On Yen Fu

Contemporary Chinese Thought 10 (4):3-21 (1979)
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Yen Fu was one of the four representatives who looked to the West for truth before the birth of the Chinese Communist Party. Our research on his life and work is still insufficient. Needless to say, both Yen Fu and Lin Shu were known as famous translators in pre-Liberation days. But Lin Shu cannot be equated with Yen Fu, insofar as their ideological and academic achievements and their contributions to modern China are concerned. From the post-Liberation days to the eve of the Great Cultural Revolution, research works on Yen Fu remained scanty and he was seldom mentioned in articles on the advanced models among modern Chinese thinkers. More articles on Yen Fu appeared during the Criticize-Lin, Criticize-Confucius Campaign because Yen Fu had been mentioned by Chairman Mao. But the "Gang of Four" openly defied Chairman Mao's explicit direction by tampering with modern Chinese history, fabricating the struggle between the Confucians and the Legalists and describing Yen Fu as a Legalist. Chairman Mao pointed out: "Before the May Fourth movement, the struggle on the Chinese cultural front was one between the new bourgeois culture and the old feudal culture, and the antagonisms between modern schools and imperial examinations, between the new learning and the old learning and between Western thought and Chinese thought were all of the same nature." But, in the articles by Liang Hsiao and Lo Ssu-ting, all this has been described as the struggle between Legalists and Confucians and between Legalism and Confucianism. Thus, Chang Tai-yen, not Sun Yat-sen, is regarded as a bourgeois revolutionary and "Legalist." Yen Fu, not the "Confucian" K'ang Yu-wei, is treated as a representative of the bourgeois Reformists. This attitude has caused serious theoretical, ideological and academic chaos. We should do away with the chaos, conduct a thorough criticism of the "Gang of Four" and push forward our academic research work in accordance with the principle of "letting a hundred schools of thought contend."



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