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Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology

Ignorance is Bliss: The Chinese Art of Not Knowing

Authors: Matthyssen, Mieke

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  • Suggests how the art of not knowing might be an aid to increased wellbeing in an age of information overload
  • Examines how the ancient Chinese wisdom of not knowing is discursively constructed, interpreted, practiced and valued in contemporary society
  • Offers a thorough and original discussion of the philosophy of Nande hutu by tracing its socio-historical, philosophical and cultural development in China
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eBook $89.00
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  • ISBN 978-3-030-73902-7
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Hardcover $119.99
price for Brazil
  • ISBN 978-3-030-73901-0
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  • Covid-19 shipping restrictions
  • Usually ready to be dispatched within 3 to 5 business days, if in stock
About this book

This book examines the popular, yet puzzling, Chinese saying Nande hutu 难得糊涂 to uncover how the ancient Chinese wisdom of not knowing is constructed, interpreted, practiced and valued in contemporary society.

Originating in the calligraphy of Qing-dynasty scholar Zheng Banqiao, Nande hutu translates literally as: “hard to attain muddle-headedness”. Mieke Matthyssen traces the historical development of this saying and related philosophies to reveal a culturally conditioned, multi-layered inclination to different forms of not knowing. In contemporary society, she argues, this inclination forms part of a living art: in some respects, a passive, evasive strategy for self-preservation; in other respects, a strategy for coping with intrapersonal, interpersonal and social complexities.  

Drawing on an extensive range of primary sources and original research, the analysis skillfully combines philosophical and socio-historical analysis with theory from Chinese philosophy, philosophical psychology and the relatively new field of indigenous psychology, to provide an in-depth understanding of how Nande hutu has shaped, and continues to shape, the Chinese psyche and behaviour. 

This book will appeal to all readers looking for fresh insights into Chinese culture, and in particular to students and scholars of Chinese and Asian studies, cultural and social anthropology, and philosophical and indigenous psychology.

About the authors

Mieke Matthyssen is a lecturer in the Department of Chinese Studies at Ghent University, Belgium. Her research interests focus on the intellectual history and contemporary interpretation of traditional Chinese philosophies of life, health strategies and indigenous psychology. She has published in journals such as Contemporary Chinese Thought and Journal of Asian History.

Reviews

“In the west our view of language and meaning has been deeply shaped by Plato’s notion of universal forms/ideas. This model assumes that the meaning of words remains constant across time and space. In contrast, Wittgenstein proposed that the meaning of a word is dependent on a community of language users. The author’s careful analysis of nande hutu is exactly what is needed to develop a linguistically sensitive indigenous psychology. She delineates the web of meanings connected to the phrase laterally and historically.  She explores in great detail ‘the underlying socio-psychological, moral, political and spiritual dimensions’ of the practice of nande hutu. She reviews the relationship of nande hutu with the themes of pragmatism, contextualization, order, and holistic thinking in early Chinese philosophical notions of truth, knowledge, and wisdom. I recommend this book because it relativizes the importance Westerners place on intelligence/smartness by pairing it, in the phrase nande hutu, with muddle-headedness, without opprobrium.” (Dr. Alvin Dueck, Distinguished Senior Professor of Cultural Psychologies, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, USA)

“Not only does the author succeed in illuminating what she – in paraphrasing a Chinese colleague – describes as ‘the crucial part of Chinese culture that most non-Chinese people fail to grasp, and most Chinese are not conscious of’, her study is also a remarkable blend of traditional sinological philological scholarship dealing competently with the rich history of Chinese ideas, combined with more sociological approaches to contemporary life, such as interviews and evaluations of popular books that provide life-coaching on the art of being “muddled”. This makes for very stimulating literature, and for me – being familiar with the background of Zheng Banqiao and his saying – the reading was highly enriching and even enlightening.” (Dr. Karl-Heinz Pohl, Professor Emeritus of Chinese Studies at Trier University, Germany, author of Cheng Pan-ch'iao: Poet, Painter and Calligrapher (1990)) 

“Matthyssen’s research has culminated in this excellent monograph on nande hutu as an everyday coping mechanism that fits today’s political context, a folk philosophy descended from generations of Chinese epistemology and ethics, and an art of holistic living to maintain wellbeing and harmony. Ignorance Is Bliss is filled with ideas that by their very sweep, complexity, and originality call into question common Western assumptions about Chinese culture and Chinese ways of knowing and thinking. […] Ignorance Is Bliss celebrates artistic and aesthetic calibration in local ways of being in China, and exemplifies how people juxtapose and balance between the light and the weight, the old and the new, and the hard and the soft, as well as the rational and the affective.” (Dr. Jie Yang, Professor of Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, Canada) 

“I am impressed by the thematic and conceptual range of this book. This is an original and important contribution not only to China studies but, more broadly, to debates about the cognitive and emotional organization of social life.” (Dr. Daniel Nehring, Associate Professor of Sociology, International Institute of Social Work, East China University of Science and Technology, China)

Table of contents (9 chapters)

Table of contents (9 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook $89.00
price for Brazil
  • ISBN 978-3-030-73902-7
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Hardcover $119.99
price for Brazil
  • ISBN 978-3-030-73901-0
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Institutional customers should get in touch with their account manager
  • Covid-19 shipping restrictions
  • Usually ready to be dispatched within 3 to 5 business days, if in stock
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Ignorance is Bliss: The Chinese Art of Not Knowing
Authors
Series Title
Palgrave Studies in Indigenous Psychology
Copyright
2021
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan
Copyright Holder
The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG
eBook ISBN
978-3-030-73902-7
DOI
10.1007/978-3-030-73902-7
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-030-73901-0
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XXII, 380
Number of Illustrations
2 b/w illustrations, 10 illustrations in colour
Topics