CHAPTER V
THE MEANING OF CHINA TO TOLSTOY

HERETOFORE we have been concerned with the factual story of how and when Tolstoy studied China and Chinese thought. Though some of its details are made obscure by the fact that not all sources have yet been published, its main outlines are clear. Our next task--in many ways more difficult, because less concerned with concrete fact--is an evaluation of the ideological significance that these studies had for Tolstoy. In what spirit of inquiry did he approach his subject? How accurate was his understanding of China? What were the elements in it that especially attracted him?

In the first place, it is obvious that Tolstoy's approach was far from "scholarly" or "scientific." Numerous factual inconsistencies and errors can be detected in what he writes at various times. In 1862, for example, he sets the population of China at 200 million;1 in 1884 at 450 million;2 and in 1887 (or possibly also in 1884) at 360 million.3 In 1890, after having used James Legge Chinese Classics for some six years as his primary source for Confucianism, he confesses to Chertkov that he is unable to remember the name of its author.4 The same letter betrays uncertainty as to the dates of Mo Tzu, by suggesting that not only Mencius, but possibly Confucius as well (who antedated Mo Tzu), refuted his arguments. In 1900 Tolstoy is so impressed

____________________
1
Progress and the Definition of Education (W 4.162).
2
See p. 36 above.
3
See p. 16 and note 7.
4
See p. 28. Yet who has not had a similar temporary lapse of memory at one time or another!

-59-

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Tolstoy and China - Vol. 4
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The History of Ideas Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Chapter I- China, the West, and Tolstoy 3
  • Chapter II- Tolstoy''s Readings on China 11
  • Chapter III- Tolstoy''s Writings and Publications on China 30
  • Chapter IV- Tolstoy''s Contacts with Chinese 47
  • Chapter V- The Meaning of China to Tolstoy 59
  • Chapter VI- The Question of Chinese Influence 75
  • Appendix A 91
  • Appendix B- List of Works on China Read by Tolstoy 95
  • Bibliography 103
  • Index 107
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