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Abstract

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?

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