In a serious effort to divine the secret of the West's success in achieving wealth and power, Yen Fu, a Chinese thinker, undertook, at the turn of the century, years of laborious translation and commentary on the work of such thinkers as Spencer, Huxley, Adam Smith, Mill, and Montesquieu. In addition to the inevitable difficulties involved in translating modern English into classical Chinese, Yen Fu was faced with the formidable problem of interpreting and making palatable many Western ideas which were to a large extent antithetical to traditional Chinese thought.
In an absorbing study of Yen Fu's translations, essays, and commentaries, Benjamin Schwartz examines the modifications and consequent revaluation of these familiar works as they were presented to their new audience, and analyzes the impact of this Western thought on the Chinese culture of the time. Drawing on a unique knowledge of both intellectual traditions, Schwartz describes the diverse and complex effects of this confrontation of Eastern and Western philosophies and provides a new vantage point to assess and appreciate these two disparate worlds.
Probably the most important cross-cultural study of ideas published in the last twenty years. It is not surprising that a brilliant and subtle scholar like Professor Schwartz should choose Yen Fu.
To this period Professor Schwartz has applied the same brilliance and intellectual dexterity that he brought to the study of Mao Tse-tung’s evolution. His book is an analytical biography of Yen Fu (1853–1921) the essayist and translator of Spencer, Huxley, Mill, Montesquieu and others… For an understanding of the unresolved conflict between Chinese civilization and the outside world this study is no less illuminating and important than his analysis of Mao.
A study of modern Chinese intellectual history through the painstaking examination of one important thinker who devoted his life to introducing to China those dominant aspects of Western thought that he believed to be the key to Western wealth and power. The introduction by Professor Louis Hartz provides the stimulating insight for appreciating the significance of this work, which is in the best tradition of Sinology and historical scholarship.
A notable contribution to our understanding of modern Chinese history. Professor Schwartz’ study of Yen Fu and the West is much more than an intellectual biography of an important transitional figure… The book brings into focus the bafflingly complex problem of the channels through which one culture…may influence another.
Penetrating… With a command of both Eastern and Western sources rare among American scholars of his generation, Professor Schwartz presents a thoughtful and sophisticated attempt to reconstruct Yen Fu’s image of the world.
- 300 pages
- Belknap Press
From this author
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