Two New Books

I here re-post information from Keith Knapp’s email list about two recent books: Chandler’s Expressing the Heart’s Intent and Cook & Luo’s Birth in Ancient China. Congratulations to all!

This fall SUNY Press published Marthe Atwater Chandler’s Expressing the Heart’s Intent: Explorations in Chinese AestheticsHere is a brief description to give you a sense of its contents:

Using Li Zehou’s theories of aesthetics, argues for the importance of the arts to philosophy.

In this wide-ranging examination of the concept of zhi (“the heart’s intent”) as the foundation of Chinese aesthetics, Marthe Atwater Chandler places traditional Chinese aesthetics in conversation with contemporary Chinese theory and traditional western philosophy. Poetry, music, painting, and calligraphy played much the same role in the development of thought in China as science did for philosophy in the west, with important implications for the relationship between art, religion, politics, and morality. Inspired by the work of Li Zehou, a leading contemporary Chinese philosopher and scholar of Kant who traced the relationship between philosophy and art throughout Chinese history, Chandler applies Li’s theoretical structure to specific traditions in Chinese art. Throughout the book she considers the relationship of aesthetics and religion in the Chinese adoption of Buddhism, the aesthetics of horse painting, and the personal and political in philosophy in the work of Su Dongpo. By examining particular works of art, Expressing the Heart’s Intent argues that if philosophy ignores the arts, it is immeasurably impoverished.

SUNY Press has just published Constance Cook & Xinhui Luo’s Birth in Ancient China: A Study of Metaphor and Cultural Identity in Pre-Imperial China.


Reveals cultural paradigms and historical prejudices regarding the role of birthing and women in the reproduction of society.

Using newly discovered and excavated texts, Constance A. Cook and Xinhui Luo systematically explore material culture, inscriptions, transmitted texts, and genealogies from BCE China to reconstruct the role of women in social reproduction in the ancient Chinese world. Applying paleographical, linguistic, and historical analyses, Cook and Luo discuss fertility rituals, birthing experiences, divine conceptions, divine births, and the overall influence of gendered supernatural agencies on the experience and outcome of birth. They unpack a cultural paradigm in which birth is not only a philosophical symbol of eternal return and renewal but also an abiding religious and social focus for lineage continuity. They also suggest that some of the mythical founder heroes traditionally assumed to be male may in fact have had female identities. Students of ancient history, particularly Chinese history, will find this book an essential complement to traditional historical narratives, while the exploration of ancient religious texts, many unknown in the West, provides a unique perspective into the study of the formation of mythology and the role of birthing in early religion.

Constance A. Cook is Professor of Chinese at Lehigh University and the author of Death in Ancient China: The Tale of One Man’s JourneyXinhui Luo is Professor of Chinese Ancient History at Beijing Normal University, China.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: A Chu Text

1. Words and Images

Chu Ancestral Names and the Word for Birth

A Lost Word for Birth

Suggestive Images

2. Controlling Reproduction: Fertility Prayers

Zhou Fertility Prayers in Bronze Inscriptions

A Warring States Prayer Preserved on Bamboo Strips

3. Mothers and Embryos

Embryonic Transformation

4. Controlling the Pregnant Body

Time and Divination

Curses, Stars, and the Gendered Cosmos


A Question of Thorns

5. Divine Origins and Chu Genealogical History


6. The Traumatic Births of Non-Zhou Ancestral Founders





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