CHINA MODERNITY DILEMMAS: LIANG SHUMINGJanuary 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Books, China, Development, Globalization, History, Philosophy, World-system | Leave a comment
The Last Confucian:
Liang Shu-ming and the Chinese
Dilemma of Modernity
Guy S. Alitto (Author)
· Paperback: 404 pages
· Publisher: University of California Press 2 edition
· July 8 1986
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0520053184
· ISBN-13: 978-0520053182
Category of Analysis: “Overcoming Modernity”
(kindai no chôkoku in Japanese)
Liang Shuming (pinyin: Liáng Shùmíng, October 18, 1893—June 23, 1988), born Liang Huanding courtesy name Shouming was a philosopher, teacher, and leader in the Rural Reconstruction Movement in the late Qing Dynasty and early Republican eras of Chinese history.
Liang was of Guilin, Guangxi origin, but born in Beijing. He was the son of a famous intellectual who committed suicide apparently in despair at the state of the Chinese nation. He had a modern education and exposure to Western writings.
In 1917 he was recruited by Cai Yuanpei to the philosophy department of Beijing University, where he produced an influential book based on his lectures entitled Eastern and Western Cultures and their Philosophies, which expounded some of the doctrines of a modern Confucianism. He also displayed the influence of Henri Bergson, then popular in China, as well as Buddhist Yogacara philosophy.
Regarding Western civilization as doomed to eventual failure, Liang did not advocate complete reform and adoption of Western institutions. He nonetheless believed that reform was needed to make China equal to the rest of the world.
The philosopher and reformer Liang Shuming (1893–1988) set out a severe critique of contemporary Western societies in his book Dongxi wenhua jiqi zhexue (1921; The cultures of East and West and their philosophies), attacking their separation of man and nature, individual and society. After the catastrophe of World War I, the world had arrived at a point where it had to alter direction.
In Liang Shuming’s view, this meant shifting from the agonistic reason, guided by intuition, of the “cultural will” of the West, to the intuition guided by reason of the Chinese cultural will—this was where the world was now heading—and eventually to the valuation of faith and devaluation of desire that was Indian cultural will. The modern society that had emerged in the West was a necessary step in this long-run development, and the spirit of democracy and science it had brought was precious. But a better civilization was possible beyond it.
The challenge to uncritical images of modernity issued by the two Liangs led to a series of controversies in China in the 1920s, in which the resources of traditional Chinese learning in a time dominated by Western configurations of human knowledge and the potential for an alternative path of modern development for China were hotly debated. Although Liang Shuming was subsequently considered a precursor of neo-Confucianism in late-twentieth-century China, at the time he was true to the May Fourth generation, becoming an active proponent and organizer of agrarian cooperatives, and like Liang Qichao in the same period advocating a variant of socialism as a remedy for China‘s ills.
…as the first professor of Buddhism ever to serve on the staff of a Chinese university. In 1918, however, his father’s suicide prompted him to return to Confucianism.
His influential work from 1921:
Dongxiwenhua ji qu zhexue
“The Cultures of East and West and Their Philosophies”
Category of Analysis:
(kindai no chôkoku in Japanese)
Eastern and Western Cultures and their Philosophies