Translated Titles

An Intellectual History of the Ancient Chinese Despotism Thesis


侯旭东(Xu-Dong Hou)

Key Words

专制主义 ; 专制政体 ; 孟德斯鸠 ; 明治维新 ; 梁启超



Volume or Term/Year and Month of Publication

2008卷4期(2008 / 07 / 01)

Page #

4 - 28

Content Language


Chinese Abstract


English Abstract

Since late 19(superscript th) century, the thesis that the imperial Chinese polity from Qin to Qing was despotic and that Chinese emperors were despots has been popular and influential. Indeed, it has constituted one of the basic theses employed in studies of Chinese history. This paper looks at this thesis from the angle of intellectual history, analyzing its emergence, its spread and its consequences. The paper points out that this thesis was not a result of scientific research, but a Western bias towards the Orient dating to Aristotle that a few Western thinkers began to use in the 18(superscript th) century to describe China. It was introduced into China via Japan in the late 19(superscript th) century and was widely accepted by Chinese intellectuals of all standpoints. Through dictionaries and history textbooks, it also seeped nearly unquestioned into the general populace. The despotism thesis has not been sufficiently demonstrated by historical facts, so if we use it without any re-considerations to understand the Chinese ruling mechanism in imperial times, it will only hinder our research.

Topic Category 人文學 > 歷史學