Reclaiming the Body: Francis Bacon's fugitive bodies and Confucian aesthetics on bodily expression

Kit Wah Eva Man

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Recently there has been a cry in Western academic and artistic circles for reclaiming the body and repositioning its locus and identity. Body theories and body art have become topics of attention as well as subjects of philosophical discussion. This article looks at the issue from a comparative perspective, focusing on representative cases in Chinese and Western portrait paintings. It first discusses Francis Bacon's works of human bodies and identifies their philosophical and psychological loci. It then outlines the Confucian discourses on the body, their related metaphysical grounds, and their relations to traditional Chinese portrait paintings. Representative Chinese portraits like those of Ku K'ai-chih are introduced. In comparing these, the following questions are addressed: How are body discourses related to different bodily expressions? In what ways do the Confucian ideas on the body shed light on recent discussions in the West on reclaiming the body? Are the problems with the dichotomies of mind and body solved in the Confucian tradition? Can active engagement through the process of reworking artworks create new possibilities of bodily expression?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalContemporary Aesthetics
Publication statusPublished - 2004

User-Defined Keywords

  • reclaiming the body
  • exhilarated despair
  • loss of self
  • moral masochism
  • psycho-physical dualism
  • bodily ego
  • chin sheung miao te
  • ch'i
  • four beginnings
  • liang-chih
  • hao-jan chih ch'i
  • yi
  • thinking greatest-component


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