Mieke Matthyssen: Ignorance is Bliss—The Chinese Art of Not Knowing


  • Zhipeng GAO American University of Paris, France




Nande hutu, Chinese philosophy, Chinese politics, Chinese social relations, Chinese cultural history


Matthyssen’s monograph has an intriguing title: Ignorance is Bliss: The Chinese Art of Not Knowing. The art of not knowing is encapsulated in a pithy Chinese expression: Nande hutu (难得糊涂), which literally translates to “Hard to attain muddleheadedness”. In practice, Nande hutu entails deliberate performance of not knowing, or “playing dumb”, for one to cope with challenging circumstances. For example, a government official might pretend not to see corruption so as to keep a distance from it. More than a survival strategy, Nande hutu also allows one to maintain moral integrity or even achieve spiritual transcendence. As simple as the notion of Nande hutu might appear to be, it requires steadfast self-cultivation in the long run and skilful self-control during social interactions. For all these reasons, Nande hutu became a maxim that for centuries inspired Chinese individuals from varied walks of life. Capturing the sheer complexity of Nande hutu, Matthyssen treats it as the entrance into a labyrinth of Chinese philosophy, politics, social relations, and a cultural history spanning from ancient times to today.


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Matthyssen, Mieke. 2021. Ignorance is Bliss: The Chinese Art of Not Knowing. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73902-7



7. 09. 2023

How to Cite

Gao, Zhipeng. 2023. “Mieke Matthyssen: Ignorance Is Bliss—The Chinese Art of Not Knowing”. Asian Studies 11 (3): 301-3. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2023.11.3.301-303.

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