Modern Notions of Civilization and Culture in China

Springer Singapore (2019)
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Abstract

This Key Concepts pivot examines the fundamental Chinese ideas of ‘Civilization’ and ‘culture’, considering their extensive influence both over Chinese society and East Asian societies. The pivot analyses the traditional connotations of those two concepts and their evolution in the Sino-Western exchanges as well as their renewed interpretation and application by contemporary Chinese scholars. It analyses how the years 1840-1900 which mark a period of major transition in China challenged these concepts, and highlights how the pursuit of innovation and international perspective gave birth to new values ​​and paradigm shifts, and culminated in the May Fourth New Culture Movement. Considering the underlying humanistic ideas in the key concepts of traditional Chinese civilisation and culture, this pivot contributes to this series of Chinese Key Concept by offering a unique analysis of the conceptual evolutions brought about by the change of values in 21st century China.

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Chapters

Distinguishing Between “Civilization” and “Culture” in the New Culture Movement

Even after the start of the New Culture Movement, extremely few Chinese intellectuals learned to distinguish between the “civilization” and “culture” concepts. The “culture craze” after the May Fourth Movement reflected the replacement of one concept by the other concept. Based on statements in seve... see more

Getting Prepared for a Meeting with Western Civilization

Far from being a purely academic concept in early modern China, “civilization” was a discourse constructed under the dual influence of Western ideas and Chinese social trends. And it was indeed Liang who made indelible contributions to the spread of the notion of “civilization” in China. He was one ... see more

“Civilization” and “Culture” in Bilingual Dictionaries

As reference books, dictionaries generally have a remarkable degree of representativeness in historical semantic studies, not only because they tend to demonstrate the historical development of the usage of words but also due to the paradigmatic meaning they constitute and the guiding role that they... see more

The Early Spread of “Civilization” as a Modern Notion in China

Whereas the concepts of “civilization” and “culture” have originally been created by Europeans as a mark of cultural identification and self-glorification, their getting popular in China was the result of the Chinese people’s cultural identity crisis and self-examination. This chapter deals with var... see more

The Paradigm Shift of “Civilization” in the Age of Transformation

After China opened five port cities for commerce with the outside world in the mid-nineteenth century, the old, taken-for-granted “myth” was altogether shattered. After this “great geographical discovery,” there came more information about Western technology, management theory and practice, legal op... see more

After Japan’s Departure from Asia, Where Did the Once Prosperous China Go?

From the mid-nineteenth century onward, East Asia went through an extraordinary period of massive transformation. Previously, it had been a relatively independent, miniaturized international community: Chinese civilization had long remained at its center; tribute payment had tied East Asian nations ... see more

The Bankruptcy of Chinese Order in East Asia

Around 1500, there were three mutually independent circles of civilization respectively known as the European order, the East Asian order and the Muslim world. East Asia with Chinese culture as its center had long taken the lead in the world. The core of Chinese order was the Sino-barbarian dichotom... see more

Wen Is the Manifestation of the Great Way

From ancient times till today, as the foundation of culture and civilization, wen has been playing a weighty role both materially and spiritually in Chinese society. Its meaning continues to build up and multiply, as the history of Chinese society progresses. Hua , when collocating with wen, refers ... see more

The Chinese People’s “Great Geographical Discovery”

The modern Chinese language uses 文化 as a term that corresponds to the Western notion of “culture,” and 文明 as the term that corresponds to “civilization.” Despite their foreign origins, both 文化 and 文明 are terms that convey notions of profound significance. The notions inscribed in wenhua and wenming—... see more

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