Utopia and Utopianism in the Contemporary Chinese Context

Texts, Ideas, Spaces


Edited by David Der-wei Wang, Angela Ki Che Leung, and Zhang Yinde

ISBN : 978-988-8528-36-3

Religion, Philosophy

April 2020

244 pages, 7″ x 10″

  • HK$475.00

Utopia and Utopianism in the Contemporary Chinese Context: Texts, Ideas, Spaces decisively demonstrates the extent to which utopianism has shaped political thought, cultural imaginaries, and social engagement after it was introduced into the Chinese context in the nineteenth century. In fact, pursuit of utopia has often led to action—such as the Chinese Revolution and the Umbrella Movement—and contested consequences. Covering a time span that goes from the late Qing to our days, the authors show that few ideas have been as influencing as utopia, which has compellingly shaped the imaginaries that underpin China’s historical change.

Utopianism contributed to the formation of the Chinese state itself—shaping the thought of key figures of the late Qing and early Republican eras such as Kang Youwei and Sun Yat-sen—and outlived the labyrinthine debates of the second half of the twentieth century, both under Mao’s rule and during the post-socialist era. Even in the current times of dystopian narratives, a period in which utopia seems to be less influential than in the past, its manifestations persistently provide lifelines against fatalism or cynicism. This collection shows how profoundly utopian ideas have nurtured both the thought of crucial figures during these historical times, the new generation of mainland Chinese and Sinophone intellectuals, and the hopes of twenty-first-century Hong Kong activists.

David Der-wei Wang is Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Angela Ki Che Leung is director and chair professor of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Zhang Yinde is professor of comparative literature at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle–Paris 3.

“Wang, Leung, and Zhang’s collection is a timely contribution to utopian studies built on consistent, coherent, boundary-crossing approaches. Interdisciplinary in its very sense, the essays bring intellectual history, literary studies, philosophy, and political theories together in dialogue. Of particular note are the essays that situate Hong Kong in a literary tradition that connects China, Hong Kong, and the beyond.” —Mingwei Song, Wellesley College

Utopia and Utopianism in the Contemporary Chinese Context is an impressive intellectual undertaking. The essays are highly engaging and offer powerful, multi-faceted approaches to utopianism in contemporary Chinese thought and practice. Stimulating and informative, the book as a whole addresses the dynamic interplay between the utopian and dystopian, thereby inspiring clarity in political thought and action in the present moment.” —Robin Visser, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill