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3. Nation, History and Ethics: The Choices of Post-Imperial Historiography in China

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Chapter Summary

The history of modern Chinese historical thought and writing is characterized by a close interaction between indigenous traditions and the modern Western post-Enlightenment views of history and historiography. Time was quantified and transformed into a quasi-mechanical, abstract time of experience as opposed to the qualitative time of a normative order. The historical process is ruled by cause and effect, and thus is much less subject to the influence of human agency. Ethics is neither part of a larger cosmic process nor is it embedded in history through human agency. The historian focuses on the concrete rites and customs of the people. A reading of Liu Yizheng in light of the dual horizon as outlined at the beginning of this article will help to understand his peculiar position. It is thus obvious that Liu's concept of history does not have to be rescued from the nation.

Keywords: ethics; Liu Yizheng; nation; post-imperial historiography



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