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

From Critique of Tradition to Reinterpretation of the Classics: Hu Shih’s Studies of Dai Zhen and Its Intellectual Significance

Eugene W. Chiu

Department of History, Tunghai University

During the May Fourth Movement the spirit of the time was to severely criticize and denounce the Chinese tradition. In contrast to this spirit, the post-May Fourth period saw a movement that attempted to reinterpret the Classics. It was Hu Shi (1891-1962), one of the major leaders of the May Fourth Movement, who also launched the new intellectual movement, known as “zhengli guogu” (reorganization of the national past), to reinterpret tradition. His new views puzzled his faithful followers of the May Fourth period. This article uses Hu Shi’s representative work during the “zhengli guogu” period in 1920s, A Study of Thought of Dai Zhen (1724-1777), to answer two questions. First, how does Hu Shi explain the Chinese traditional study of kaozheng (criticism of classics), which shares some Western ideas of positivism, by making use of the modern thoughts touted by modern Chinese Enlightenment thinkers? Furthermore, how does he criticize Neo-Confucianism through his study of Dai Zhen, master of the kaozheng study in the Qing dynasty? And second, from the May Fourth Enlightenment Movement to the post-May Fourth Movement that attempted the reinterpretation of tradition, China encountered difficult intellectual choices in the process. How does Hu Shi face these choices, characterized by the revival of idealism, by making use of the positive philosophy of kaozheng learning?


Key Words: Hu Shi, Dai Zhen, Zhengli guogu, Critique of Tradition, Critique of Neo-Confucianism, Kaozheng Learning