Since the late Qing Dynasty, interaction between Eastern and Western cultures increased profoundly, leading to an influx of neologism into China. This book engages a combination of conceptual history and global history to explore the translation of the concept "Enlightenment" in the Anglophone world into“qimeng yundong” in China. The study centers in the period between 1880 and 1980 and investigates how the concept evolved and gained unique significance in the East Asian context. The narrative begins by examining translation activities at the end of the Qing Dynasty and during the early Republican era. Texts, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and textbooks, are analyzed to map the semantic change of “qimeng yundong” as a term in the knowledge production process, from standardization to popularization in modern China.
In the 20th century, “qimeng yundong” has been widely adopted by Chinese intellectuals as a conceptual framework to express the current status and formulate visions for the future. The book provides a close look into the New Enlightenment Movement of the 1930s and the subsequent wave of enlightenment project and movement in 1950–1980, led by Haiguang Yin and Yuanhua Wang, known as “sons of May Fourth.” By interpreting these historical moments, this book aims to characterize the “qimeng yundong” of modern China as a unique movement with distinct national and historical features, rather than a mere transplantation of the European Enlightenment.
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