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Gu Hongming as a Cultural Amphibian: A Confucian Universalist Critique of Modern Western Civilization

CHUNMEI DU
Journal of World History
Vol. 22, No. 4 (December 2011), pp. 715-746
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41508016
Page Count: 32
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Gu Hongming as a Cultural Amphibian: A Confucian Universalist Critique of Modern Western Civilization
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Abstract

Intellectuals around the world debated the meaning of civilization during the World War I era. This article reexamines the life and ideas of the so-called Chinese sage Gu Hongming. Born and raised in British Malaya, Gu grew up as an English-educated Romanticist, but he ended as a staunch monarchist and eminent Confucian propagandist to the early twentieth-century Western world. In contrast to the traditional label of "cultural conservative," I propose the new concept of "cultural amphibians" to characterize Gu and his contemporary "spokesmen of the East." Because of their social "hybrid vigor" and transcultural competence at a time of rapid global transformations, these men were able to forge "authentic" identities across national, ideological, and cultural boundaries. Seemingly rooted in a cultural and ideological confrontation between the West and the non-West, their discourses on "Eastern-Western civilizations" are in fact better seen as marked by a global intellectual syncretism.

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