Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao and the Mind of Modern China

Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao and the Mind of Modern China

Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao and the Mind of Modern China

Liang Ch'i-Ch'ao and the Mind of Modern China

Excerpt

There is more to biography than the life of an individual. A lifestory is not just a "brick for the structure," one of an infinite number of possible monographs which add up to history. A historian who thinks so merely accumulates, and never understands.

But if a man's life is not just a piece of history, neither is it a model-to-scale. We must not think that Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, for example, is a microcosm, with all of modern China locked in his archetypical mind. Many Chinese disagreed with him, at one or all of his life's stages. His opponents, however, no less than his followers, can be comprehended in Liang's story. For a historian can do more than list antagonistic ideas; he can link them. History can be deduced from biography, society derived from the individual.

First, the biography: Every man has an emotional commitment to history and an intellectual commitment to value, and he tries to make these commitments coincide. A stable society is one whose members would choose, on universal principles, the particular culture which they inherit. In its great ages, the Chinese Empire had been such a society. Chinese had loved their civilization not only because they were born into it but because they thought it good. In the nineteenth century, however, history and value were torn apart in many Chinese minds. Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (1873-1929) began writing, in the 1890's, as one who was intellectually alienated from his tradition, seeing value elsewhere, but still emotionally tied to it, held by his history.

A man who feels such a tension will seek to ease it, and Liang tried to smother the conflict between history and value. His device was to rethink Chinese tradition so that Confucianism, to which . . .

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