The Saga of Anthropology in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to Mao

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Foreign Introductions

Anthropology, a Euro-American congeries of related Western sciences, developed in the nineteenth century in the Western world in the context of the European global expansion. China was one of the victims of this process of expansion, but Chinese cultures and peoples did not figure prominently in the many ethnographic, archaeological, and paleoanthropological studies of this developing discipline. However, like many other countries in the colonized or semicolonized world, China was to be influenced by this new science as its tenets, assumptions, methods, and goals were imported along with the technology, administrators, and ideology of the globally dominant culture area.


Early Samples

The first wisps of anthropology floated into China at the turn of this century, but in a Japanese mold, not a Euro-American one. This was indeed the pattern for the first two decades of the century, as "modernizing" Japan hungrily ingested the West's social sciences and then passed them along to its East Asian neighbors. In anthropology, Japan served as the initial conduit for the introduction of the diverse theories of early anthropology: evolutionary thinking, diffusionism, and historical-particularism. Classical works of anthropology, especially on evolution, were translated first into Japanese and then into Chinese. Although after 1920 the influences would be more direct, during these early years anthropology entered China mostly through a Japanese filter.

Japan, too, was the early destination for those Chinese wishing to learn about Western science and education, rather than the old standards and responsa of the

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