cultural discussion


cultural discussion
(wenhua taolun)
Intellectual debate
‘Cultural discussion’ refers to the major academic debate during the culture fever of the 1980s. The debate was stimulated by the ongoing economic reforms. Frustrated by various problems encountered in the reform, intellectuals were eager to find the roots of and solutions to these problems. Culture was believed a crucial factor in social and economic transition. What role Chinese traditional culture was playing in the reform and modernization thus became the dominant issue in the discussion. Two opposing views emerged. One believed that China’s traditional culture, more specifically its core, Confucianism, could become a very positive spiritual resource for China’s modernization.
The other condemned Confucianism and Chinese traditional culture as incompatible with modern society and therefore to be got rid of, and argued that modern culture originated in the West should be introduced to transform Chinese society and mindset. To a large extent these two opinions echoed those debated in the New Culture movement seventy years before; however, unlike the earlier situation, the opinion favouring Chinese traditional culture seemed to win a more sympathetic hearing and attract more attention. Overseas Chinese scholars have played a significant role in this cultural discussion. Chinese-American scholar Tu Wei-ming, for example, lectured in Beijing and Shanghai several times in the mid 1980s, arguing that Confucianism had played a very positive role in the modernization of East and Southeast Asia, and it could play a similar role in China’s modernization. His arguments greatly stimulated the discussion and convinced people to pay more attention to the positive elements in China’s tradition. This discussion continued to attract scholarly attention until the end of the decade, and it has greatly deepened and widened people’s understanding of tradition and modernization.
Wang, Jing (1996). ‘High Culture Fever: The Cultural Discussion in the Mid-1980s and the Politics of Methodologies’. In idem, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 37–117.
LIU CHANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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