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Journal Article

Crossing Cultural Borders: How to Understand Historical Thinking in China and the West

Jörn Rüsen
History and Theory
Vol. 46, No. 2 (May, 2007), pp. 189-193
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4502238
Page Count: 5
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Crossing Cultural Borders: How to Understand Historical Thinking in China and the West
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Abstract

Topical intercultural discourse on historical thinking is deeply determined by fundamental distinctions, mainly between the "East" and the "West." The epistemological preconditions of this discourse are normally not reflected or even criticized. This article follows Chun-Chieh Huang's attempt to give Chinese historical thinking a new voice in this intercultural discourse. It agrees with Huang's strategy of focusing the description of the peculiarity of Chinese historical thinking on fundamental criteria of historical sense-generation. Huang argues for a strict difference between the Chinese way of sense-generation in history and the Western one. Against this distinction I argue that both traditions of historical thinking follow the same logic, namely that of the exemplary mode, which is known in the Western tradition by Cicero's slogan "Historia vitae magistra." Instead of claiming this mode as typical of Chinese historical thinking, I propose to clarify the difference between China and the West by looking for a modification of the same logic. Finally the question arises as to what the paradigmatic shift of historical thinking from the exemplary to the genetic mode means for the Chinese tradition Huang has presented. This shift cannot be understood as only a Western one, since it is a mode of pursuing modernity in history by a fundamental temporalization in the interpretation of the human world.

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