works as a lecturer in Art Theory, at the School of Art, Southeast University, Nanjing, China. She worked for the Confucius Institute at the University of Liverpool from November 2019 to December 2020, being invited to give lectures on Chinese philosophy of art. She worked as a part-time university teacher in Aesthetics and Business Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool in 2016‒2017. She won a Young Scholar Award Honourable Mention from the European Association for Chinese Philosophy in 2017, and received a Young Scholar Award from the International Association for Aesthetics in 2016. Prior to her PhD studies, she received her second MA degree in Art Aesthetics and Cultural Institutions at University of Liverpool in 2014, and her first MA degree in Classical Chinese Literature at Qingdao University, China in 2010, and her Bachelor degree of Economics majoring in International Finance at Ocean University of China in 2002. She is trained in classical Chinese dance, Kun opera, and playing the Chinese Zither (Gu Zheng). Before her study in the UK, she worked as an editor for the “Qingdao Evening Newspaper”, part of the Qingdao Newspaper Media Group from 2002 to 2006, and as a financial journalist for the journal “The Dao of Investment” (Touzi Youdao) (Xinhua Finance Media) from 2007 to 2009, and as an auditor for Ruihua Certified Public Accountants, Shanghai Branch in China from 2010 to 2012.