Sep 072010

Some years ago I noticed, in a New York Times review of Jonathan D. Spence’s book  The Search for Modern China, a reference to the Not-Not Manifesto published in Chengdu, Sichuan, on May 4, 1986.

Here is a quotation Spence uses in his book.

Not-Not:  a blanket term covering the object, form, contents, methodology, process, way and result of the principles of Pre-Cultural Thought. It is also the description of the primordial mien of the universe. Not-Not is not “no.” After deconstructing the relationship between man and objects to their precultural state, there is nothing in this universe that is not Not-Not. Not-Not is not the negation of anything. It is only an expression of itself. Not-Not is aware that liberation exists in the indefinite.

And here is a portion of the original manifesto translated by Michael M. Day in his book China’s Second World of Poetry.

On the ruins of ancient Rome, those big, lofty stone pillars: they have always been alive, they have always been thinking – this is told us by our entirely wide open intuition – only if we are incapable of entirely benumbing ourselves, we then have no way of not deeply believing: they really are alive, without doubt they have continuously been thinking, always thinking. Up to this day, the sole difficulty has been that we have been unable to find any form of cultural artifice to “prove” whether they ultimately live in the fashion of an “animal,” or in that of a “plant.” Our present culture has been incapable of embracing them, this wondrous phenomenon of life. We also have no ready way of saying what manner of thought they ultimately follow, and what they ultimately are thinking.

So — Today we declare:

First, they live in a not-not fashion;

Second, they are not-not life;

Third, they make us feel not-not;

Fourth, they make us become not-not;

Fifth, we are not-not.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.