Higher Education

, Volume 77, Issue 5, pp 815–829 | Cite as

Pilgrimage to the West: modern transformations of Chinese intellectual formation in social sciences

  • Rui Yang
  • Meng XieEmail author
  • Wen Wen


Since the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese intellectuals turned to the West for truth. China’s modern education system has since been built upon Western experience, with little space for China’s vast indigenous intellectual traditions. Meanwhile, Chinese traditions remain omnipresent and ubiquitous in the society. Due to many fundamental differences, Chinese and Western traditions are not compatible with each other. Constant tensions between them have led to Chinese people’s loss of spiritual homeland. Universities are both part of the reason for and a result of such a historical development. The shift of knowledge system from traditional learning to Western intellectual formation symbolizes the establishment of modern disciplines in Chinese universities. A better understanding of how traditional Chinese intellectual traditions were driven out of their homeland as Western knowledge became institutionalized is much needed in the literature. This article intends to fill the gap by exploring how the Chinese mind was transformed through the lens of institutionalization of social sciences. It focuses on internationalization and indigenization of China’s social sciences with particular attention to the interactions between Chinese and Western intellectual traditions.


China’s intellectual traditions Social sciences Western knowledge The university Academic disciplines 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of EducationRenmin University of ChinaBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute of EducationTsinghua UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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