China at this time, of course, needed a future and, in the eyes of many, it needed a future that would integrate it in global processes or what certain intellectuals or groups of intellectuals regarded as global or universal trends. After the failure of politics to provide the constitutional foundations of a new and modern republic following the so-called
Since the great call for “world revolution” the movement for the “liberation of mankind” has pressed forward fiercely, and today we must change our old attitudes towards issues that in the past we did not question, towards methods we would not use, and towards so many words we have been afraid to utter.3
For a more influential and elitist group of “globalizers” at roughly the same time, the world’s revolution was encased in the concept of “science” and the
Here it is clear that the understanding of “globalization” or the qualifier “global” at the center of this paper is not concerned with markets or economies, with direct foreign investment in China or with many of the other factors popularly associated with the term. Here globalization is understood as an impulse and a necessity felt by many Chinese in the early twentieth century to see China integrated into the world and its workings. The adjective “global” thus qualifies modes of thought, writing and being to which China was to aspire. It marks a target more often than a state or situation that had been achieved. Geographically, of course, China has always been a part of the world, but since the close of the nineteenth century Chinese intellectuals had increasingly felt it to be outside the international community of strong nations, and many of the reform projects of the time, whether aimed at Communist revolution or reform based on European or Anglo-American models, were predicated on a sense of outsideness and non-inclusion in world processes. This sense of outsideness was heightened by the fact that Japan, a small country that the Chinese had traditionally tended to look down upon, had indeed “globalized.” The Japanese, whose Meiji reforms since the mid-nineteenth century could also be said to have been predicated on a sense of outsideness,4 had integrated themselves into a
The following brief comments will be concerned with a concrete example of the manner in which a perceived universal “scientific” attitude or spirit was to be imported to the Chinese context and thus take China into the world and establish the strong world’s principles in Chinese thinking and behavior. When knowledge travels it requires a means of
Chen Hengzhe had studied history and literature in America between 1914 and 1920 (Vassar and Chicago),7 she was a historian of the West and of the European
17.2 Study Abroad and its Effects
Chen Hengzhe (or Sophia H. Chen Zen as she was known to her American friends) left China on 15 August 1914 on the S.S. China together with “over one hundred boy students from Tsing Hua College and fourteen girl students, nine of whom belonged to the Tsing Hua scholarship group.”8 Some twenty years later, when she wrote her Autobiography of a Chinese Young Girl, she records this event as a momentous one in China’s history, as momentous for China as the outbreak of the First World War for Europe:
It was significant that just as the world was waiting to be affected by the changes to be brought about by this tremendous armed conflict, China was also preparing for fundamental change in her national life through the sending of her young girls by the government for the first time. For these young girls were not sent abroad to make military or political contacts with the western countries, as many young men as well as special commissioners had been sent for previously; but they were asked to study the cultural side of the western nations. (Chen n.d., 188)
Thus Chen Hengzhe set off for the wide world and a future that was, in her own view, to have significance for the national life of China and its womenfolk. The result of this journey was, in her own words, “an intangible yet strong alliance” between East and West “not on the soil of the war-creating spheres but right within the hearts of the peoples” (Chen n.d., 188).
This, then, was the manner in which she saw her trip: a significant event in the development of China, a significant event in the public attitude to young women and a significant influence on China’s place in the world. Clearly this is her rather inflated interpretation of her life after the event, but it characterizes her sense of mission during her studies and in her later writing. In his comments on biographical and autobiographical writings, Brian Roberts observes that “the recollection of past events is inextricably connected with people’s current life and its place in the group and wider surroundings” Roberts 2002, 104. And it is in this context that we should understand Chen’s construction of the narrative of the purpose and results of her voyage: from the moment she arrived in the United States and even more so after returning to China, Chen’s life was inextricably linked with, on the one hand, activities that were to devalue “Chinese” knowledge and to replace it with the more developed ideas and institutions of the “civilized world”; on the other hand, she consistently (re)constructed her own biography as that of the exemplary modern women (what China needed): self-determined, mistress of her own fate, educated, successful.
