Beyond the Warring States

The First World War and the Redemptive Critique of Modernity in the Work of Du Yaquan (1873–1933)


  • Ady Van den Stock Ghent University, Department of Languages and Cultures, Belgium



First World War, modern Chinese intellectual history, Du Yaquan, war, nationalism, science


The intellectual impact of the First World War in China is often understood as having led to a disenchantment with the West and a discrediting of the authority of “science”, while at the same time ushering in a renewed sense of cultural as well as national “awakening”. Important developments such as the May Fourth Movement, the rise of Chinese Marxism, and the emergence of modern Confucianism have become integral parts of the narrative surrounding the effects of the “European War” in China, and bear witness to the contested relation between tradition and modernity in twentieth-century Chinese thought. Through a case study of a number of wartime and post-war texts written by the “cultural conservative” thinker and publicist Du Yaquan (1873–1933), this paper tries to draw attention to the complexity and occasional ambiguity of responses to the “Great War” in modern Chinese intellectual history. More specifically, the following pages offer an analysis of Du’s critique of “materialism” in the context of his quest for social freedom and cultural continuity, his enduring commitment to scientific notions of social evolution and political governance, and his approach to the relations among war, the nation-state, the individual, and the international interstate order developed against the background of the First World War.


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–––. 1914a. “Jiexuzhuyi 接续主义 (Continuism).” In DYQWC, 12–15.

–––. (1914b) 2014. “Dazhan yu Zhongguo 大战与中国 (The Great War and China).” In Du Yaquan juan 杜亚泉卷 (Writings of Du Yaquan), edited by Zhou Yuefeng 周月峰, 186–92. Beijing: Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe. (Hereafter abbreviated to DYQJ.)

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–––. 1916a. “Ai yu zheng 爱与争 (Love and Strife).” In DYQWC, 24–27.

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–––. 1917d. “Xuanzhan yu shiju zhi guanxi 宣战与时局之关系 (The Relation between the Declaration of War and the Current Situation).” In DYQJ, 398–401.

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–––. 1918d. “Guojiazhuyi zhi kaolü 国家主义之考虑 (Reflections on Nationalism).” In DYQJ, 447–51.

–––. 1918e. “Dui weilai shijie zhi zhunbei ruhe 对未来世界之准备如何?(How Should We Prepare for the Future World?).” In DYQJ, 458–65.

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–––. 1919c. “Xin jiu sixiang zhi zhezhong 新旧思想之折衷 (Reconciling New and Old Ideas).” In DYQWC, 401–07.

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7. 05. 2021

How to Cite

Van den Stock, Ady. 2021. “Beyond the Warring States: The First World War and the Redemptive Critique of Modernity in the Work of Du Yaquan (1873–1933)”. Asian Studies 9 (2): 49-77.

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