Tang Junyi

Confucian Philosophy and the Challenge of Modernity


Tang Junyi’s modern Confucianism ranks among the most ambitious philosophical projects in 20th century China. In Tang Junyi: Confucian Philosophy and the Challenge of Modernity, Thomas Fröhlich examines Tang Junyi's intellectual reaction to a time of cataclysmic change marked by two Chinese revolutions (1911 and 1949), two world wars, the Cold War period, rapid modernization in East Asia, and the experience of exile.

The present study fundamentally questions widespread interpretations that depict modern Confucianism as essentially traditionalist and nationalistic. Thomas Fröhlich shows that Tang Junyi actually challenges such interpretations with an insightful understanding of the modern individual’s vulnerability, as well as a groundbreaking reinterpretation of Confucianism as the civil-theological foundation for liberal democracy in China.
Open Access
Download PDF

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Thomas Fröhlich, Dr. phil. (1999), Habilitation (2003), both at the University of Hamburg, is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Hamburg. He has published a monograph, edited volumes, and many articles on modern Chinese philosophy and intellectual history, including Staatsdenken im China der Republikzeit (Campus, 2000).

"Fröhlich...situates Tang in a discursive environment that includes many prominent figures of Western intellectual history and also materials from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that were of direct impact. The book is written for and will be welcomed by everyone who takes an interest in China's recent history."
-Barbara Hendrischke, University of Sydney, in Religious Studies Review, Vol.44 No.4, (2018)

"Fröhlich’s study is quite simply the best book on Tang Junyi out there, and one of the most sophisticated and rewarding investigations into Chinese intellectual history in general."
-Ady Van den Stock in Monumenta Serica, 67:1, 284-289.

"The author succeeds in giving us a profound and well-documented presentation of this great thinker of modernity. Simultaneously, he really engages in a philosophical conversation with Tang Junyi, making this work more than a descriptive sinological study; it becomes a valuable work in philosophy. It is a book whose extensive remarks and developments will require careful and lento readers--a book on intellectual history as it should be written."
-Joseph Ciaudo in Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques, 72(4), 1215-1221.
Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1 Tang Junyi’s Intellectual Endeavor
A Journey into a Broken World
The Vantage Point of Modern Confucianism
The Watershed of 1949

Chapter 2 Critical Issues in Research on Modern Confucianism
Stereotypes and Omissions
Coherence and Comparison

Chapter 3 Common Perspectives on Modern Confucianism

Chapter 4 Exile, Modernity, and Cultural Patriotism
The Convergence between Exile and Modernity
Exile as Horror vacui
Intellectual Ethos and Messianic Vision
Nation and Culture
Cultural Patriotism
Defending Authenticity

Chapter 5 The Theological Accentuation
Theological Foundations
The Taxonomy of Knowledge and Intuition
Limits of Philosophical Exposition
The Limit-Concepts of “Philosophical Faith”

Chapter 6 The Moral Vision
Moral Intuitionism
Struggling with Self-Cultivation
Towards a Confucian Ethos

Chapter 7 Shifting the Foundations of Confucian Political Thought
The Political and Its Demonic Aspects
Introspection in the Will for Power
The Moral Dimension of the Political Will

Chapter 8 On Statehood
Failed Statehood in China
The State and Individual Self-Fulfillment
State and Society
The World Order of “Ecumenical States”

Chapter 9 Anticipating Democracy
“Confucian Democracy”: Dead Ends and Alternatives
The Weakness of Democracy in China
The Civil-Theological Justification of Democracy
Humanistic Culture and Democracy

Chapter 10 Civil Religion on a Confucian Basis
Civil Religion for a Future China
Political Ideals and Reality

Chapter 11 Coming to Terms with History
Modernity and Agency
History and Normativity
Signs of Progress
Delimiting a “Philosophy of History”

Chapter 12 In Lieu of a Conclusion: The Totalitarian Challenge
On the Origins and Causes of Totalitarianism
Overcoming Totalitarianism?

Appendix: Biographical Survey
All interested in modern Chinese philosophy and intellectual history, and anyone concerned with pre-modern and modern Confucianism and Chinese political thought.
  • Collapse
  • Expand