However, the students behind this journal not only felt that China was in need of a different kind of scholarship, both in content and approach in order to join the ranks of the civilized nations, they also saw a need for a new mode of presentation. Thus, from the beginning, Kexue adopted Western-style punctuation and was probably the first in the history of Chinese journals to do so. Ren Hongjun felt that the Chinese needed quotation marks in particular Fan 2004, 9. This is, in itself, a remarkable development since it points to the recognition of the worth of the individual statement (quoting one person’s opinion or findings) as valuable, legitimate and objectively verifiable as opposed to citations from the (Chinese) Classics as a source of legitimation and as the ultimate (moral)
It was not only science majors who were present at the meetings of the Science Society. In fact the issue of punctuation had been brought up by a young student who was to become one of China’s leading thinkers and writers, Hu Shi (1891–1962), who had initially chosen to study agriculture in America, but soon turned to philosophy. The history major Chen Hengzhe was also present.
The link between the humanities and the natural sciences was, in any case, a very close one at this time. No matter what the students were studying, their aim was to “save China,” to introduce at all levels of society the scientific spirit that they felt their countrymen and women lacked.14 Thus the chemist Ren Hongjun writing in Kexue in 1917 linked the cultural and political conservatism of China with a lack of progress.15 In 1922 the biologist Bing Zhi (1886–1965) could speak on the connection between biology and women’s education, taking the education of women as a must and their training in biology as a prerequisite for the eradication of superstition. Likewise the
These scholars were clearly not only trying to spread new ideas from the natural sciences; their concept of knowledge was directly linked to social progress and change that was conceived as linear and leading to improvement, to a place amongst the “civilized countries.” Ren Hongjun also made this clear when he linked advanced knowledge of the material world with an advanced “view of life.” Science, he felt, could affect the way people viewed and organized life and he saw proof of this in the course of history: the way people viewed life in the Middle Ages was quite different from the way it was now viewed in the light of the theory of evolution. This was evident in social progress,17 the social progress displayed in other parts of the world. A change in spirit, attitude and mode of learning, acting and writing in China would make similar progress possible in China. In fact, it seems that these scholars thought that such change would come inevitably with the changes they put forth: they had found the
This then, is the project within which one must view Chen Hengzhe’s writings and activities. On the surface its argumentation would seem sound enough; and yet we could also see her and her colleagues as the enthusiastic subjects of
The European elite undertook to manufacture a native elite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western culture, they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed. From Paris, from London, from Amsterdam we would utter the words “Parthenon! Brotherhood!” and somewhere in Africa or Asia lips would open “…thenon! …therhod!” It was the golden age.18
Shame and a sense of cultural inadequacy (an inadequate orthodoxy) had prepared the minds of individuals like Chen Hengzhe to react positively to the Western discourses with which they were confronted at every turn in the early twentieth century. The discourses of science and democracy, of modern education and equality, were clearly predicated on societies whose national cultural strength made them exemplars in China’s continuous and continuing search for national wealth and strength as well as global recognition. Chen, like others, was exposed to the new ideas through the press, schooling and word of mouth. At the same time foreign powers (in her case America) actively strove to train a
Like many other young people of the time, Chen Hengzhe read the newly available print media and was influenced by them and their presentations of the wonders of the modern Western world.19 Her perceptions of different and new possibilities in life were mediated on the one hand, as she herself explains, by such towering figures as Liang Qichao (1873–1929), influential scholar-journalist of the period and Tan Sitong (1865–1898), martyr of the ill-fated but ambitious Hundred Days of reform of 1898;20 on the other hand, she was fascinated by both Madame Roland (1754–1793) and Joan of Arc (1412?–1431). However, the image that she chooses to use as the focus of her life and writings is that of the will to achieve and shape one’s own destiny (zaoming).21 The concept had, she writes, been passed on to her by her maternal uncle together with an awe of active Western women. She fittingly frames her autobiography with this image, opening her text with a fable comparing the difficult and winding passage of the Yangzi River through mountains and into the sea with the man-made, dull and non-self-determined course of the Grand Canal.22 Her life, as she saw it in hindsight, had been a difficult path to a self-determined and successful future because she, like the mighty Yangzi, had fought against all obstructions of tradition and ignorance and finally also managed to flow out into the Pacific Ocean (Chen n.d., 189) and freedom (albeit on the S.S. China), a young Chinese girl celebrating her new-found autonomy, even though, and with hindsight, the heteronomous nature of her project is clear: the very
