Rituals and Changes

Just under a week ago, I arrived back in China for a short visit, to attend the Second Wuxi Yijing World Summit Forum (第二届世界易经高峰论坛) in Wuxi city, a large annual gathering for enthusiasts of the Book of Changes or Yijing (I Ching). After a few months away from China, it is good to be back. And it has been an extremely stimulating few days spent in the company of an eclectic mix of scholars, devotees, diviners, financial speculators, geomancers, Buddhists, …

Life, despite everything

It is a beautiful, clear Easter morning, and I’m back here in the UK sitting on the sofa with the cat, drinking coffee, and taking it easy. If I’ve not been very active here on the blog for a while, it is in part because the last few weeks have been somewhat demanding. Back in January, just before I headed to Australia for the conference on cultivation and wisdom in Greek and Chinese philosophy, my partner Elee went into hospital …

New Books in East Asian Studies

I’ve not had a chance to post much recently as I’ve been a bit geographically dispersed — somewhere between the UK, China and Australia. After a couple of weeks, things should settle down again, and I’ll be back to the UK as my main base. But until then, I thought I’d post this long and very generous-spirited interview on my Yijing-based book Sixty-Four Chance Pieces, thanks to Carla Nappi at the wonderful New Books in East Asian Studies podcast. It’s …

Chinese Poet Drinking

The Flaws of Writers (according to Liu Xie)

I’m over in Sydney for a few days, escaping the smog of Chengdu, and attending the conference at the University of New South Wales on cultivation in Greek and Chinese philosophy. So far, it’s been an incredibly stimulating event. There’s at lot that, if I have the chance, I’m hoping to explore here on this blog in the next few weeks. As for my own paper, I’m still putting the finishing touches to it, as I’ll be presenting it on …

Vacations: Reeling in the Mind

For the last few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with a couple of things. The first is a huge server failure that has led to me moving my various sites to a new host. And the second is the ghost of Liu Xie (劉勰), the Chinese writer who lived between the fifth and sixth centuries, and whose work straddles Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist traditions in fascinating ways. I’ve written here before about Liu’s most famous book, the Wenxin Diaolong (文心雕龍) or …

Giving Thanks at Thirty Thousand Feet

My alarm went off at 4.30 this morning — criminally early. I staggered out of bed, stuffed a few things in a bag, double-checked I had the paperwork I needed, and caught a taxi to the airport. I was heading to Shenzhen, and from there to Hong Kong, where I am sorting out some visa issues before I return to Chengdu next week. I boarded the Chengdu Airlines flight at seven, and was surprised to see the cabin adorned with …

The Hard Cross-Cultural Problem

Recently I’ve been thinking about the notion of cross-cultural philosophy. Despite Leibniz’s best efforts, philosophy as an academic discipline in Europe and America has only recently started to get to grips with non-Western traditions of thought. And whilst philosophers in the West are beginning to wake up to the existence of philosophical traditions from elsewhere, meanwhile—for the last century and a bit—East Asian scholars have been attempting to articulate the unique contributions of Chinese and Japanese traditions of thought to …

Philosophy Salon in Chengdu

Last night was the first Philosophy Salon over at the Bookworm bookshop here in Chengdu. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect: this was a speculative idea that I put forward in a chat with my friends over at the Bookworm shortly after arriving in town a few weeks back. It turned into a reality astonishingly quickly, and so last night I found myself heading across town to lead a discussion about philosophy, wisdom, Aristotle and Confucius. I thought a …

The Satyr’s Skin, or, Why I Flayed Marsyas

I’m not sure precisely when I came across the story of Marsyas, the satyr who was flayed by the god Apollo. It was perhaps when I was an art student, immersing myself in the iconography of the Renaissance. Or perhaps it was before then (because there’s still this curious notion that Greek myths are charming tales fit for children). But from the first, it was a story that filled me with horror. The tale, for those who are unfamiliar with …

Writing, Work and Ease

In my last post on the notion of a Centre for Laziness, I suggested that valuable work does not arise simply out of effort, but it arises instead out of a combination of effort and ease, regulation and slackness, hard work and laziness. From this perspective, ease is not simply a necessary interlude, so that we might back to work refreshed. Instead, it is an integral part of what it takes to create and to sustain perhaps anything of value. At …