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The Rise of a New Tradition: Changes in Values and Life Styles in Late Ming China

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Ethics based on Confucian moral virtues and guides as core values have long formed the “old tradition” in determining the direction of China’s social development. Changes of urban residents’ values and corresponding changes in life styles in late Ming Dynasty demonstrated the emergence of a new cultural tradition that advocated for human freedom and the development of individuality, material enjoyment and pleasures in life, and questioned and critiqued Confucian moral virtues and guides. Although such a cultural tradition had not yet matured, its humanist values made deep imprints in that period. This tradition survived despite of the successions of dynasties and vicissitudes of the ages, although from time to time it became so weak as on the verge of extinction. It was this continuous and unceasing cultural progress that later laid the primitive but essential cultural foundation for the start of China’s efforts to achieve modernization after the middle of the 19th century.


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