I was thirteen years old, a year in which I discovered myself, so to speak, and started on a journey of my own choice. It was found out later on that this journey was full of dangerous rapids, of inaccessible mountain paths, and of a thousand and one perils; yet it was a journey of my own choice, and through thick and thin, through sunshine and rain, I have stuck to it; with a conscious mind and a willing heart even till this day. (Chen n.d., 47)
The similarities with the difficult journey of the Yangzi River are impossible to ignore. And, like the Yangzi, Chen is saying “What I am is proof of my struggle with those mountains” (Chen n.d., 2).23 Writing in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Chen here is authorizing herself, making of herself a success. Her journey had taken her out of Chinese territory; she had become a woman of the world with a message for the future of her country. It was a form of
Parallel to this readiness for
Ironically enough, other scholarships for American universities were available through Chinese government grants, many of which appear to have been financed by funds dedicated to those who had contributed to the 1911
17.3 The Influences on Writing
On her arrival back in China then in 1920, Chen, like others, was thoroughly ensconced in the institutions of change. We cannot reconstruct her lectures at Peking University, but we do still have two of her important contributions to a new understanding and dissemination of the course of history. On the one hand there is her two-volume History of the West (Xiyang shi) of 1924 and 1926 respectively, the first such publication by a Chinese historian and covering the history of the West from prehistory to the First World War; on the other we still have her Short History of the European Renaissance (Ouzhou wenyi fuxing xiaoshi) of 1930.32
In the original foreword to her History of the West, Chen made it clear from the beginning that her task as an historian was to provide explanations and to improve the materials available in Chinese for the study of Western history. In her “Introductory Remarks” to the books, she elaborated a little:
Even if this is a
textbook for higher middle schools, the author’s aim is also to provide general knowledge of Western history for all people.
She wished “to train the reader’s ability to analyze all kinds of phenomena in contemporary society.”33 Finally her main aim was to “aid young people in developing an international perspective so as to reduce misunderstandings among people and increase their comprehension of each other.”34 In other words, her History of the West aimed to take students and general readers out into the world and to guide their understanding of it. Globalization—in the present sense of the inclusion of China in the world, of making China into a (respected) part of the globe—lies at the heart of her agenda. She underscored this in the closing words of her History of the West, and it is here that science, history, global inclusion and world development go hand in hand. In her understanding of the history of “cultural Europe,” a term that includes “Europeanized America,”35 the greatest effect of the development of science since the Renaissance had been the globalization (literally the “worldization” shijiehua) of European history, making European culture the common property of the world and enabling modern culture (jindai de wenhua) to open up completely new terrain (xin xingshi).36 Here “modern culture” would appear to be synonymous with the culture emanating from the trajectory of Western history. She does not ignore the fact that both politics and capital have been able to misuse this phenomenon in the pursuit of selfish interest in the form of
It was clearly her intention to make sure that Chinese readers were aware of this “common property of the world” that constituted “modern culture” so that they could gauge the workings of the contemporary Chinese situation. It is also clear that, for her, the history of the world hinged on the important era of the European Renaissance,38 and it is in her short fifty-page discussion and introduction of the European Renaissance of 1930 that we find most clearly expressed the principles by which she believed history “worked” and how China could align itself with these principles and become a part of “world history.” Traditional Chinese views of history were to be devalued and replaced by
Chen’s Short History of the European Renaissance was published in 1930 by the Commercial Press. The choice of topic alone is telling. For Chen, the Renaissance was a return to order after the chaos of the Middle Ages; it was an entry into the light after a period of darkness; it was the emergence of man and his individuality, a turning away from the other-worldly concerns of the past and a focus on the here and now. This process, starkly simplified here, can, she wrote, be a “shortcut to a new culture,” one that ushers in, among other things, the seeds of a spirit of investigation, the development of textual criticism, the setting up of libraries and academies, the systematic reform of education and the rise of women scholars able to interact freely with men. These were the issues at the center of the Science Society and its members who were worried that the “force of science” might not be “enough to sweep away the evil spirit that spreads all over the country.” It underscored the contemporary issues that occupied these individuals as students and as professionals: women’s emancipation and professions, the individual and his/her ability (given the right attitude to life) to create his/her own destiny, textual correctness in content and form, reform of educational curricula and the provision of information to the general public. In other words, this was political and social reform hand in hand with new frames of reference.
