Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The Chinese Renaissance : ethics, history and Confucian thought in a Chinese city
Author: Qiao, Yi
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Thesis embargoed until 16 Apr 2040
Access from Institution:
Engaging with anthropological work on history, education, and ethics, this dissertation focuses on li-shi wen-hua, or ‘history culture’, and the intellectual and ethical lives of independent researchers and cultural enthusiasts who study, write about and practise li-shi wen-hua in a Chinese city. Famed for having been a dynastic capital, the city is understood by local scholars and cultural practitioners as a centre for the development of practices that inform everyday life with historical and ethical knowledge. Focusing on how ethics and history are interrelated, this dissertation explores how private scholars and cultural practitioners conduct their scholarship in spaces of study and learning that render what they understand as Chinese philosophy, historiography, literature and arts accessible to the general public. These scholars and enthusiasts consider their studies and practices of local, and more broadly, of China’s ‘history culture’ as aiming to revive Pre-communist traditions of knowledge and virtue in an independent manner, free of the official projects of reviving ‘traditional culture’ (chuan-tong wen-hua) that have been the focus of previous anthropological works. They see their humanistic pursuit of knowledge and virtue, spirit of learning and criticism, and creation of an independent avenue of education as carving out a humanistic and rationalistic path of life. A central argument of this dissertation is that the local scholars and cultural enthusiasts consciously articulate and constitute a local movement of cultural renaissance, which features the revival of interest in classical Chinese philosophy, historiography, literature and arts and an open, though critical, attitude towards Euro-America. Such a cultural renaissance, as they understand and practise it, at the same time generates a space of learning and criticism outside of mainstream schools and universities. It also reveals a process of cultural change happening in a voluntary, locally driven, and intellectually-engaged mode. This dissertation documents the voices and practices of independent researchers and cultural enthusiasts and at the same time is intended to provide a wider overview of the city’s historical and ethical world. The first ethnographic chapter examines an independent bookstore and its public lectures, tracing the bookstore’s relation with Chinese intellectual traditions through the bookstore owner’s usage of courtesy names and his recounting of an anecdote of Confucius’ student Yan Hui. The next chapter examines how the historicity of local cuisine is written about by catering entrepreneurs and a freelance historian. It is followed by a chapter that documents a young female Confucian teacher’s aspiration of conducting classical ‘poetry education’ and of developing an independent avenue of children’s education outside of mainstream schooling. The next chapter investigates the historical and ethical dimensions of the city’s public gardens and the ‘private study’ of a young artist who works as a tour guide in a history-themed garden. The final ethnographic chapter presents an account of urban development and innovation with three reflections from local researchers who emphasise respectively the city’s humanistic spirit, the notion of ‘ancient capitals’ and the significance of ‘the cultural’. This dissertation is intended to contribute to the anthropology of ethics and anthropological studies of change and continuity, by documenting ethnographically how independent Chinese researchers pursue historical and ethical learning, as well as how they open up new possibilities of life for individuals and the wider nation, through creatively and critically re-examining the country’s past.
Supervisor: Robbins, Joel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Confucianism ; ethics ; history