ABOUT THIS BOOK
The definitive history of China’s philosophical confrontation with modernity, available for the first time in English.
What does it mean for China to be modern, or for modernity to be Chinese? How is the notion of historical rupture—a fundamental distinction between tradition and modernity—compatible or not with the history of Chinese thought?
These questions animate The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought, a sprawling intellectual history considered one of the most significant achievements of modern Chinese scholarship, available here in English for the first time. Wang Hui traces the seventh-century origins of three key ideas—“principle” (li), “things” (wu), and “propensity” (shi)—and analyzes their continual evolution up to the beginning of the twentieth century. Confucian scholars grappled with the problem of linking transcendental law to the material world, thought to action—a goal that Wang argues became outdated as China’s socioeconomic conditions were radically transformed during the Song Dynasty. Wang shows how the epistemic shifts of that time period produced a new intellectual framework that has proven both durable and malleable, influencing generations of philosophers and even China’s transformation from empire to nation-state in the early twentieth century. In a new preface, Wang also reflects on responses to his book since its original publication in Chinese.
With theoretical rigor and uncommon insight into the roots of contemporary political commitments, Wang delivers a masterpiece of scholarship that is overdue in translation. Through deep readings of key figures and classical texts, The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought provides an account of Chinese philosophy and history that will transform our understanding of the modern not only in China but around the world.
Reading The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought is a little like sitting down for a hundred-course banquet. Wang Hui’s Summa Theologica for China helps us better understand how the historical glide path of Chinese culture (about which even many ‘China specialists’ have gaps to fill) somehow led to the embattled twentieth century.
-- Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.–China Relations at the Asia Society and author of Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century
Wang Hui’s masterful work guides the reader through more than a thousand years of China’s intellectual, philosophical, and political discourse with sophistication and nuance. Its analytical power is evident on almost every single page.
-- Jude Blanchette, author of China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong
A deliberately paradoxical, remarkably sourced, magical history of ideas. After finishing this fastidiously edited English translation, you may concur with or take distance from the categories Wang Hui uses, but there is no question that your basic assumptions about writing Chinese intellectual history will have shifted. Wang's challenge cannot be ignored.
-- Tani Barlow, author of In the Event of Women
This translation is a monumental achievement, and not only for bringing the work to new audiences. This masterful and comprehensive book effectively mobilizes Chinese political and social thought—including Wang’s own ideas as well as the historical texts he engages, some of which are presented in English for the first time—as a living resource for addressing the global dilemmas of our time.
-- Leigh K. Jenco, author of Making the Political: Founding and Action in the Political Theory of Zhang Shizhao
After almost two decades, Wang Hui’s magnum opus finally arrives in the English-speaking world with this fine translation. The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought has been important in China. The volume before you now promises to change the global conversation on Chinese intellectual history.
-- Isabella M. Weber, author of How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate