Body, Ritual and Identity
Jui-sung Yang, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Yan Yuan (1635-1704) has long been a controversial figure in the study of Chinese intellectual and cultural history. Although marginalized in his own time largely due to his radical attack on Zhu Xi (1130-1200), Yan was elevated to a great thinker during the early twentieth century because of the drastic changes of the modern Chinese intellectual climate. In Body, Ritual and Identity: A New Interpretation of the Early Qing Confucian Yan Yuan (1635-1704), Yang Jui-sung has demonstrated that the complexity of Yan’s ideas and his hatred for Zhu Xi in particular need to be interpreted in light of his traumatic life experiences, his frustration over the fall of the Ming dynasty, and anxiety caused by the civil service examination system. Moreover, he should be better understood as a cultural critic of the lifestyle of educated elites of late imperial China. By critically analyzing Yan’s changing intellectual status and his criticism that the elite lifestyle was unhealthy and feminine, this new interpretation of Yan Yuan serves to shed new light on our understanding of the features as well as problems of educated elite culture in late imperial China.