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“National studies” in China and Japan


‘National studies’ (guoxue 国学) became a hot topic in China in the 1990s. Since then, national studies masters, national studies academies and national studies classes have mushroomed all over China. The craze for reading ancient classics has become an interesting social phenomenon. China’s economic growth has resulted in stronger cultural and political confidence. Beyond this, at least three different questions are pertinent for the discussion about national studies in China: Do national studies in China pre-suppose a nation-state? Is the scope of national studies in China limited to Confucianism? What kind of spirit or faith does national studies in China try to foster? These are questions that are not easy to answer, but to ignore them would raise even more questions. In order to facilitate a rational understanding of the discussion about national studies in China, this paper will focus on the origin of the notion of national studies in China and its relationship to similar studies, including national studies in Japan (kokugaku 国学). Analyzing their characteristics, this paper will also reflect on the kinds of problems national studies in China are likely to face.

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This paper was originally presented as an invited talk at Stockholm Confucius Institute Annual Lecture 2011, Organized in cooperation with Institute for Security and Development Policy. Stockholm University, 07, Dec, 2011. I would like to thank Professor Qian Suoqiao who helped me to prepare this paper in English. I also thank Professor Loden, Torbjörn for his valuable comments and advice on this paper.

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Correspondence to Xiaolin Wang.

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Wang, X. “National studies” in China and Japan. Int. Commun. Chin. Cult 3, 413–426 (2016).

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  • National studies
  • China
  • Japan
  • Pre-modern intellectual thought