Journey between East and West : Yang Changji (1871-1920) and his thought
This is a study of Yang Changji (1871-1920), whose thought exerted a profound influence on the shaping of intellectual trends in the early twentieth-century China, notably the ideology of Mao Zedong, who was taught by Yang for five years. Yang, well-versed in the Confucian and Neo-Confucian traditions, spent ten years studying Western moral philosophy and education in Japan (1903-1909), Scotland (1909-1912) and Germany (1912-1913). After returning to China he devoted the rest of his life to teaching ethics and education firstly at the First Normal School in Changsha (1913-17) and latterly at Beijing University (1918-1920), and to introducing Western philosophical, ethical and educational thought through translation and writings. How Yang Changji adopted and incorporated various Western elements, such as Kantian and Neo-Kantian ethics, the British idealism of T.H. Green, the humanistic and liberal tradition instigated by J. Rousseau, and Spencerian utilitarianism, into his socio-political and ethical thoughts, while retaining the framework of Confucian humanism, is one of the principal aims of this study. This study is divided into three parts, each of which consists of three chapters. A narrative account of the Hunanese intellectual tradition and the main trends of thought prevalent in nineteenth-century China, with particular reference to Hunan, will be outlined in chapter I. The starting point of Yang's intellectual-spiritual quest was the achievement of sagehood and self-cultivation, a goal was based on a threefold humanistic concern: man's ultimate potential as an individual, the individual's relationship to society and the realisation of man's ultimate potential. Mind-cultivation and altering natural character were particularly emphasised, and his methodology was characterised by quietness, reverence and the floating mind. During this painstaking process of self-cultivation Yang's metaphysical views of man, mind and human nature were formed, influenced mainly by Zhou Dunyi, Zhang Zai and Wang Fuzhi (see chapter 2). Between 1897 and 1902 Yang reached his intellectual maturity. His reformist thought can be seen as a syncretism of the Confucian humanistic principle of "Perpetual Renewal of Life" and Western liberal democratic ideas, such as "popular sovereignty," "people's rights" and "individual rights." These new democratic ideals, together with nineteenth-century Western evolutionary theory, provided a new authority for Yang to challenge the Chinese monarchical system, and to call for political reform. However, on a practical level, Yang committed himself to an intellectualistic-educational approach mainly influenced by his idea of seeking for radical solution and gradualism (see chapter 3). Yang Changji's life and study abroad are studied in the contexts of the movement of Chinese students abroad at the turn of the twentieth century and of cultural communication between China and Scotland. The experience in Japan was crucial for providing Yang with his first contact with Western philosophy, ethics and education. The intellectual influence of Aberdeen University can be seen in Yang's systematic exposure to the history of Western ethics and modem currents of British and German ethics, such as utilitarian and evolutionary ethics and T.H. Green's concept of self-realisation. In chapter 7 of Part Ill Yang's reappraisal of Confucianism, from the perspectives of Confucianism as religion and his attitude toward traditional culture, are discussed. In chapter 8 Yang's intellectual-education approach to China's modernisation is characterised in six aspects. His social criticism is distinctive for its application of Western humanistic values, particularly the concepts of person and personality in Kantian ethical thought. Furthermore, Yang was probably the first Chinese to introduce and advocate the idea of "sound and wealthy middle class." The influence of Western thought can also be seen in shaping the core of Yang's thought, that is, two distinctive but inseparable ideas; valuing the self and comprehending the present reality, which are the subject of the final chapter. Yang incorporated pivotal ideas and values of Western liberal individualism, particularly Kantian notions of autonomy, respect for the self and person, and subjectivity, etc., into his notion of valuing the self. While freedom was the most fundamental concern in Kantian ethics and humanism, the independence of the self or an individual was at the centre of Yang's idea of valuing the self. However, his metaphysical view of the self and person remains largely a Confucian one. His notion of comprehending the present reality shows his profound concern with reality and an overwhelming emphasis on "strenuous action." The Individual's self-realisation should be applied here and now. Underlying Yang's two ideas was Confucian threefold concern with humanity. The Confucian ideal of the sage-king or junzi still loomed large in both the form and content, of each of Yang's two ideas.