Darwinism’s Applications in Modern Chinese Writings
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To enable publication of the research
The core aim of this interdisciplinary research is to provide a critical analysis of the influence of Darwinism and Social Darwinism on a sample of modern Chinese writings. To achieve these aims, the researcher uses a range of both Chinese and English sources to explore their close affinities with Darwinism and Social Darwinism. Following this course, the research examines how Darwinian thought was introduced to the Chinese reading public in the late nineteenth century through a translation of Thomas Henry Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics by Yen Fu, and the subsequent impact of this work and Darwinian thought in general on seven literary and political figures: K'ang Yu-wei, Liang Qichao, Lu Xun, Hu Shih, Chen Duxiu, Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong. From an historical perspective, the Opium Wars and imperial invasions of China in the nineteenth century severely weakened the country’s political, economic, diplomatic, military, educational and cultural power. For these reasons and others, from 1840 to 1949, China experienced a tumultuous period of social and political transformation, which has eventually led to her revival in the twenty-first century. It will be seen that each of the literary figures examined here used evolutionary thought to justify revolution at various points on China’s long march to modernity. Progressive Darwinian ideas sharply contrasted with the old Confucian values upheld within Chinese communities. Nevertheless, the faults and weaknesses of Qing China awakened many pioneering revolutionaries who sought to reverse the status quo by initiating a series of radical reforms and revolutionary movements. Many within the Chinese intellectual elite looked to the tide of change and progress coming from the West, which they hoped might replace the recent historical stagnation and Confucian dogma embedded in Chinese culture and society. In this vein, many of these pioneering revolutionaries set about driving the historical transformation of China by selecting, translating and interpreting Darwinian ideas in their own writings. From Yen Fu in the nineteenth century to Mao Zedong in the twentieth century, evolutionary thought went hand in hand with China’s modernization.
PhD in English