Abstract: Through a look back at the birth of the category of the twentieth century and its complex relation to Chinese intellectuals’ analyses of imperialism around the year 1900, this talk establishes the intimate link between modern China’s conception of “century” and the twentieth century. This concept was something different from the categorization of historical periods which had characterized the past, for it was an apprehension of a new and unique situation. During this singular historical moment, intellectuals could not avoid thinking about Europe’s relation to the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and earlier, and they created a prehistory for modern China as a way of determining China’s particular position within the global horizon. The second half of the talk centers on the intellectual debates of the early twentieth century, and delves into the ways in which this new period of consciousness was expressed in political debates, historical research, and philosophical and religious narratives. Under the double shadows of imperialism and the Western discourse of “civilization,” Chinese intellectuals’ exploration of particularity was a form of resistance against and deconstruction of the universalist narrative of history that rose with imperialism. Nonetheless, its basic direction was not toward affirming particularity, but rather toward reconstructing universalism.
Bio: Wang Hui is Distinguished Professor of Literature and History, and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences at Tsinghua University. In the 1980s he did his research under the guidance of Professor Tang Tao, who was Lu Xun's student and a famous literary historian. In 1990, Wang Hui published his first book Resisting Despair: Lu Xun and His Literary World in Taiwan and later in Shanghai (1991). Afterwards, he moved to the study of Chinese intellectual history and engaged in a series of intellectual debates from 1990 up to now. His main works include The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (4 volumes), The Depoliticized Politics, From an Asian Perspective: The Narrations of Chinese History, etc. Many of his works have been translated into different languages including books in English such as China's New Order, The End of the Revolution, The Politics of Imagining Asia, China from Empire to Nation-State, China's Twentieth Century, etc.
About The Chi Lung Kang Endowed Lecture Series
The Chi Lung Kang Endowment was established to honor the memory of Chi Lung (Charles) Kang, a PhD graduate of UIUC’s electrical engineering program. Its purpose is to promote dialogue and understanding about China, within the University and in the wider community.