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From the Six Classics to modern academic research

Author  :  DENG XIAOJUN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-07-03

Academics and Traditions

Author: Liu Mengxi

Publisher: Beijing Times Chinese Press

Liu Mengxi is an influential scholar of literature and culture who is engaged in cultural construction and criticism. Academics and Traditions is a collection of Liu’s selected academic theses. It presents his academic experience during two decades of modern academic research as well as insights into studies of the Confucian Six Classics, namely, Book of Poetry, Book of History, Book of Rites, Book of Changes, Book of Music, and Spring and Autumn Annuals.

The book is divided into six volumes: the first volume collects Liu’s various profiles of Wang Guowei and Chen Yinque to show their similiarities and differences; the second volume focuses on Ma Yifu, an ideologist who first introduced Das Kapital to China, together with research on scholars, such as Xiong Shili, Qian Zhongshu and Zhang Shunhui, as well as general and specific ideological theories; the third volume is about traditional culture and studies of ancient Chinese civilization, along with the practical significance of traditional cultural ideology; the fourth volume consists of research on classic literature and ideological history; the fifth volume contains three of his new essays: “On the Righteousness of Esteem,” “On Honesty,” and “On Harmony,” are part of the serialized articles on the Confucian Six Classics; the six volume includes prefaces and postscripts, through which Liu’s ideological views can be seen between the lines.

Liu illustrated the similarity in academic ideas between Qian Zhongshu and Chen Yinque. He argued that although the two masters have opposing ideas in general, they share something in common. For example, one core element of Chen Yinque’s academic thought is his idea on race and culture. Chen believed that culture supercedes race. The assimilation between different ethnicities, namely, ancient Central China and the Western Regions, or Xiyu, is a matter of culture, not race. Similarly, Qian said that the discrimination between different ethnicities lies in the code of ethics, not in race.

Neo-Confucianism scholar Ma Yifu also receives attention from Liu. Unlike Song Confucians who criticized Buddhism and strove to integrate it into Confucianism, Ma regards Confucianism and Buddhism as two sides of one form of integrity, emphasizing interaction between them. Also, he redefines the studies of ancient Chinese civilization to be the study of the Confucian Six Classics, a key point in his theories on Neo-Confucianism.

On Chen Yinque’s judgement of Taoism, Liu argued that in Chen’s view, while Confucianism emphasizes the relationship between people, Taoists researched the connections between humans and objects. Also, compared with Buddhism, Taoism is more down to earth and closer to daily life. For example, Taoists contributed most of the medical studies in ancient society. That is why Taoism of Chinese origin differs from the form of Buddhism that originated from India.

Throughout Liu’s academic career, he focused on classic literature and the intellectual history of literature, particularly A Dream in Red Mansions and the ideological trends in literature during the Ming and Qing dynasties. As of the mid-1980s, Liu shifted his study interest to academic and ideological history. In recent years, he moved back to studying the Six Classics and the essence of Confucianism.

Editor: Yu Hui

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