From Heretic to Hedonist

Kang Youwei’s Transformation of Yang Zhu

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2023.11.2.295-314

Keywords:

Kang Youwei, Yang Zhu, modernity, wei wo, zong yu

Abstract

At the end of the nineteenth century, Chinese intellectuals had to respond to the dire situation of their country. Against this background, the leading intellectual Kang Youwei aimed to re-establish some traditional values. Although Yang Zhu had long been employed rhetorically in pre-modern China, Kang reconstructed Yang Zhu as an ancient master who had a coherent theory centered around two expressions: wei wo (serving one’s own interest) and zong yu (indulging in desires). However, there is a tension in Kang’s attitudes towards Yang Zhu: on the one hand, he criticizes Yang Zhu for when he reflects upon the despotic nature of Chinese governance; on the other hand, Kang sees the positive sides of wei wo and zong yu in the achievement of the Great Unity. Despite the ambiguity, Kang’s choice of vocabulary still made an impact to the portrayals of Yang Zhu after his: his portrayal turned this master into someone highly relevant to modern China; he also showed the possibility of reading Yang Zhu in a positive light.

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Published

16. 05. 2023

How to Cite

Wang, Xiaowei. 2023. “From Heretic to Hedonist: Kang Youwei’s Transformation of Yang Zhu”. Asian Studies 11 (2): 295-314. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2023.11.2.295-314.

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