Coming out of the Middle Ages: Comparative Reflections on China and the West

Coming out of the Middle Ages: Comparative Reflections on China and the West

Coming out of the Middle Ages: Comparative Reflections on China and the West

Coming out of the Middle Ages: Comparative Reflections on China and the West

Synopsis

The essays in this volume examine China's medievalism from the viewpoint of cultural history, philosophy and comparative literature. Contributors discuss the lingering effects of the Middle Ages on Chinese thought and industry, and assess how these attitudes affect China's relations with the West.

Excerpt

In China one has to be extremely careful when committing thoughts to writing. Many years ago, when I was a pupil in primary school, I saw the following slogan posted all over the place: "Respect and cherish paper with words on it." My elders and betters explained to me that this was because once paper had words written on it, it came under the jurisdiction of deities. If it was soiled, thrown away or trampled upon, these deities would take their vengeance.

Later after I had entered the university and become an "intellectual," I experienced many campaigns of "thought reform" and in the process became aware of the aptness of this slogan of my childhood and the explanation provided for it. When you put black characters down on a white page, you must beware of the troubles this white page may bring upon you.

Take this situation as an example. You keep a diary in China, and what you have written in it is already forgotten, or perhaps you take notes on books you have read, a record specifically for your personal use, and subsequently you completely forget what you have written in these notes. It is entirely possible that some day these writings will . . .

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