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  • The Role of Japan in Liang Qichao's Introduction of Modern Western Civilization to China
  • Lu Yan (bio)
Joshua Fogel , editor. The Role of Japan in Liang Qichao's Introduction of Modern Western Civilization to China. China Research Monograph, no. 57. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2004. ix, 324 pp. $20.00, ISBN 1-55729-080-6.

Among the outstanding personalities of modern China, Liang Qichao is surely one of the three most studied Chinese in American scholarship. Since the publication of Joseph Levenson's pioneering work in 1953, at least three book-length monographs on Liang have been published. The reason why Liang should have so fascinated the English-speaking world is not difficult to understand. Political and cultural leaders of China during the first half of the twentieth century, including Lu Xun and Mao Zedong (the other two most studied figures), acknowledged Liang's powerful influence as they recalled reading Liang's impassioned writings in their youth. In the words of historians, Liang was "the mind of modern China" (Levenson) and a "paradigmatic thinker" (Xiaobing Tang), and his writings forged "an important intellectual link between the age-old tradition of Confucian practical statesmanship and the contemporary search for ideological reorientation" (Hao Chang).1The Role of Japan in Liang Qichao's Introduction of Modern Western Civilization to China revisits this canonized figure and explores most vigorously the Japan connection in Liang's writings and experiences, which previously had been best studied by Philip Huang in his 1972 monograph. As a result, this collected volume reshapes the research on Liang by adding to it a distinctive international dimension and actively deploying the intertextual-analysis method as it explores the three-sided interaction among China, Japan, and the West in Liang's intellectual development.

Originating in the papers presented at a conference held in 1998, this volume brings together work by scholars from Japan, China, Taiwan, France, Australia, and the United States. Editor Joshua A. Fogel, a leading scholar in the field of Sino-Japanese relations, contributes an introduction to identify the major themes of the book. The eleven articles that follow are divided into three parts along the lines of "political," "scholarly," and "cultural and personal" issues. Liang's political thought is reexamined with regard to issues relevant to the more recent scholarly discussion on civil society and to the Japanese influence. Some argue against seeing Liang's discussion on his Japanese experiences or his encounter with Japan-mediated Western ideas as a simple process of ready acceptance on Liang's part. Peter Zarrow (chapter 2) finds that the Meiji Restoration had inspired Liang's vision of political reforms in China. But he refuses to call this an "influence," because Liang looked at the Japanese imperial institution through the lens of the Chinese imperial system and hence overemphasized the role of the emperor in the [End Page 100] Meiji system. Donald Price (chapter 3) also views Japan's influence as secondary in Liang's evolving view of state power and moral order. Liang's acceptance of might as both the ends and the means for reconstructing the modern Chinese state and society was first preconditioned by his readings in Social Darwinism in Chinese translation, which in turn prepared him for accepting the theory of statism then popular in Japan.

By contrast, Hazama Naoki (chapter 8), in examining Liang's discussion on civic virtue and personal virtue, argues for the transformative influence of Japan on Liang's evolving view from a "public" consciousness, as originally defined in the Chinese classics, to a modern consciousness of the "civic" after living in Japan and reading books published there. Mori Noriko (chapter 9) also finds that works by Japanese scholar Inoue Enryo or writings on social evolution by Benjamin Kidd, available when Liang sojourned in Japan, shaped Liang's attitude toward religion in general and Buddhism in particular. Ishikawa Yoshihiro (chapter 6), as well, shows that geographical determinism, which became popular in late nineteenth-century Japan through the translation of British and German texts, had a direct impact on Liang's thinking through Japanese mediation.

The cross-text analysis that nearly all contributors have used here...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 100-103
Launched on MUSE
2005-12-06
Open Access
No
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