Sources of Chinese Tradition
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Sources of Chinese Tradition

From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century

Wm. Theodore de Bary, Richard Lufrano

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eBook - ePub

Sources of Chinese Tradition

From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century

Wm. Theodore de Bary, Richard Lufrano

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About This Book

For four decades Sources of Chinese Tradition has served to introduce Western readers to Chinese civilization as it has been seen through basic writings and historical documents of the Chinese themselves. Now in its second edition, revised and extended through Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin–era China, this classic volume remains unrivaled for its wide selection of source readings on history, society, and thought in the world's largest nation. Award-winning China scholar Wm. Theodore de Bary—who edited the first edition in 1960—and his coeditor Richard Lufrano have revised and updated the second volume of Sources to reflect the interactions of ideas, institutions, and historical events from the seventeenth century up to the present day.

Beginning with Qing civilization and continuing to contemporary times, volume II brings together key source texts from more than three centuries of Chinese history, with opening essays by noted China authorities providing context for readers not familiar with the period in question.

Here are just a few of the topics covered in this second volume of Sources of Chinese Tradition:

? Early Sino-Western contacts in the seventeenth century;

? Four centuries of Chinese reflections on differences between Eastern and Western civilizations;

? Nineteenth- and twentieth-century reform movements, with treatises on women's rights, modern science, and literary reform;

? Controversies over the place of Confucianism in modern Chinese society;

? The nationalist revolution—including readings from Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek;

? The communist revolution—with central writings by Mao Zedong;

? Works from contemporary China—featuring political essays from Deng Xiaoping and dissidents including Wei Jingsheng.

With more than two hundred selections in lucid, readable translation by today's most renowned experts on Chinese language and civilization, Sources of Chinese Tradition will continue to be recognized as the standard for source readings on Chinese civilization, an indispensable learning tool for scholars and students of Asian civilizations.

