Reconstructing the Confucian Ideal in 1980s China: The Culture Craze and New Confucianism

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In the 1980s, China underwent a period of drastic change. One of the most discussed phenomenon on the cultural front was the “culture craze” (wenhua re 文化熱). Fueled with ammunition from a range of imported “isms,” participants in the cultural debates attempted to map out national and Western cultural territories. Many intellectuals attempted to redefine what is meant by Chinese culture and to rediscover the “national essence” through their study of New Confucianism. This essay examines New Confucianism in the context of the culture craze of the 1980s China. I argue that this seemingly philosophical exercise was principally brought about by cultural and political necessity; that the studies on New Confucianism were intentionally directed toward practical ends; and that the newly created “Confucian discourse” helped to reconstruct and re-imagine the Confucian ideal in post-Mao Chinese society, later serving as a catalyst for the “national studies craze” (guoxue re 國學熱) of the 1990s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Confucianism: A Critical Examination
EditorsJohn Makeham
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4039-8241-4
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-52652-9
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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