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6 Translating Liberalism into China in the Early Twentieth Century: The Case of Yan Fu

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Chapter Summary

The translations of Yan Fu 嚴復 (1854-1921), as well as his original writings, presented a blueprint for China's future. In particular, his translations of J.S. Mill's "On Liberty in 1903" and Edward Jenks's "A History of Politics in 1903-4", although less influential than his translation of Thomas Huxley's "Evolution and Ethics", offered a wealth of new views about social and political issues. His blueprint can be regarded as the origin of modern Chinese liberalism. Yan's translation of Mill was thus aimed at readers outside the political center, especially "young ones". At this time, Western concepts of liberty had already aroused much attention in China. Although Yan had a strong sense of the distinctiveness of the Western concept of freedom, he also saw it as similar to the Chinese concepts of shu 恕 and xieju 絜矩.

Keywords: liberalism; liberty; modern China; politics; Yan Fu

10.1163/9789004270220_008
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