The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898-1929

The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898-1929

The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898-1929

The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898-1929

Synopsis

"An invaluable book that fills a yawning gap in our understanding of the political and intellectual life of early-twentieth-century China."--David Strand, author of "Rickshaw Beijing

Excerpt

Thinking about Beijing University in the context of Chinese political culture challenges us to understand an institution that has always resided on the shifting border between China's official and unofficial realms. From the time of its founding in 1898, the university has been neither wholly of the “state” nor wholly of “society. ” Instead, its porous boundaries have permitted flow back and forth between those two realms; it has been a place where state and society have come together to negotiate their relationship to one another. The university's role as a meeting ground begins to explain why so many important political movements took place there over the twentieth century.

To grasp why Beida has enjoyed such an important position in Chinese political and cultural life, it is necessary to examine the historical forces that came together in its founding at the end of the nineteenth century. As an institutional type, the university represented neither a total break with the past nor merely an updated version of an entity that had existed in China before this time. Instead, it was the by-product of a tension between native models—institutional and intellectual—and more recently encountered foreign ones. In other words, the Imperial University resulted from a dialectical interaction between traditional ways of doing things and novel ways of doing things. Rather than substituting new for old, or foreign for Chinese, this interaction resulted in a unique blending specific to China's particular historical circumstances. In this . . .

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