ZONG BAIHUA (1897—1986)
ZONG BAIHUA (1897—1986). Poet and essayist. Although in college Zong Baihua majored in medicine and studied philosophy and literature in his spare time, it was the latter that sustained his career and earned him a national name. Unlike Lu Xun, who gave up medicine to become a writer in order to save the soul of his countrymen, Zong went into aesthetics and literature more because of an imaginative propensity than a Confucian sense of social responsibility. In 1920, he went to Germany and studied with Max Dessoir and other eminent philosophers. He returned to China in 1925 and began a pioneering program to teach aesthetics as an academic discipline at Chinese universities. From 1952 till his death, he worked in the Philosophy Department of Beijing University. Known primarily for his contribution to aesthetic studies in China, Zong was a distinguished scholar familiar with both Western and Chinese philosophies. His theory that the core of Chinese aesthetics rests on the unification of opposite entities—“solidity-emptiness” and “finite-infinite”—paradigms espoused in Taoism and Buddhism, has a far-reaching influence in the world of Chinese academia and arts. His scholarly works include Yi jing (The Realm of Arts) and Kangde yanjiu (A Study of Kant). Zong was also a noted essayist. His best-known works are Meixue de sanbu (The Aesthetic Promenade), a collection of lyrical essays on aesthetics, and the letters included in San ye ji (Three Leaves: Correspondences of Tian Han, Zong Baihua, and Guo Moruo).
Zong displayed an interest in vernacular poetry as early as the late 1910s, when he was a student at Tongji University in Shanghai, where he joined the Chinese Youth Association and edited its magazine Shaonian Zhongguo (Chinese Youth). While studying in Germany, Zong began to write poetry, encouraged by Dessoir’s emphasis on the aesthetic experience in nature and art. Most of the poems collected in Liu yun xiao shi (Floating Clouds: Short Poems), a book that attracted much attention in the 1920s and 1930s, were written during his sojourn in Germany. Although he was not nearly as prolific in his creative work as in his philosophical writings, he continued to write poetry after his return to China. His poems express his love of nature and the instantaneous perception of the beauty of the eternal universe through small joys in everyday life. Zong embraces Zen Buddhism in its celebration of the moment and the discovery of the philosophical and literary in the mundane. See also GUO MORUO; NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT; TIAN HAN.