Browse results

Reform, Utopia and Global Teleology in Kang Youwei's Datong Shu
In Confucian Concord, Federico Brusadelli offers an intellectual analysis of the Datong Shu. Written by Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and conceived as his most esoteric and comprehensive legacy to posterity, the book was eventually published posthumously, in 1935, considered “too advanced for the times” in Kang’s own opinion.

Connecting Datong Shu to its author’s intellectual biography and framing it within the intellectual and political debate of the time, Brusadelli investigates the conceptual and philosophical implications of Kang’s ‘global prophecy’, showing how an apparently ‘utopian’ and ‘escapist’ piece of literature was actually an attempt to save (at least ideally) the imperial political order, updating the traditional Confucian universalism to a new, ‘modern’ world.
Thierry Meynard and Dawei Pan offer a highly detailed annotated translation of one of the major works of Giulio Aleni, a Jesuit missionary in China. Referred to by his followers as “Confucius from the West”, Aleni made his presence felt in the early modern encounter between China and Europe. The two translators outline the complexity of the intellectual challenges that Aleni faced and the extensive conceptual resources on which he built up a fine-grained framework with the aim of bridging the Chinese and Christian spiritual traditions.
Author: Yu Sang
Xiong Shili 熊十力(1885-1968) was one of the most important Chinese philosophers of the twentieth century, and a founding figure of the modern New Confucian school of philosophy. At the core of his metaphysics is one of the key conceptual polarities in traditional Chinese philosophy: Reality ( ti 體) and Function ( yong 用). Xiong Shili’s Understanding of Reality and Function, 1920-1937 presents a detailed examination and analysis of the development of Xiong Shili’s conception of Reality and Function between 1920 and 1937. While scholars have tended to focus on Xiong’s mature ti-yong philosophical system, which was initially established in the early 1930s, this study explains how that system was gradually formed, providing a more comprehensive basis for understanding the development of Xiong’s philosophical thought in later periods.
Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949 offers a panoramic view of reflections on progress in modern China. Since the turn of the twentieth century, the discourses on progress shape Chinese understandings of modernity and its pitfalls. As this in-depth study shows, these discourses play a pivotal role in the fields of politics, society, culture, as well as philosophy, history, and literature. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the Chinese ideas of progress, their often highly optimistic implications, but also the criticism of modernity they offered, opened the gateway for reflections on China’s past, its position in the present world, and its future course.
Author: Peter Zarrow

Abstract

The utopian impulse became a building block of numerous efforts to construct new political theory in late nineteenth and early twentieth century China. Not necessarily full-fledged and detailed utopian visions, the utopian impulse marks a leap of faith or a glimpse of the possibility of a perfect future. To illustrate how this played out in specific cases, this essay examines Kang Youwei, Cai Yuanpei, Chen Duxiu, and Hu Shi in terms of their cosmopolitanism, aestheticism, democratic thought, and scientism, respectively. On the basis of analyzing their “utopian impulses” the author strives to suggest an anatomy of the utopian impulse. To this end, he concludes that the utopian impulse in the political thought of Kang Youwei and Cai Yuanpei was based on their metaphysics, while in contrast Chen Duxiu and Hu Shi were secular thinkers. The essay concludes that both Kang and Cai believed in a reality that transcended the scientifically known world of their day while Chen Duxiu and Hu Shi simply avoided metaphysical speculation. The metaphysical-secular distinction speaks to the relationship between the utopian impulse and the larger political theory. The metaphysical approaches of Kang Youwei and Cai Yuanpei is seen in what might be called a mystical strain in their political thought, whereas the secular approach of Chen Duxiu and Hu Shi reveals their intention to understand politics within its own sphere. However, the political thought of all four men was infused by the utopian impulse, which also led them to envision cures for the problems of all humanity, not merely China.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949
Author: Kai Vogelsang

