Research Article

Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 100-113

First online:

Semantic criticism: The “westernization” of the concepts in ancient Chinese philosophy—A discussion of Yan Fu’s theory of Qi

  • Zhenyu ZengAffiliated withAdvanced Institute for Confucian Studies, Shandong University Email author 


Every philosophical mode has a unique conceptual system. “Qi” has consistently been a fundamental part of ancient Chinese philosophy, and its significance is obvious. Guided by the idea of “re-evaluating all values,” Yan Fu, who was deeply influenced by Western philosophy and logic, used “reverse analogical interpretation” to present a new explanation of the traditional Chinese concept of qi. Qi thus evolved into basic physical particles. Yan’s philosophical effort has great significance: The logical ambiguity that had haunted qi was overcome. However, qi gradually evolved into a particular existence as it was “Westernized.” It completely lost its internal “flavor” as indigenous Chinese philosophy. Its previous philosophical abstraction and universality diminished and at the same time it was not “Westernized” into the “pure concept” of Hegel’s philosophy.”


Qi ontological source Yan Fu reverse analogical interpretation Westernization