2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

“Museumifying” the Past: The Tendency of Innovationist Intellectuals in the Late Qing and Early Republic to

Exorcise the “Ancient” from the “Modern”

Zhitian Lou

Department of History, Sichuan University

Innovationist intellectuals in the late Qing and early Republic continuously hoped to relegate China's traditions to the museum, not allowing them to continue into the modern era.  Believing that tradition would adversely affect the development of the Chinese nation, many intellectuals tried hard to exorcise the “ancient” from the “modern”.  This view had been clearly expressed by Chinese anarchists in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century, after which it continued to circulate, becoming particularly popular from the May Fourth New Culture Movement to the Northern Expedition.  Although a few intellectuals in both innovationist and conservative circles criticized this “antiquitization” of tradition, even some we have considered to be conservative agreed that the Chinese tradition had become an “antique”.  This essay examines the process whereby this view was expressed, circulated, and developed in the late Qing and early Republican period, and also looks at its later impact.


Keywords: the “antiquitization” of tradition, anti-traditionism / iconoclasm, tradition and modernity, mind of the late Qing and early Republic, culture and state