ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (3): 386-398.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00386

• Theory and History of Psychology • Previous Articles    

Exploring ideas of embodied psychology in Chinese Mythology

Jiajia SU1,Haosheng YE1,2()   

  1. 1 Education School of Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
    2 The Center for the Psychology and Brain Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2019-07-18 Published:2020-03-25 Online:2020-01-18
  • Contact: Haosheng YE


Which branch of science does psychology fall under? Does China practice psychology? How should China establish its own scientific discipline of psychology? These three questions urgently need to be resolved since the birth of psychology. With the current development of Western psychology, the rise of ‘embodied cognition’ has allowed us to foresee the greatest possibility of Chinese-Western psychological dialogue and the establishment of China’s own discipline of psychology. The ‘embodied cognition’ of Western psychology is closely related to the ‘body-knowing’ ideas existed in Chinese culture with the concept of ‘nature-human integration’ as the core, whereas Chinese culture has its own body elements that are different from the Western culture. The source of culture is indeed a myth. This study attempts to explore the ‘embodied wisdom’ of Chinese traditional culture from the visual threshold of Chinese myths. The objective is to make a sound basis for the comprehensive scientific orientation of psychology, contributing to the integration of psychology and establishment of China’s own scientific discipline of psychology.
On the basis of a purely embodied psychological position, this study is summarised in three parts. Firstly, from the ontological dimension, the phenomenological interpretation method is used to describe how a mythical body is generated, and the myth of world, things and human origin are used as the example to reveal the ontological characteristic of China’s ‘body’ (monism). Secondly, from the spatial dimension, theory of conceptual metaphor is used to analyse how the mythological body phenomenology field is extended, and the perspectives of things and human beings are one, nature and human beings are one and Gods and human beings are one demonstrate the spatial characteristic of China’s ‘body’ (theory of Qi). Finally, from the time dimension, social construction theory is used to deconstruct that how the mythical body is changed in the time field and from the three levels of social, cultural and history to express the time characteristic of China’s ‘body’ (theory of Yi).
Since the ancient times, Chinese culture and Western culture have been two different points, obviously. It is impossible naturally for Chinese people to produce ‘epistemology’ in the Western sense of ‘observing knowledge’, because the soil foundation of Chinese culture is ‘ontology’ (experiencing knowledge). China’s ‘monism’ emphasises that the body contains the soul, and the soul embodies the body, which means that the body and soul are perceived as one. From the perspective of Chinese creation myth, China’s ‘body’ can be viewed as the ‘Tao’, the body possesses the ‘power’ and the body also owns ‘will’. China’s Qi theory emphasises that the Qi is full of the three worlds, namely heaven, earth and human beings, hence, from the perspective of Chinese mythology, human beings are integrated with everything, human beings and nature share the same destiny and human beings and gods are connected. China’s Yi theory emphasises that change itself is constant, which due to the meaning of relations always outweighs the meaning of elements in Chinese philosophy. Thus, cultural imagery, social thinking and historical sense existed in China’s creation myth are also the result of the human body’s real-time construction. Inferred from ancient Chinese mythology, the Chinese people know that this world is based on the changing cosmic schema of the ‘body-human beings-things-gods’, which means that the ontological, spatial and temporal dimensions are all dissolved at the starting point of the body. Therefore, China’s ‘embodied psychology’ ideas pay attention to ‘nature-human integration’ in the sense of ontology. So, there is only one body clearly embodied in the world of Chinese traditional culture. Thus, we will no longer be able to judge Chinese psychological ideas under the standards of Western psychology.
In summary: (1) psychology should be a unified study that combines natural and humanities science, in which the potential representative is embodied cognition; (2) the integration path of psychology must draw on the wisdom of embodied ideas of psychology that have existed in ancient Chinese culture, especially in the root of the Chinese mythology; (3) China must combine the creative transformation of Chinese and Western embodied psychology to establish the discipline of Chinese scientific psychology.

Key words: embodied cognition, Chinese mythology, Chinese psychology, nature-human integration, phenomenology

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