Abstract

“Progress,” which seems ubiquitous in present-day Chinese discourse, was all but unknown until the last decade of the Qing. This article describes the emergence of the Chinese concept of “progress” in the early 20th century. Drawing on texts by Liang Qichao, Yan Fu and other prominent intellectuals as well as a host of newspaper articles, it analyzes the understanding of this concept in several respects: its first appearance, its relation to conceptions of time, its relation to the concept of “evolution,” and its specific differences to the Western concept of “progress.” It turns out that the specifically Chinese concept of “progress,” that emerged in the early 20th century, was conducive to the optimism regarding “progress” that pervaded much of modern Chinese history.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949
Author: Axel Schneider

Abstract

This chapter analyzes critiques of progress in the context of a conservative rejection of modernity. It differentiates between conservative critiques of modernity and nationalist rejections of Western pretensions of universal progress and introduces two types of conservatism: classicist and historicist. Subsequently, it maintains that four types of critiques of progress can be identified: The first is a critique of progressivism based on universal patterns of development that are in fact of Western origin. The second, put forward e.g. by Liang Qichao and by Liu Yizheng in their early phase, doubts progress on a factual basis referring to historical cases of stagnation or regress. The third constitutes a systematic ethical critique of progressivism in the context of Buddhist philosophy (Jing Changji), or Confucianism (Liu Yizheng) contending that a view of change based on competition and strength must be rejected on moral, not factual, grounds. The last, from a philosophical perspective most comprehensive type is represented by Zhang Taiyan’s Buddhist and Daoist-inspired critique of progressive history and Liu Xianxin’s Confucian-Daoist critique of modern views of history as prominent examples.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949
Author: Rui Kunze

Abstract

This chapter examines the literary representation of optimism and skepticism regarding the idea of progress in early Chinese science fiction. Taking texts labeled as kexue xiaoshuo when published in the first two decades of the twentieth century as primary source, it shows how the idea of progress was reproduced, recycled, and refashioned in the process of its dissemination from intellectual critical writings to much broader audiences. Science fiction stories written by late Qing intellectual élites and those published in the Funü zazhi between 1917 and 1920 transmitted the optimism found in the critical writings of élites such as Yan Fu and Liang Qichao. These stories present civilizational and national progress as historical imperatives, which should be achieved through the acquisition and application of modern scientific knowledge and epistemology in both public and domestic spheres. Ambivalent attitudes towards progress, however, are found in some science fiction stories published in popular fiction magazines during the 1910s, especially in those thematizing imagined criminal London and its mad scientists. Fantasy narrative serves various purposes in these texts, ranging from displaying the marvelous power of modern science and the universal law of evolution, exemplifying the discursive New Woman with scientific literacy and evolutionary thinking, to satisfying the reader’s appetite for modern thriller featuring characters with extraordinary ability.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949
Author: Qiang Li

Abstract

This contribution elucidates Yan Fu’s introduction of the idea of evolution to the Chinese intellectual world by looking closely at his reception of thinkers such as Huxley, Spencer and Jenks. It argues that Yan Fu based his understanding of evolution on the neo-Confucian philosophy of Shao Yong and initially intended to use it in support of the argument for “change” in the face of national crisis. He defined evolution as progress both in the realm of nature and human society and his strong belief in progress informed his criticism of Huxley’s pessimism. In Spencer, Yan found an understanding of history as a universal, unilinear scheme of social development through different stages which he had also encountered in Shao Yong’s texts. He did not, however, adopt Spencer’s classification of social evolutionary stages. Instead, Jenks’ »A History of Politics« provided him with a framework for understanding China’s evolutionary status by developing an explanation for Chinese history which radically departed from traditional historiography. According to Yan Fu’s idealized portrayal of the West, modernity was represented by the West and stood for the future of China. However, this idealistic understanding of the West already contained the seeds of his disillusionment after the outbreak of the First World War, which did less to undermine Yan‘s faith in the law of social evolution than his faith in Western nations as the apogee of the evolutionary potential of humanity.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949
In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949