Not only the book’s choice of topics reflects the concerns of those wishing to change the thought patterns of their fellow countrymen; the principles framing the interpretation of history reflect the way in which global trends could be brought to China, how the “common property of the world” was to be understood. On numerous occasions in the text, Chen introduces her readers to what, for the sake of simplification, I shall call
The impression of a rule underlying historical and national development is further confirmed if we take into consideration the language in which Chen very often couches her descriptions and explanations. It is the language of the natural sciences and of the inevitability of seasonal change and growth and decline. She likens historical phenomena to the natural growth of sprouts, to the blossoming of trees, to the ripening of fruit and the falling of leaves, all at the right season. It is an affirmation of the complementary trajectories of the natural world and its inhabitants. Here, it is true, she is utilizing a common discourse in the writing of Chinese history, but as Arthur Wright has observed in connection with traditional Chinese views of history:
On the surface this is a life-cycle analogy: polities, like men, have their periods of birth, growth, maturity, senescence, and death. Yet these successive phases were never seen as the product of
natural law or blind fate. The dynamic behind them was moral and the lessons to be drawn from the study of dynastic rise and fall were moral lessons. Wright 1965, 3
Although we cannot exclude a certain moral component to Chen’s historiography (she was preaching against war), her natural analogies, despite their classical roots, entail both reference to scientific findings and research and progression towards a new and improved human condition:
This is an evolutionist history, if you will, in that it believes in the possibility of progress to a better world, even while it fears that the baser human instincts could gain the upper hand through war and exploitation.
But it was not only in her history texts that universal principles were incorporated and illustrated. As we have seen, her autobiography made it clear that the modern individual took on active responsibility for his or her own life (zaoming) and this principle also underlies her fable “The Grand Canal and the Yangzi River.” It is recognizable also in the biographies she includes in her prose works. Just as the individual statement had taken on more significance through the use of quotation marks, individual lives incorporating the new universally applicable orthodoxy of success were now also considered important. In 1930 Hu Shi could write that “biography is the least developed branch of Chinese literature,”41 but it was nothing new to write biographies of positive or negative historical figures. Chinese dynastic histories regularly included them. However, as noted many years ago, traditionally “[t]he ultimate purpose of biography was to instruct officials in
Chen Hengzhe’s collected prose contains biographies of a number of exceptional women: Madame Curie; Jane Adams; a biography of her aunt whose personal strength and industry were a source of inspiration to her; her own autobiography; Abelard and Eloise; Wilfrid Wilson Gibson; Dante and Petrarch.43 Strange bedfellows, one might believe, but they all share characteristics that she and her fellow scholars, educators and scientists emphasized: a strong will, a spirit of inquiry, a close connection with the real world, humanism and
Chen’s history books and some of her prose were aimed to take students and general readers out into the world; but her aim was also to bring the world to an understanding of China. This aspect of her globalizing activities, one that resonates with her desire for
All of these individuals were, to greater and lesser degrees, prone to the “intellectual and spiritual domination” so clearly targeted by educational and political circles in America, but none of them would have been such an enthusiastic victim of this domination if the historical situation of China had been a different one. Chinese intellectuals, in between orthodoxies, were caught up in the pursuit of solutions to the pressing problems of their country. They had been humiliated by the international community. Now they sought ways for themselves and their countrymen to join that same community. Karl Marx is much quoted as saying that shame is a revolutionary sentiment,47 and it would not seem to be an exaggeration to say that what Chen Hengzhe and her associates were doing had all the makings of a revolutionary project: the changes in self-perception and self-definition that were to ensue through their work and their writing were intended to change and have changed China for good. The concepts and ideas they took to China have, indeed, had what Walter Benjamin termed an “afterlife,”48 an existence and interpretation that may be quite separate from their origins and that depends on the perceived needs of the culture processing them at any given historical moment. Traditional (local) paradigms of national organization at all levels were devalued and replaced by international/global ideas and institutions. The individual gained a higher status (at least until 1949); the idea of science as a universally valid principle never left China again; universities on Western models became the norm and their curricula replaced Chinese learning with “universal” knowledge. In a
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Many reform attempts aimed at gaining the respect of strong Western nations. Japanese foreign minister Inoue Kaoru wrote in 1885, “What we must do is to transform our empire and our people […] To put it differently, we have to establish a new, European-style empire on the edge of Asia.” See Mackerras 1997, 196–197. Inoue’s remark is also cited here.
