BEIJING, Aug. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Dutch aesthete Jos de Mul believes one must appreciate beauty to be happy.
This was the point the former president of the International Association for Aesthetics (IAA) and Erasmus University Rotterdam professor made when speaking at the ongoing 18th International Congress of Aesthetics (ICA) in Beijing.
It is the first time the triennial congress, celebrated as the "Olympics" of aesthetics, has been held in China. This year's congress is the largest yet, with the five-day ICA bringing in more than 400 foreign aesthetes and more than 600 of their Chinese counterparts.
The event is organized around the theme "diversity in aesthetics". Relevant issues will be examined in keynote speeches, panel discussions and roundtable conferences. These dialogues will encompass issues in philosophy, music, dancing, painting, sculpture, architecture, calligraphy and arts education.
Gao Jianping, IAA secretary general and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher, interprets "diversity" as the possibility of building a platform for a multidisciplinary study conducted on the basis of traditional aesthetics. Gao also says mutual understanding among different countries, nations and cultures is integral.
"The idea of diversity is to respect the differences (between Eastern and Western cultures) and encourage the understanding of differences at all levels," says Curtis Carter, IAA president and a professor at Marquette University in the United States.
Carter, who defines aesthetics as the study of the roles of art and nature in enhancing the quality of our lives, assumed the IAA presidency at the congress' opening on Monday.
"My goal is to try to improve the connection between practical life and ideas of aesthetics," he says. "It's very important that the scholars don't just talk to themselves but also talk to the people."
Ye Lang, director of the Research Center for Aesthetics and Aesthetic Education at Peking University, believes the future of aesthetics in China hinges on inheriting and developing upon the thoughts of predecessors in the field, especially Zhu Guangqian (1897-1986).
"As one of the founders of the study of aesthetics in China in the early 20th century, he attaches great importance to the connection between theoretical research and life experience," Ye says.
Carter says this year's conference is intended to increase Western understanding of Chinese culture and continue cooperation among scholars in the East and West. It will also focus attention on diversity and try to unpack the concept to contribute to a greater understanding of all cultures.
"Many people in the West don't understand how China has advanced in the past 30 years or so," he says. "It's an opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of China as a culture and as a nation."