This dissertation examines how an imported concept “ Renaissance” played an essential role in the Chinese quest for modernity in a time of crisis. By probing into the nexus of literature, thought, media and politics, this study attempts to problematize the acceptance and appropriation of “Renaissance” as an object of intellectual contemplation and a transcultural construct in the first half of the twentieth century.
Instead of investigating whether there was indeed a “Chinese Renaissance,” my research goal is to shed light on the intellectual debates initiated by and centered around this narrative in modern China. How did Chinese writers, scholars and intellectuals engage in productive dialogue and exchange regarding the Western Renaissance and Chinese literature and thought? Bearing this question in mind, this study attempts to draw a picture of the new literary and intellectual landscape stimulated by the collision and convergence of different civilizations in modern China. I am interested in why and how individuals - be they tagged liberals (such as Hu Shi), progressive scholars (such as Liang Qichao), conservatives (such as Wu Mi), or left-wing or right-wing intellectuals or politicians - became engrossed with a national revival project characterized as “modern.” Through examining a range of discussions and debates surrounding the project of the “moder.” Through examining a range of discussions and debates surrounding the project of the “Chinese r/Renaissance(s),” this project scrutinize how Chinese literati reconstructed their cultural past and imagined a blueprint for the future with multiple contemporary concerns in a time of both crises and opportunities. Additionally, through the lens of the mediated “renaissances” in modern China, a history of the printing culture, urban activities and ideological competition among different groups is also traceable.
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