Bodies in China

Philosophy, Aesthetics, Gender, and Politics

By Eva Kit Wah Man

Subjects: Chinese Studies, Feminist Philosophy, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Gender Studies, Body, The
Hardcover : 9781438466354, 282 pages, June 2017
Paperback : 9781438466361, 282 pages, January 2019

Table of contents

Part I. Body Discourses in Chinese Philosophy

1. Contemporary Feminist Body Theories and Mencius’ Ideas of Body and Mind

2. Chinese Philosophy and the Suggestion of a Matriarchal Aesthetics

3. Reclaiming the Body: Francis Bacon’s Fugitive Bodies and Confucian Aesthetics on Bodily Expression
Part II. Body Aesthetics and Art

4. Discourses on Female Bodily Aesthetics and Their Early Revelations in The Book of Songs

5. Reflections on Traditional Chinese Women’s Embroidery: The Subject of Bodily Expression, Gender Identity, and Fashion

6. Kissing in Chinese Culture

7. Expression Extreme and History Trauma in Women’s Body Art in China: The Case of He Chengyao

8. Notes on a Chinese Garden: Comparative Responses to Arnold Berleant’s Environmental Aesthetics
Part III. Body and Gender Matters

9. Female Bodily Aesthetics, Politics, and Feminine Ideals of Beauty in Chinese Traditions

10. Beauty and the State: Literati Fantasy, Iron Girls, and the Olympics Hoopla

11. Psychoanalysis and Women’s Physiology and Psychopathology in Feudal China: A Case Study by Pan Guangdan

12. Fashioning Body: Hong Kong Chinese Women, Fashion, and Identity Issues of the Sixties

13. Sex and Emotion: The Representation of Chinese Female Sex Workers in Recent Discourses and the Cosmopolitan Context
Appendix: Images
List of Permissions

Engages with Chinese philosophy to offer new conceptual models for reframing gender, bodies, and aesthetics.


Bodies in China uses Chinese philosophy to reframe Western scholarship on gender, body, and aesthetics. Does Confucianism rule out the capacity of women as moral subjects and hence as aesthetic subjects? Do forms of Chinese philosophy contribute or correspond to patriarchal Confucian culture? Can Chinese philosophy provide alternative perspectives for Western feminist scholars? The first section considers theoretical and philosophical discussions of Western traditions and how the ideas offered by Confucians and Daoists can provide alternative body ontologies for critical feminist practices. The second section reviews female aesthetical representations ranging from The Book of Songs to the work of the controversial body artist He Chengyao. The third section traces changing perceptions of femininity from imperial to its current cosmopolitan era using a range of case studies including Ming dynasty literature, Hong Kong women's fashion in the 1960s, and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Overall, this book discusses new conceptual models that feminist scholars are using to displace dualism and emancipate notions of the body from Cartesian models and metaphors.

Eva Kit Wah Man is Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. She publishes widely in comparative aesthetics, feminist philosophy, cultural studies, art, and cultural criticism. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, and was named the AMUW Woman Chair by Marquette University.


"…Man's book will appeal to theorists seeking to know more about traditional Chinese philosophical approaches to gender, the body, and selfhood … In an era in which gender increasingly is regarded as an internal, subjective identity, Eva Kit Wah Man's interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach is a useful reminder of the role of social norms and embodied practice in constructing gender and the self. " — Politics & Gender

"Eva Kit Wah Man has compiled a volume that advances current endeavors toward a truly global vision of philosophy as a discipline. " — Hypatia

"This is a highly interdisciplinary work that deals with the issues from philosophical, historical, literary, cinematic, and post-colonial perspectives. Bodies in China explores a wide range of subjects seldom studied in comparative philosophy and Chinese feminist thought. First, it takes female bodies in Chinese context as the foci to discuss a different conceptual model for replacing a Cartesian dualistic model; secondly, it offers a variety of interesting materials, sources, and cases studies as cross-references to build up the ground for a further study of traditional value and contemporary practice; and thirdly, it has engaged Chinese philosophy as a critical intervention to reframe existing scholarship in different gender issues and aesthetics. " — Robin R. Wang, Loyola Marymount University