Li Zehou and Confucian Philosophy

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Roger T. Ames, Jinhua Jia
Confucian Cultures
  • Honolulu, HI: 
    University of Hawai'i Press
    , July
     410 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


For more than a century scholars both inside and outside of China have undertaken the project of modernizing Confucianism, but few have been as successful or influential as Li Zehou (b. 1930). Since the 1950s, Li’s extensive efforts in this regard have in turn exerted a profound influence on Chinese modernization and resulted in his becoming one of China’s most prominent social critics. To transform Confucianism into a contemporary resource for positive change in China and elsewhere, Li has reinterpreted major ideas and concepts of classical Confucianism, including a rereading of the entire Analects, replete with his own philosophical speculations derived from other Chinese and Western traditions (most notably, the ideas of Kant and Marx), and developed an aesthetical theory that has proved especially far-reaching. 

Although the authors of this volume hail from East Asia, North America, and Europe and a wide variety of academic backgrounds and fields of study, they are unanimous in their appreciation of Li’s contributions to not only an evolving Confucian philosophy, but also world philosophy. They view Li first and foremost as a sui generis thinker with broad global interests and not one who fits neatly into any one philosophical category, Chinese or Western. This is clearly reflected in the chapters included here, which are organized into three parts: Li Zehou and the Modernization of Confucianism, Li Zehou’s Reconception of Confucian Philosophy, and Li Zehou’s Aesthetical Theory and Confucianism. Together they form a coherent narrative that reveals how Li has, for more than half a century, creatively studied, absorbed, and reconceptualized the Confucian ideational tradition to integrate it with Western philosophical elements and develop his own philosophical insights and original theories. At the same time, he has transformed and modernized Confucianism for the purpose of both coalescing with and reconstructing a new world cultural order.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Li Zehou was a key figure in the intellectual foment of the 1980s. A philosopher of aesthetics and historian of Chinese thought, as well as China’s preeminent authority on Kant, Li is the author of The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics(1995), and Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View(with Jane Cauvel; Lexington Books, 2006). A senior research fellow and retired professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li has since 1991 resided in the United States, where he makes his home in Boulder, Colorado.

Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, a Berggruen Fellow, and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Hawai‘i.

Jinhua Jia is Professor of Chinese Culture at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a National Humanities Center Fellow, and an Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) Member.


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