In modern Chinese aesthetics and literary criticism, Zhu Guangqian
(1897-1986) is one ofthe most well-known theorists and a writer renowned both amongst
Chinese intellectuals and the many young readers who enjoy accessible versions of his
theories. In the 1980s, Zhu's status as an influential figure was heightened once more
through the debates over socialist alienation in Marxist humanism and 'Culture Fever.'
His emphasis on the aesthetic dimension of art was at odds with prevailing
contemporary views on political utility in art. In consequence, the literary theory and
aesthetics of his early stage were, until the 1980s, criticised in mainland China for their
idealist tendencies. Although there have been some studies on Zhu's contributions to
modern Chinese aesthetic theory and literary criticism, there has been little comprehensive
research on the formation and development of his thought.
This thesis is, therefore, concerned to provide a detailed reconstruction and analysis
ofthese relatively neglected aspects ofZhu's thought throughout his life. I seek to show
that Zhu offers a unique attitude towards the intellectual turmoil ofChina since the 1920s
and a highly original account ofthe reciprocity of traditional Chinese ethical ideals and
Western thinking derived from his education in both China and Europe and developed
throughout his further studies ofWestern thinkers. While examining Zhu's interpretation
of aesthetic experience and Western theories of aesthetics and psychology, I argue that
despite the apparent influence ofWestern ideas on the formation ofhis theories, his unique
attitude is steeped in traditional Chinese thought. Unlike previous studies, this thesis also
argues that there is consistency in his thinking between in the first halfand the second half
of the 20th century.