Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Taipei Workshop on Exhortation and Critique in Traditional China


Dear colleagues,

if you happen to be in Taipei this week, you might be interested in the upcoming workshop on “Exhortation and Critique in Traditional China” at Soochow University (February 21, 2014, 9:00-18:00).  Here are some excerpts from the agenda of our workshop and the schedule:


“The question of criticism and remonstrance has been of central importance for every culture that formed hierarchical orders beyond the family clan to structure and govern larger communities or entire societies. Once the distinction between superior and inferior, more powerful and less powerful, extended beyond the family, the question of balance – and in extension the question of justice – arose on a new level, and criticism and remonstrance became important tools in the attempt to maintain or restore balance. Traditional China presents an excellent example of this development. From the Book of Songs whose poems were sung to transmit more or less veiled criticisms towards rulers or towards diplomats of other states to set modes of remonstrance – like various forms of petitions with increasingly established patterns of advancing criticism – and the offices for their reception, traditional China may be said to have developed one of the most advanced, formalized, and minute cultures of critique. This culture, however, came with a particular tinge: The absoluteness of the hierarchical order with local rulers and later the emperor at the top seems to have forced inferiors to constantly occupy themselves with the question of how to both be heard and survive…

However, how to interpret such practices of criticism and remonstrance in pre-modern China is still contested among scholars. Scholars like Roger Ames or François Jullien argue that the immanence of the Chinese worldview with the concentration on the one at the center lead to an orientation of all criticism along these lines; consequently, Chinese civilization is said to be lacking the resources for radical critique (Ames, 1989; Jullien, 1995). In his most recent book, Yuri Pines has claimed that even the text of the Mengzi 孟子, often considered to be one of the most important resources for criticism in late imperial China, is characterized by its commitment to stability and unity – to put it slightly different: loyalty to the monarch was always of higher importance than true dissidence (Pines, 2012: 18). This view is opposed to a line of argument which has been developed by contemporary Taiwanese exegets of the Mengzi: according to them, this thinker regards the moral autonomy of the individual as an unconditional value and can therefore rightly be considered as a precursor of modern liberal democracy (Mou Zongsan, 2003; Lee Ming-huei, 1991; Huang Chun-chieh, 2001).

While our workshop focuses on the issue of criticism and remonstrance at the court, it might also be interesting to think about the broader issue of protest in traditional China: recently, the sociologist Ho-fung Hung has demonstrated the basic continuity between various forms of protest in late imperial China, which were often inspired by Neo-Confucian teachings, and protest forms in contemporary China; he therefore urges us to re-think the long-standing paradigm that political modernity (including modern forms of political protest) has originated in early modern Europe (Hung 2013)…”


The Art of Subtle Persuasion? Exhortation and Critique in Traditional China

Workshop at the Philosophy Department, Soochow University, Taipei, February 21 (Friday), 2014. Soochow University, 70 Linhsi Road., Shihlin, Second Academic Building, 8F, D0825 / 東吳大學外雙溪校區第二教研大樓D0825會議室



9.00 – 9.15            Introduction (Michael Schimmelpfennig/Kai Marchal)

9.15 – 10.30        Michael Schimmelpfennig (白馬) (Australian National University): 

“In Search of Systematics: Conceptions of Ways of Remonstrance in pre-Qin and Han Dynasty Sources”

10.30 – 11.45      Kai Marchal (馬愷之) (Soochow University):

“Political Unity or Moral Consciousness? On the Idea of Critique in Neo-Confucianism”

11.45 – 13.00       Chu Ping-tzu (祝平次) (National Tsinghua University):

“Tang Song Literati’s Views on Remonstrance”

14.00 – 15.15      Sato Masayuki (佐藤將之) (National Taiwan University):

How to Protect a Loyal Minster who will Remonstrate his Lord: Xunzi’s Conception of The Three Degrees of Zhong (Loyalty)”

15.15 – 16.30       Fabian Heubel (何乏筆) (Academia Sinica):

“Reflections on the Immanence of Critique”

16.30 – 18.00       General Discussion


The workshop is open to the public. You are welcome to join us! ~
















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