The Concept Zhiyin 知音 (Perfect Connoisseur): from Imagery Intuition to Poetic Intention | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This paper conducts firstly a historiographical research of the concept zhiyin (perfect connoisseur) and explores the mirror and empathic relationships between Nature and creators as well as creators and their auditors/viewers. It will try to clarify the role of imagery intuitions (xingxiang zhijue 形象直觉) in seizing the zhi 志 (intention) of an artist by searching for the signified of the statements “zhi zai gaoshan 志在高山 ” (aiming at the “high mountains”) and “zhi zai liushui 志在流水 ” (aiming at the “flowing streams”). These statements appear in the story of the Chinese zither qin player Boya and the lumberjack Zhong Ziqi, the perfect connoisseur of Boya's music. This anecdote can be found in many Chinese classics such as the Taoist text Liezi 列子. It was later sung with the qin and fictionalized with many Confucian reminiscences under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), thus, gradually moving away from its original Taoist version. Classical Chinese artistic creation pays attention to the power of the intuitions, while Western artistic creation, at least before the birth of modern art in Western countries, was knowledge-based and focused more on the representation of the real world. Drawing on studies of ancient Chinese music and poetry, as well as Chinese and Western aesthetic theories, our paper will explore in its second part the evolution of the artist’s “intention”. This examination will allow us to understand the interdependent and sometimes interchangeable relationship between “zhi” (intention), qing 情 (emotions) and yi 意 (intention, idea) - major notions in Chinese aesthetics.


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