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Liang Shuming

Born Liang Huanding
18 October 1893(1893-10-18)
Died 23 June 1988 (aged 94)
Pen name Liang Shuming
Occupation philosopher
Language Chinese
Nationality Chinese
Writing period 1912-1984

Liang Shuming (Chinese: 梁漱溟pinyin: Liáng Shùmíng, October 18, 1893—June 23, 1988), born Liang Huanding (梁焕鼎), courtesy name Shouming (寿铭), was a philosopher, teacher, and leader in the Rural Reconstruction Movement in the late Qing Dynasty and early Republican eras of Chinese history.

Liang was of Guilin, Guangxi origin, but born in Beijing. He was the son of a famous intellectual who committed suicide apparently in despair at the state of the Chinese nation. He had a modern education and exposure to Western writings.

In 1917 he was recruited by Cai Yuanpei to the philosophy department of Beijing University, where he produced an influential book based on his lectures entitled Eastern and Western Cultures and their Philosophies, which expounded some of the doctrines of a modern Confucianism. He also displayed the influence of Henri Bergson, then popular in China, as well as Buddhist Yogacara philosophy.

Regarding Western civilization as doomed to eventual failure, Liang did not advocate complete reform and adoption of Western institutions. He nonetheless believed that reform was needed to make China equal to the rest of the world. It was his view that the required prerequisites for these institutions did not exist in China, so they would not succeed if introduced. Instead, he pushed for change to socialism starting at the grassroots level. To this end, he founded the Shandong Rural Reconstruction Institute and helped to found the China Democratic League.

Liang was famous for his critique of Marxist class theory, stating that, despite obvious disparities of wealth, Chinese rural society could not be unambiguously classified along class lines. One and the same family (particularly the large patriarchal lineages found in many regions) would commonly have some members among the "haves" and others among the "have-nots". The class struggle advocated by the Maoists would necessitate kinsmen attacking each other.

After the Sino-Japanese War, he mediated disputes between the Communist and Nationalist parties. After the victory of the Communists in 1949, he was occasionally persecuted in ideological campaigns, but refused to admit any error. He died in Beijing.

See also

References

  • Alitto, Guy. The Last Confucian: Liang Shu-ming and the Chinese Dilemma of Modernity 2nd ed. 1986, University of California Press.
  • de Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume II (Second Edition) New York: Columbia, 2000.
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