A History of Taste: From Zhou Dynasty Aristocracy to Han and Wei Literati

  • Li Chunqing


In “The Progress of Modern European Literature” (1910), Wilhelm Dilthey pointed out: “Firstly, we discover that poetry was determined by the common spirit of a smaller political-military community. It expresses the spirit of the society with the lyric poetry.” (Dilthey, 2005: 1) He also outlined the representation of two spiritual activities—imagination and rationality within modern European literature, and proposed the perspective of spiritual history as a method for doing literary studies. In recent years, some experts of classical Chinese literature have been investigating the generation and evolvement of literary activities, out of discontent with the lack of attention on the relation between historical background and literary activities, and trying to explore this problem from different aspects such as the writer’s mentality, faith, thought, and living condition, etc. With new perspectives, they intend to describe the relation between literary history and spiritual history more meticulously. But since they have not found a notion that is self-explanatory, the research about the relation his new monograph A History of Taste, carries out a thorough discussion on the evolution of the collective taste of the intelligentsia from Zhou dynasty (周代) to Han and Wei dynasties (漢魏) (1046 BC-266 AD), by using the notion “taste paradigm” as a mediator between literature and its producers. This book, which reveals the close linkage between Chinese literary history and spiritual history in the above-mentioned historical period, is significant in suggesting the method of spiritual history in studies of classical Chinese literature.
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