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Revisiting China’s Modernity

Ethnicity, Religion, and Nation

Jiang Sun

Investigating the nature of Chinese modernity from the perspectives of social and intellectual history and inspired by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, this book reveals the ambiguity of nation as a modern concept and opens up a new possibility for the turn of China’s national narratives. The definitions of nation as either an imagined community or an entity with a substantive cultural origin are both partially wrong in the Chinese context, since China had its distinctive socio-cultural system in pre-modern times and the binary mode of nationality is inadequate to interpret the complexity of Chinese society. In light of this complexity, this work explores the relationship between the Manchus and the Han Chinese throughout the Qing dynasty, examines the transmission and reproduction of modern knowledge, particularly that of race and nation, on the ground of China’s reactions to the Western influence, and discusses how the supra-nationalist discourse of various religions succumbed to the homogenizing nature of nation state in modern China. To depict a general picture of "Chinese modernity" and avoid the risk of oversimplification, the author combines the methodology of social history with that of intellectual history, abandoning the East-West binary opposition and grouping all ten chapters into three parts that respectively approach Chinese modernity from a specific perspective. On this basis, it can be concluded that Chinese modernity, as a form of new knowledge, is produced out of the combination of a forward-thinking viewpoint and a fantasy about the modern age, which constitutes an inevitable path to China’s "national liberation" from the entanglement of ethnicity and cultural traditions.

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List of Figures

Extract



Figure 3.1: Portrait of the Yellow Emperor in the First Edition of Ding Baoshu’s Mengxue Zhongguo Lishi Jiaokeshu

Figure 3.2: Portrait of the Yellow Emperor in Jiang Weiqiao’s Dingzheng Jianming Zhongguo Lishi Jiaokeshu

Figure 3.3: Portrait of the Yellow Emperor in Huangdi Hun

Figure 3.4: Introduction of the Yellow Emperor in Yao Zuyi’s Zuixin Zhongguo Lishi Jiaokeshu

Figure 5.1: Portrait of the Mongoloids or the Yellow Race in “Ren Fen Wulei Shuo”

Figure 5.2: Portrait of the Caucasians or the White Race in “Ren Fen Wulei Shuo”

Figure 5.3: Portrait of the Negroes or the Black Race in “Ren Fen Wulei Shuo”

Figure 5.4: Portrait of the Native Americans or the Red Race in “Ren Fen Wulei Shuo”

Figure 5.5: Portrait of the Malays or the Brown Race in “Ren Fen Wulei Shuo”

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