Chang Ping-Lin (1869-1936): A political radical and cultural conservative.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAlthough Chang Ping-lin is well-known for his role in the revolutionary movement that culminated in the termination of imperial rule in 1911, he is more often remembered as a prominent classical scholar. His life and thought illustrates the uneasy relationship between political revolution and cultural conservatism among the intellectuals of his generation, and his advocacy of preserving the national essence paved the way for the far-reaching National Essence Movement in the early twentieth century. This dissertation, thus, represents a study of the tension between politics and culture among Chinese intellectuals and the significance of cultural conservatism during that era. Chang's concern to preserve the national essence was not only because he was a classical scholar, and therefore, felt a responsibility to uphold classical teachings, but also because he believed it was essential for the survival of the nation. Under pressure from Western powers, Chang was afraid that Chinese culture was threatened with extinction. In order to prevent foreign conquest, Chang believed that reform or revolution in China was necessary, and that the most important mission of the reformer or revolutionary was to preserve her unique culture. Therefore, he gave priority to the preservation of the national essence over that of the nation. The latter was important only because it was needed to save the former. And reform or revolution was in turn necessary to save the nation. Chang's lifelong commitment to the preservation of the national essence manifested itself in his two careers: one as a political activist and the other as a classical scholar. Even after the establishment of the Republic of China, Chang remained active in the political arena. He continued to speak out against whatever he perceived to endanger China's sovereignty or its culture. Apart from his involvement in politics, Chang also devoted himself to teaching and the study of China's rich cultural heritage. This effort to preserve the national essence was the most consistent thread in his life.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies