Kang Youwei’s Establishment of the Three Ages Theory

Authors

  • Zhichong GONG Renmin University of China

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2024.12.1.165-193

Keywords:

Three Ages Theory, Confucius as a Reformer, Humans are born from Heaven, Kang Youwei

Abstract

In recent years, there has been an emerging trend in research on Kang Youwei 康有為 to return to a focus on the civilizational outlook of China, and in particular to return to an understanding of Kang Youwei from the perspective of the Confucian tradition. This article attempts to further advance this trend and analyse a major element of Kang Youwei’s thought, namely his “Three Ages Theory” (sanshi shuo 三世說). Specifically, it will focus on Kang’s combination of ideas of Confucius as a reformer (Kongzi gaizhi 孔子改制) and the idea that humans are born from Heaven (ren wei tian sheng 人為天生), doctrines that he inherited from the Confucian tradition but then transformed. His understanding of Confucius as a reformer was the theoretical starting point of the evolutionary theory of the Three Ages, because it determined the basic form of the Three Ages Theory. The idea that humans are born from Heaven supplemented the Three Ages Theory and served as the value foundation for the construction of “Great Unity” (datong 大同). A major significance of Kang Youwei’s thought is that it acts as a bridge to understanding the Confucian tradition, but it also serves as an example of a Confucian response to the challenges of the modern world.

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References

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Published

18.01.2024

How to Cite

GONG, Z. (2024). Kang Youwei’s Establishment of the Three Ages Theory. Asian Studies, 12(1), 165–193. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2024.12.1.165-193