Tradition and Modernity

A Humanist View


The Question for Twentieth-Century China has been the integration of tradition and modernity. In this collection of essays written over a period of some twenty years (1987-2006), Chen Lai reflects on the question in an informative and original way. He reads behind the political slogans and engages with the thought both of Max Weber, Talcott Parsons and Western sociology, and representative Chinese thinkers, notably Feng Youlan and Liang Shuming. While the focus is on China, the book also appeals to anyone interested in this fascinating question of how to modernise whilst retaining the positive values of tradition. Chen Lai’s unique and balanced grasp of society marks him out as the foremost thinker in China on this topic today.
Restricted Access


EUR €153.00USD $200.00

Biographical Note

Chen Lai, PhD. (Peking University), is a Professor of Philosophy and the director of the Center for Confucian Study and the History of Chinese Philosophy at Peking University. He is one of China's most prominent scholars of the history of Chinese philosophy, is an honorary professor at eleven universities and is a member of the editorial boards of sixteen academic journals. Edmund Ryden, PhD. (SOAS, London University), translated Key Concepts in Chinese Philosophy (Yale 2002) and the Laozi: Daodejing (Oxford World’s Classics 2008). He has also written on the philosophical background to human rights in a Chinese context.

Review Quote

"The editors have wisely chosen to lead off the series with a collection of essays by Chen Lai, who is mainland China’s most prominent scholar in the history of Confucian philosophy. The translation by Edmund Ryden is excellent, and the translator has added helpful footnotes to explain some of the references for the general reader...I strongly recommend this book for anybody who is interested in the history of twentieth-century Confucianism and what it can offer to China and the world." Daniel Bell, Tsinghua University “This book is the first comprehensive English-language translation of key academic works by Chen Lai (陈来) – a leading mainland philosopher and Dean of Tsinghua University’s Guoxue Research Institute (清华国学研究院).[...] Together the chapters provide deep insight into the ways that one of China’s key contemporary intellectuals has grappled with the question of how to best utilise China’s traditional culture for the nation’s modernising aspirations.[...]Edmund Ryden’s translator’s notes are an important addition to this wonderfully translated volume.[...] Ryden’s annotations provide a useful guide.They simultaneously clarify possible “less-known” facts and events, thus ensuring that the book is accessible to the general reader and experts alike.” Selena Dramlic, University of Hong Kong, China Perspectives [Online], December 2011.

Table of contents

Series Editors’ Foreword Translator’s Preface Introduction: The Humanist View 1. Retrospect and Prospect for Contemporary Chinese Thought 2. Resolving the Tension between Tradition and Modernity: Reflections on the May Fourth Cultural Tide 3. The May Fourth Tide and Modernity 4. Radicalism in the Cultural Movement of the 20th Century 5. Modern Chinese Culture and the Difficulties of Confucian Learning 6. Liang Shuming’s Early View of Oriental and Western Culture 7. The Establishment and Development of Feng Youlan’s View of Culture 8. A Reflection on the New School of Principle and Thoughts on Modernity 9. Confucian Thought and the World of Modern East Asia 10. Confucian Ethics and China’s Modernisation 11. East Asian Tradition according to Modernisation Theory 12. A Sense of Predicament and Inter-dependency 13. Liang Shuming and Max Weber on Chinese Culture 14. Values, Authority, Tradition and Chinese Philosophy 15. The Difficulty of Undertaking National Studies Research in the Nineties: The problem of the national studies fever and research into traditional culture 16. The Value and Status of Traditional Chinese Culture Postscript: Talking of Tradition at the Turn of the Century Postface to the revised edition


Sociologists, Sinologists, Contemporary China watchers, students of Chinese philosophy and Confucianism, and those interested in the role of religion in society and the harmonisation of tradition and modernity.