For a brief description of the events at the Versailles Peace Conference, see Clements 2008, 53–108.
Autobiography of a Chinese Young Girl (Chen n.d., 187–188). I must offer my thanks to the librarians at Vassar College for making this text available to me.
Chinese had, of course, always had a means of identifying statements as quotations. However exact references were never given since the educated reader would recognize references and allusions. References to orthodox classical authorities were often prefaced with statements such as “The Book of Odes says” or “The Master [Confucius] said.”
For a discussion of a similar project through popular literature, see Gimpel 2001, especially chap. 2..
See Hu 1934, 70–71. Three hundred years refers here to the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Hu Shi is comparing intellectual endeavour in the East and the West in this period.
It is impossible to go into the details of the Chinese press and its introduction of “things foreign” at the time in such a brief article. For a first glimpse of some of issues dealt with, see, for instance Gimpel 2001; Vittinghoff 2002; Lackner and Vittinghoff 2004 and the detailed bibliographies offered there.
See, for instance, her autobiographical essay Wo youshi qiuxuede jingguo (My early schooling) in (Chen 1995, 314–326, 315, 325; Chen n.d., 151).
For the text in Chinese, see Chen 2004, 1–3. For Chen’s own version of the text in English, see (Chen n.d., 1–4).
The universal importance of the self-determined individual had been underscored, for instance, through the popularity and the frequent translation of Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help of 1859. See Gimpel 2001, 127–128.
See Hunt 1972 for a detailed discussion of the negotiations and the background to the Boxer Indemnity Fund remission.
For Ren’s description of the problems involved in getting the grant, see Fan and Zhang 2002, 712–713.
The nine founding members included seven Boxer and two non-Boxer fellows (Ren Hongjun and Yang Xingfo).
Chen’s History of the West has recently been republished in one volume Chen 2007. The Short History of the European Renaissance Chen 1930 has not been republished. For the present paper I have used a reprint of 1930 published in the series Wanyou wenku (Universal library) edited by Wang Yunwu. The author’s preface to the text is dated 14th year of the Republic, i.e. 1925.
See Chen 2007, 7. In fact Chen had to admit that she had no room to include American history in her book. She planned an extra publication dealing with America.
Renaissance, of course, was altogether an important term at the time. China was to be renewed and refurbished with a viable orthodoxy. See also Hu Shi’s series of lectures on China from the 1930s collected under the title The Chinese Renaissance. The preface to the collection of lectures states that the title of the publication was “selected by him expressly to characterize the nature of the cultural transformation described” Hu 1934, vii.
References to scientific research and its results are frequent particularly in Chen’s History of the West.
Almost all of the individuals discussed here wrote and published poetry themselves. Poetry, and in particular poetry in the vernacular, was also a central issue in reforming the nation. Hu Shi conducted the first experiments in vernacular poetry and Chen Hengzhe has been credited as having written the first Chinese short story in the vernacular. For a discussion of the “literary revolution,” see Chow 1960, 269–288 and passim. See also Idema and Haft 1997, 259–266.
For a fascinating summary of the history and the significance of this Institute, see Hooper 1988, 98–121.
The book was originally published in 1931.
Cited, for example, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Preface” to Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, see http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/1961/preface.htm.