The Sense of Things and “The Natural Sound of the Myriad Things”

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2020


The Sense of Things and “The Natural Sound of the Myriad Things”



Fu Xiuyan


The “sense of things” refers to the interaction between all things. In ancient Chinese culture, the aesthetic sense is often referred to as “hearing,” in a way that is not limited to the aural sense. Compared with the other senses, the sense of hearing allows the myriad things to communicate with each other across a larger space. Man is one of these things. The word renwu (literally “man/thing,”) highlights the physical aspect of a human being, indicating that our ancestors had long noticed the unity of opposites between human beings and things. Although things are used by people, they also have the functions of setting someone off, representing someone and naming, helping and even strengthening human beings. The sense of things in ancient literary theory refers to the communication between man, as one of the myriad things, and the others. “Hearing nothingness” is the experience of transcending the ear and directly reaching the heart. The propositions that “the greatest sound is inaudible” and that “a deadly silence resounds like thunder” all suggest how silence hits the drum of the soul. The phrase “no hearing” covers both hearing with no listener and listening without hearing. The former is often used in ancient poetry and essays to express the idea that all things are self-sufficient and self-contained, and that rather than nature needing human beings, human beings need nature; the latter overlooks the sound or voice, but that overlooked sound or voice remains half-heard in the consciousness, serving as a background for those voices that need attention. The sensing of all things related to this aesthetic perception has become a popular topic nowadays. Natural science is not powerful enough to explain the resonance of the myriad things; the humanistic disciplines closely related to such resonance should contribute their own cognition and thinking to research in this field.