Modern Chinese Counter-Enlightenment

Affect, Reason, and the Transcultural Lexicon

(現代中國反啟蒙: 唯情、理性與跨文化語彙)

Peng Hsiao-yen

ISBN : 978-988-8805-69-3

Chinese Philosophy / Chinese Literature / Chinese History / Linguistics

June 2023

240 pages, 9″ x 6″, 8 b&w illus.

  • HK$300.00

In Modern Chinese Counter-Enlightenment: Affect, Reason, and the Transcultural Lexicon, Peng Hsiao-yen argues that a trend of Counter-Enlightenment had grown from the late Qing to the May Fourth era in the 1910s to the 1920s and continued to the 1940s. She demonstrates how Counter-Enlightenment was manifested with case studies such as Lu Xun’s writings in the late 1900s, the Aesthetic Education movement from the 1910s to 1920s, and the Science and Lifeview debate in the 1920s. During the period, the life philosophy movement, highlighting the epistemic debate on affect and reason, is connected with its counterparts in Germany, France, and Japan. The movement had widespread and long-term impact on Chinese philosophy and literature. Using the transcultural lexicon as methodology, this book traces how the German term Lebensanschauung (lifeview), a key concept in Rudolf Eucken’s life philosophy, constituted a global tide of Counter-Enlightenment that influenced the thought of leading Chinese intellectuals in the Republican era. Peng contends that Chinese intellectuals’ transcultural connections with others in the philosophical pursuit of knowledge triggered China’s self-transformation. She has successfully reconstructed the missing link in the Chinese theater of the worldwide dialectic of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment.

Peng Hsiao-yen is an adjunct research fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica. She has published widely on modern Chinese literature and culture, Chinese intellectual history, and transcultural studies.

“This book can be considered a milestone in modern Chinese and cultural studies. It is also the most ambitious attempt in developing a new kind of interdisciplinary studies—an attempt that bears a philosophic weight and cuts across the disciplines of Sinology, comparative literature, intellectual history, and translation studies. At the same time, it seeks to demonstrate a new theory of ‘Transcultural Lexicon’ which should appeal to all scholars interested in cultural theories.”

—Leo Ou-fan Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong

“In the age ruled by the myth of technoscientific triumphalism, this timely and refreshing book unearths a critical strand of thought and sensibility against enlightenment rationality in modern China. Drawing on historical archives and debates, Peng Hsiao-yen stages a compelling critique of industrial modernity and the pursuit of wealth and power at the cost of emotional ties, community, and organic lifeways.”

—Ban Wang, Stanford University