Jin Guantao


Jin Guantao
b. 1947, Hangzhou
Scholar, writer, social critic
Jin Guantao is now a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Chinese Studies and the Director of the Research Centre for Contemporary Chinese Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was trained as a scientist, but became interested in the humanities and social sciences during the Cultural Revolution In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he and his wife, Liu Qingfeng, published many articles on history and philosophy and also some on literary works. The most influential of these were a history article entitled ‘Traditional Society in China: An Ultrastable Structure’ (1980) and a novel called Open Love Letters (1980). In the article, they applied cybernetics and systems theory to historical studies and argued that, in feudal China, the peasant economy, bureaucratic polity and Confucian ideology were closely integrated into an ultra-stable structure. This structure developed a self-correcting mechanism to maintain its integration. It tolerated no deviation of any of these three sub-systems from its normal function. Because of this, traditional society in China was stable, stagnate and long-lasting. The article was later expanded into a book, The Cycle of Growth and Decline—On the Ultrastable Structure of Chinese Society, which further elaborated on the analysis and argument. The novel expressed their concerns about and reflections on life, love, society, history and the fate of Chinese nation while they were living in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution as ‘sent-down youths’ (see xiafang, xiaxiang). It is more philosophical dialogue than story.
In 1984 Jin and his wife began to edit and publish the first book series of the reform era: Towards the Future (Zou xiang weilai). This ambitious project was designed to introduce a younger generation to recent developments in the fields of the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, art and literature. By 1989, before it was banned, about eighty books were published in the series. Their writings and academic activities greatly shaped intellectual life in the 1980s. After 1989, they left the mainland and worked at Hong Kong Chinese University. There they launched a journal, Ershiyi shiji [Twenty-First Century], which quickly became a major forum for intellectual debate, attracting much attention on the mainland and abroad. They have authored more than a dozen books and numerous articles on history, philosophy, literature, science, and on various social issues.
Chen, Fong-ching and Jin, Guantao (1997). From Youthful Manuscripts to River Elegy: The Chinese Popular Cultural Movement and Political Transformation, 1979–1989. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press.
Jin, Guantao (2001). ‘Interpreting Modern Chines History through the Theory of Ultrastable Systems’. Trans. Gloria Davies. In Gloria Davies (ed.), Voicing Concerns: Contemporary Chinese Critical Inquiry. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 157–83.
Wang, Jing (1996). High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 56–64.
LIU CHANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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