Tianxia system on a snail’s horns
ABSTRACT This article aims to report the findings from some recent researches on the historical formation of the concept of tianxia and its original meanings. In the light of these findings, I would like to make some comments on the Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang’s works on tianxia system. I demonstrate that the concept of tianxia portrayed by Zhao is at odds with the historical concepts of tianxia in many ways, and that the challenge raised by the latter to Chinese nationalism today is unanswered. I also examine Zhao’s proposal of tianxia system and point out that this proposal as a universalist commitment to a philosophy of the world seems to have failed on both the motivational and theoretical levels. At the end I make an observation about a problem which might have a profound but inimical effect on the creativity of Chinese intellectual minds, namely the urge to make chinoiserie theories at the expense of theoretical coherence and logical consistency.
KEYWORDS: tianxia, jiuzhou, zhongguo, chinoiserie, Zhao Tingyang
Chi-Shen Chang 張其賢 is a postdoctoral research fellow in Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences (RCHSS), Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He got his doctorate degree from Department of Political Science, National Taiwan University. His PhD dissertation is about the historical formation of a strand of ethnic thought in pre-modern China which bore striking similarities to nationalism. Dr. Chang teaches at National Taiwan University and is now working on modern Chinese political thought.