The transcendent and the mundane in the intellectual world of Chang Ping-lin (1869-1936) [article]

Warren Wan-Kuo Sun, University, The Australian National, University, The Australian National
2017
Chang Ping-lin (1869-1936) was the main architect of modem Chinese nationalism and a pivotal figure in China's transformation from empire to republic. Yet in the English-speaking world he remains a relatively obscure entity compared with his Revolutionary comrades (Sun Yat-sen, Huang Hsing, Sung Chiao-jen and others) or with his erstwhile Reformist colleagues (such as K'ang Yu-wei and Liang Ch'i-ch'ao). Even less well-known and understood is Chang Ping-lin as a thinker, compared with his
more » ... oraries, Yen Fu, T'an Ssü-t'ung, Wang Kuo-wei, Ts'ai Ylian-p'ei and Hsiung Shih-li, to name but a few. Yet Chang's philosophical achievement w-as second to none of the above-mentioned. In fact Chang Ping-lin was probably the single philosopher that modem China has ever produced in terms of intellectual magnitude, vigour, methodology and depth. This preliminary study of Chang sets out to tackle this blind spot in Western studies of modem Chinese intellectual history. In China itself, the study of Chang Ping-lin suffers from a different kind of limitation, largely due to party politics and related historiographical prejudice. As a partisan of the people and a non-conformist in party politics, Chang Ping-lin, both the man and his thought, has very often been treated inadequately or unjustly by official historians of both the Communist and the Nationalist camps. Apart from many other reasons, including ideological differences and Chang's own condemnation of both the CCP and the KMT (ranging from Sun Yat-sen to Chiang Kai-shek), the sources of this misunderstanding and animosity can be traced back, respectively, to Chang's opponent, Wu Chih-hui, and, ironically, Chang's student, Lu Hsiin, both of whom (posthumously in Lu Hsiin's case) were figures of great intellectual authority in the KMT and CCP regimes respectively. Lu Hsiin advanced the view that Chang's overall intellectual achievement was less impressive than his political contribution to the 1911 Revolution. This view has since inspired, in the PRC, a prevailing portrait [...]
doi:10.25911/5d76328c7f640 fatcat:k37zvpms3jg7ld3ecjlmvp37lq