ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (5): 702-710.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.00702

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Embodied Cognition in Ancient Chinese Confucianism and Taoism

LI Xiaodan1; YE Haosheng1,2   

  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:2014-08-04 Published:2015-05-25 Online:2015-05-25
  • Contact: YE Haosheng, E-mail:


Ancient Chinese thought reflected the ontology idea of body and had a construction of mixer of the “body-mind-world” system. The syncretism of body-mind was an essential preset in ancient Chinese thought. “Qi” was regarded as a basic material of universe as well as human being. Ancient Chinese controlled the “Qi” by the practice of self-cultivation. The balanced flow of in and out of “Qi” in the body of human being could make an effort of body figure, physical structure and mind. The body concept of ancient Chinese thought was more propound and diversified than the body concept of modern western embodied cognitive theory. Ancient Chinese reached the state of syncretism between nature and man by approach of cultivating from body to mind and cultivating from mind to body. In Confucianism, Confucius established the traditional practice of kernel. The self-cultivation of practice of kernel which was constituted of ritual studies mainly focused on the transformation of body and mind. In Taoism, Zhuangzi was opposed to the constraint of man’s body and mind so that he put forward a view that human being should use their body subject and kenotic body to make perception of the world and taoism. But Confucianism and Taoism had a common body subject. The perception of body subject was the most important cognitive factor to cognition of self and world. With the bidirectional shape of body and mind, the body-mind experience of taoism was the common ideal of Confucianism and Taoism. Meanwhile, Confucianism and Taoism reflected and practiced cultivation in social situation. The body was sitational. The ritual of Confucianism was a interpersonal communication system included spatial and comport metaphor. Taoism advocated inaction of all things. They thought human being should concentrate on their body and body knowing of the nature. The embodied thought of ancient Chinese thought was a complexity theory which suffuses strong traditional culture. As Merleau-Ponty’s proposition, ancient Chinese body had the same basic material as the world. In ancient Chinese thought, “Qi” was the basic material of body and so as the world. With the concern of embodied cognition, study integrating the perspective of the view of body-mind of ancient Chinese thought can promote the development of Chinese psychology and the paradigm of embodied cognition.

Key words: embodied cognition, Ancient Chinese Confucianism and Taoism, body subject, phenomenology, embodiedment