|About the Book|
From the 1890s to 1919, Chinas relations with the outside world changed radically. After the xenophobic Boxer Rebellion, China went on to be one of the victorious Allies present at Versailles peace conference after World War I. If Chinas educatedMoreFrom the 1890s to 1919, Chinas relations with the outside world changed radically. After the xenophobic Boxer Rebellion, China went on to be one of the victorious Allies present at Versailles peace conference after World War I. If Chinas educated class kept its distance from the Boxers in 1900, it was at the forefront of the May Fourth nationalist protest of 1919 that demanded equality with the big Powers. However, studies of modern Chinese intellectual history have often divided the main players of this period into two mutually exclusive generations, one active in the 1890s and the other in the late 1910s. Choosing Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) as its subject, this study aims to bridge the gap and to examine the particular problematics of modern intellectual transformations in China.-An exceptional high-achiever in the civil service examinations, Cai became a revolutionary in 1902. He went to Germany and France for several years before being appointed Chancellor of Peking University in 1917. His campus reform contributed directly to the May Fourth protest.-Examining Cais experience in these years, this study situates Cai in relation to his contemporaries at several crucial historical moments, looking at the specific issues they faced and the different choices that each of them made. Central to their collective experience is the question of human knowledge and its meaningfulness, sharpening their perception of the disintegration of institutionalized Confucian sociopolitical order which had its own transcendental dimensions. As Cais case demonstrates, several factors acted in reshaping the Chinese intellectual landscape: civil consciousness tied to local urbanization history- Confucian emphasis on moral-ethical constructions- the Qing scholarly strands of experiential and taxonomic approaches to human knowledge- and an established respect to the pursuit of knowledge. However, it is the national dimension of modern knowledge in contrast to its super-national, universal claim that signifies the modern character of these intellectuals endeavors. It was the interplay of the transcendental universal, the national, a comradely intellectual community, and the individual as the end instead of the means, that forged a new Chinese identity in 1919, forcing the world to take note.