Back Cover Blurb
- Tracing the thread of "decreation" in Chinese thought, from constantly changing classical masterpieces to fake cell phones that are better than the original.
- Shanzhai is a Chinese neologism that means "fake," originally coined to describe knock-off cell phones marketed under such names as Nokir and Samsing. These cell phones were not crude forgeries but multifunctional, stylish, and as good as or better than the originals.
- Shanzhai has since spread into other parts of Chinese life, with shanzhai books, shanzhai politicians, shanzhai stars. There is a shanzhai Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Porcelain Doll, in which Harry takes on his nemesis Yandomort. In the West, this would be seen as piracy, or even desecration, but in Chinese culture, originals are continually transformed-deconstructed.
- In this volume in the Untimely Meditations series, Byung-Chul Han traces the thread of deconstruction, or "decreation," in Chinese thought, from ancient masterpieces that invite inscription and transcription to Maoism – "a kind a shanzhai Marxism," Han writes.
- Han discusses the Chinese concepts of
- quan, or law, which literally means the weight that slides back and forth on a scale, radically different from Western notions of absoluteness;
- zhen ji, or original, determined not by an act of creation but by unending process;
- xian zhan, or seals of leisure, affixed by collectors and part of the picture's composition;
- fuzhi, or copy, a replica of equal value to the original; and
- The Far East, Han writes, is not familiar with such "pre-deconstructive" factors as original or identity. Far Eastern thought begins with deconstruction.
- Quan: Law – 1
- Zhen Ji: Original – 9
- Xian Zhan: Seals of Leisure – 33
- Fuzhi: Copy – 59
- Shanzhai: Fake – 71
Notes – 81
Illustration Credits – 89
- Firstly, I note that the book was originally written in German, which explains why sundry German terms are included in brackets in a book about Chinese philosophy.
- Talking of Chinese philosophy, this is a very brief introduction thereto, or to elements of it. The author is South Korean, but that won’t stop him having an excellent handle on the subject. I suppose I ought to read something on the subject, but I’ve not sure I’ve got anything, other than sundry material on Buddhism1 - especially "Garfield (Jay L.) - Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy" - and "McGreal (Ian P.), Ed. - Great Thinkers of the Eastern World".
- Further notes are broken down by each of the five Chapters …
- Quan: Law
- For some reason – maybe on account of the German providence of the book – the Chapter starts off with rebuffing certain misunderstandings of the Chinese and their philosophy on the part of Hegel2.
- Zhen Ji: Original
- Xian Zhan: Seals of Leisure
- Fuzhi: Copy
- Shanzhai: Fake
In-Page Footnotes ("Han (Byung-Chul) - Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese")
- I remember a swipe at Hegel’s metaphysics – involving his lack of understanding of the Chinese – in "Russell (Bertrand) - History of Western Philosophy", p. 705 “World history, in fact, has advanced through the categories, from Pure Being in China (of which Hegel knew nothing except that it was) to the Absolute Idea, which seems to have been nearly, if not quite, realized in the Prussian State.” .
- It seems that – while he may have known nothing about China – he did know something (though misunderstood) about the Chinese and their philosophy.
MIT Press; Untimely Meditations Series (3 Nov. 2017)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)