So by way of conclusion to this entire course, we’re going to take a look at some kind of cultural essence of China. So this course has been a narrative built around the paradigm shift —the idea of paradigm shift— and a synthetic vision of Chinese religion as quintessential expression of Chinese society and culture. All the way through, I’ve relied on very extensive citation of individual authors very extensive citation of individual authors In this conclusion, I will focus on my own understanding of core features of Chinese cultural history. And we’re going to start by talking about Chinese and Western dualism. Permanent differences with the Western philosophical tradition have been outlined by Romain Graziani in the chapter that we looked at, “The Subject and the Sovereign.” He rightly sees this as a question of the nature of the subject—of the human subject, and I will quote a long quote now from Romain Graziani’s chapter. “One of the broadly shared assumptions of Western philosophy is that the dominant function in human beings is thinking and knowing. It deals with self-conscious subjects as the sole cause of their actions, transparent to—and sovereign over—themselves. Philosophers find, in the thoughts they entertain about their own thoughts, the very substance of their beings. They focus their sight and attention on thought as if it were the summit of their activity. They deliberately forget everything that is prior to thought, prior to language, prior to clear and distinct ideas, namely their inner dispositions, moods, frames of mind, mental impulse or life force. The essence of classical metaphysics revolves around the question: how is true knowledge possible? Plato’s concept of <i>psyche</i>, Aristotle’s <i>noos</i>, Descartes’ <i>res cogitans</i>, or Kant’s transcendental subject were all posited in order to answer this fundamental question of true knowledge.” In very quick summary, all of these are referring as he says to the self-conscious mind. Descartes, for example, saying “I think therefore I am,” <i>cogito ergo sum</i>. I continue with the quotation from Romain Graziani: “From this very general perspective we can discern a duality that runs from ancient Greece through the Hellenic world down to Christianized Europe… between a theoretical subject primarily conceived as a thinking being aspiring to authentic knowledge, and an ethical subject engaged in the process of transforming himself through various practices. The latter tendency” —the ethical subject seeking to transform himself through practice— “the latter tendency seems to prevail in early China and constitutes one of its most salient orientations. These practices transform the self conceived as an <i>ethos</i>, defined by one’s character, inner dispositions and behavior. Contrasting with the theoretical question of knowledge, the way of ethics explores the construction—but, as we will see below (he says), also the dissolution—of the self. The subject or the self is conceived as the totality of its concrete aspects, not as an immortal ontological reality distinct from the body.” At the end of my introduction to the second set of books, <i>Early Chinese Religion II: Period of Division</i>, I suggest very briefly a systematic approach to these differences: body/soul, matter/spirit, letter/spirit, outer/inner, ritual/myth, space/time, female/male. And I suggest: “If, in the West, everything in the left-hand column” from body to female, space, letters, literal, “everything in the left hand column is inferior to what is in the right (spirit, the male), in China, it is a matter of priority and what we may call elementary ‘set theory’: that which is on the left,” that’s again that which is space, that which is body, that which is female, “that which is on the left is prior to that which is on the right (the male, the spirit) and encompasses it. Ultimately, in China likewise, patriarchy rules, and the male is superior to the female, but the route followed by the Chinese to get to that point of view is very different from the West: everything in the right hand column is <i>inside</i> its counterpart on the left.” The male inside the female, time inside space, or time spatialized and so forth. “Thus mythology—or, more generally, (we can call it) discourse— is implicit within ritual and need not, indeed should not be made explicit.” So concerning this table, we should first point out that the letter vs. the spirit is relevant only to the West, not China where, as there are no letters, there is also no literalism. In fact, literalism could well qualify as the standard form of Western “heterodoxy.” Second, the preference for ritual over discourse is most clearly visible in the “teaching of the Rites,” <i>lijiao</i> 禮教, as Confucianism came to be called. Thus Confucius himself was determined to keep practicing archaic rituals because of their value for self-cultivation, and the Neo-Confucians in the Song took up as a virtual battle cry this phrase from the <i>Analects: keji fuli</i> 克己復禮, “conquer the self and return to ritual,” or we could translate “conquer the self by returning to ritual.” For Léon Vandermeersch in a book called <i>Wangdao ou la Voie royale</i>, or the <i>Royal Way</i>, the positive valuation of ritual in Confucianism is due to the fact that the rite, rather than being, as in contemporary Western thought, or what Westerners might typically think, it is not a formal, repetitive—even obsessive, as some psychoanalysts have said, “going through the motions.” On the contrary, rituals, rites, reflect a deep rational structure, a logic, like the lines in a piece of jade,” which is the origin of the term <i>li</i> 理, which we can translate as logos, a deep structure. And he therefore suggests, Vandermeersch, that where Western thought is “teleological,” Chinese thought is “morphological.” Teleological: focused on an end —how to get to an end goal. Morphological: about the inner deep structure of things.