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Year
2001
ISBN
9780231517997
Edition
2
PART 5
The Maturation of Chinese Civilization and New Challenges to Chinese Tradition
Chapter 25
THE CHINESE TRADITION IN RETROSPECT
Although the Manchu conquest of China might have been expected to produce, under foreign rule, dramatic changes in Chinese life, it is a sign of the powerful inertial force of Chinese civilization—the magnitude of the society and the survival power of both its people and its culture—that so much of traditional thought and institutions persisted into the new era and, in fact, even lent stability and strength to the new regime. It is also a credit to the adaptability of the Manchus to their new situation.
A key instance of this political and cultural survival was the early resumption of the civil service examination system, with the same basic curriculum that had been adopted, under Neo-Confucian influence, in the Mongol and Ming periods. Nothing else so radically conditioned the intellectual life of Qing China, since this curriculum based on the Four Books and Five Classics provided both the common denominator for educated discourse and the ground for further advances in classical scholarship, which became, in the Qing period, the greatest achievement of the cultural elite.
Although in principle education was open to all, classical learning remained accessible only to the more leisured classes; commoners, most of them heavily engaged in manual labor, could not indulge in such time-consuming pursuits. True, basic literacy and popular culture shared many of the same Confucian values on the moral level, but farmers and craftsmen could only admire, and did not often share in, the higher forms of culture respected among the elite.
Scholar-officials, however, had their own problems. As Confucian loyalists and survivors from the Ming, their consciences kept many of them from serving the new dynasty. At the same time, as upholders of Confucian ideal standards who blamed the fall of the Ming dynasty on its own lack of political virtue, the four major thinkers represented below, instead of commemorating and eulogizing, engaged in a searching critique not just of the Ming but of dynastic rule down through the ages—a critique of unprecedented depth and incisiveness. Given, however, the unchallengeability of Qing power and authority in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the fuller significance and effect of this critique of dynastic rule was not felt until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—if, indeed, it is not still to be felt.
Of these same thinkers, three (Huang Zongxi, Lü Liuliang, and Gu Yanwu) were recognized as outstanding scholars in their own time, while Wang Fuzhi worked in great isolation and became widely appreciated only much later. Lu’s fate, however, was ironic. In the first decades of the Qing he was a powerful force in the revival of the Zhu Xi school and influenced leading Neo-Confucians who played a major role in the Kangxi emperor’s promotion of an official Zhu Xi orthodoxy. Yet when Kangxi’s successor discovered the politically subversive character of Lü’s commentary on Zhu Xi’s Four Books (see chapter 21) he engaged in a ruthless and almost totally successful proscription of Lü’s works.
Meanwhile, alongside the promotion of the official orthodoxy, a broad movement of critical textual scholarship was developing, which, intellectually speaking, became the dominant scholarly trend (known as the Han Learning or Evidential Learning). Gu Yanwu was generally regarded as the progenitor and towering example of this movement, and his prestige endured into the twentieth century.
In terms of their official standing and formative role in shaping official orthodoxy and cultural policy, other major figures like Lu Longji, Li Guangdi, and Zhang Boxing (most of them influenced to some degree by Lu Liuliang and identified with the so-called Song Learning), would have to be mentioned, but outstanding though they were in their own day, we pass them by here in favor of others whose significance transcends their own time.
HUANG ZONGXI’S CRITIQUE OF THE CHINESE DYNASTIC SYSTEM
Huang Zongxi (1610–1695) was the son of a high Ming official affiliated with the Donglin party who died in prison at the hands of the eunuchs. At the age of eighteen, after the fall of the chief eunuch, Wei Zhongxian, Huang avenged his father’s death by bringing to justice or personally attacking those responsible for it. Thereafter he devoted himself to study, took part in a flurry of political agitation at Nanjing just before the fall of the Ming dynasty, and then engaged in prolonged, but unsuccessful, guerrilla operations against the Manchus in southeast China. There is evidence that he even took part in a mission to Japan, hoping to obtain aid. After finally giving up the struggle, Huang settled down to a career as an independent scholar and teacher, refusing all offers of employment from the Manchu regime.
Warfare being less total and intensive in those days, Huang was probably not forced to neglect his intellectual interests altogether during those unsettled years. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that his most productive years should have come so late in life. His first important work, Waiting for the Dawn (Mingyi daifanglu), was produced at the age of fifty-two. Thereafter he worked on a massive anthology of Ming dynasty prose and a broad survey of Ming thought, Mingru xuean, which is the first notable attempt in China at a systematic and critical intellectual history. At his death he was compiling a similar survey for the Song and Yuan dynasties. Huang’s range of interests included mathematics, calendrical science, geography, and the critical study of the classics, as well as literature and philosophy. In most of these fields, however, his approach is that of a historian, and this underlying bent is reflected in the fact that his most outstanding disciples and followers in the Manchu period also distinguished themselves in historical studies. Huang was an independent and creative scholar who questioned the predominant Neo-Confucian emphasis on individual virtue as the key to governance and instead stressed the need for constitutional law and systemic reform.
Huang characterized dynastic rule as inherently “selfish,” rather than conforming to the Confucian ideal of governance in the public interest or common good (gong), and he also reaffirmed the traditional (especially Mencian) emphasis on the critical remonstrating function of conscientious ministers. Yet he went further to insist on having a prime minister as executive head of the government (rather than the emperor, as was the case in the Ming period) and also on having schools at every level (including the capital) serve as organs of public discussion, with the emperor and his officials required to attend and listen to the airing of major public issues.
The crises of the late Ming-early Qing evoked from other scholars, like Gu Yanwu, Lu Liuliang, and Tang Zhen, similar critiques of the dynastic system based on Confucian principles. None, however, produced as systematic and comprehensive a statement, expressed in such forceful language, as Huang. Unfortunately, under the strong, efficient rule of the Qing dynasty Huang’s forthright critique could be circulated only among a few scholars discreet enough not to publicize it widely or attract official repression. Only in the declining years of the Qing dynasty did reformers, both monarchist and republican, succeed in reprinting and circulating it as a native manifesto for constitutional change.
WAITING FOR THE DAWN: A PLAN FOR THE PRINCE
Huang’s Waiting for the Dawn (Mingyi daifanglu)1 is probably the most systematic and concise critique of Chinese imperial institutions ever attempted from the Confucian point of view. Besides dealing with the theory and structure of government, it takes up the problems of education, civil service examinations, land reform, taxation, currency, military organization, and eunuchs. Huang’s views on only a few of these can be set forth here.
On the Prince
In the beginning of human life each man lived for himself and looked to his own interests. There was such a thing as the common benefit, yet no one seems to have promoted it; and there was common harm, yet no one seems to have eliminated it. Then someone came forth who did not think of benefit in terms of his own benefit but sought to benefit all-under-Heaven and who did not think of harm in terms of harm to himself but sought to spare all-under-Heaven from harm. Thus his labors were thousands of times greater than the labors of ordinary men. Now to work a thousand or ten thousand times harder without benefiting oneself is certainly not what most people in the world desire. Therefore in those early times some men worthy of ruling, after considering it, refused to become princes—Xu You and Wu Guang2 were such. Others undertook it and then quit—Yao and Shun, for instance. Still others, like Yu,3 became princes against their own will and later were unable to quit. How could men of old have been any different? To love ease and dislike strenuous labor has always been the natural inclination of man.
However, with those who later became princes it was different. They believed that since they held the power over benefit and harm, there was nothing wrong in taking for themselves all the benefits and imposing on others all the harm. They made it so that no man dared to live for himself or look to his own interests. Thus the prince’s great self-interest took the place of the common good of all-under-Heaven. At first the prince felt some qualms about it, but his conscience eased with time. He looked upon the world as an enormous estate to be handed on down to his descendants, for their perpetual pleasure and well-being. . . .
This can only be explained as follows: In ancient times all-under-Heaven were considered the master4 and the prince was the tenant. The prince spent his whole life working for all-under-Heaven. Now the prince is master and all-under-Heaven are tenants. That no one can find peace and happiness anywhere is all on account of the prince. In order to get whatever he wants, he maims and slaughters all-under-Heaven and breaks up their families—all for the aggrandizement of one man’s fortune. Without the least feeling of pity, the prince says, “I’m just establishing an estate for my descendants.” Yet when he has established it, the prince still extracts the very marrow from people’s bones and takes away their sons and daughters to serve his own debauchery. It seems entirely proper to him. It is, he says, the interest on his estate. Thus he who does the greatest harm in the world is none other than the prince. If there had been no rulers, each man would have provided for himself and looked to his own interests. How could the institution of rulership have turned out like this?
In ancient times men loved to support their prince, likened him to a father, compared him to Heaven, and truly this was not going too far. Now men hate their prince, look on him as a “mortal foe,”5 call him “just another guy.”6 And this is perfectly natural. But petty scholars have pedantically insisted that “the duty of the subject to his prince is utterly inescapable.”7 . . . As if the flesh and blood of the myriads of families destroyed by such tyrants were no different from the “carcasses of dead rats.”8 Could it be that Heaven and Earth, in their all-encompassing care, favor one man and one family among millions of men and myriads of families? . . .
If it were possible for latter-day princes to preserve such an estate and hand it down in perpetuity, such selfishness would not be hard to understand. But once it comes to be looked upon as a personal estate, who does not desire such an estate as much as the prince? Even if the prince could “tie his fortune down and lock it up tight,”9 still the cleverness of one man is no match for the greed of all. At most it can be kept in the family for a few generations, and sometimes it is lost in one’s own lifetime, unless indeed the life’s blood spi...

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