Minghui HuSep 15, 2015
China's Transition to Modernity
The New Classical Vision of Dai Zhen
University of Washington Press 2015
Minghui Hu's new book takes Dai Zhen as a case study to look at broader transformations in classical scholarship, technical methodologies, politics, and their relationships in the Qing period. This story of Dai Zhen begins before his birth and ends after his death, extending from a moment in which the Jesuits were denounced as "seditious foreigners" in 1664, to around 1800, when Dai's classical vision was used by the Qing state as a kind of political-scientific legitimation of their rule. Dai Zhen's methodology became the groundwork for a new political philosophy, and China's Transition to Modernity: The New Classical Vision of Dai Zhen (University of Washington Press, 2015) takes that methodology and Dai's technical accomplishments seriously. Hu's book embeds a history of Dai's work and legacy within a broader treatment of the work of European scholars and their legacy in shaping eighteenth and nineteenth century discourse, and it offers a fascinating window into an important aspect of the history of Qing science, scholarship, and politics.