Distinguished Lecture Podcasts: Prof Qin Hui & Prof Yuri Pines

For those who missed the February or March 2016 Distinguished Lectures by Professor Qin Hui, Tsinghua University and Professor Yuri Pines we are pleased to provide these podcasts.

Prof Qin Hui: “Confucian Values and English Constitutional Monarchy: Historical Routes of China’s Modernization”

Prof Yuri Pines, “Empire without Emperors? Rethinking Aspects of China’s Modernisation”


When “cultural differences” and “civilizational clashes” are popular discourses in our intellectual thinking today, it is hard to imagine Confucian values have any affinity with Western democratic values and institutions. When Chinese Confucian scholar/officials first encountered the West in the latter half of the 19th century, however, they identified Western institutions such as English Constitutional Monarchy as very much representing Confucian values—in its true and authentic sense.

This lecture will highlight the enthusiastic embrace of Western democratic institution by a host of late Qing Confucian scholar/officials, from the first Chinese ambassador to Britain Guo Songtao (1818-1891) to Zhang Shusheng (1824-1884), a powerful Qing official whose will was for China to adopt Western democratic policy as the “foundation” for a Confucian state. They saw, for instance, the “loyalty” the English people expressed towards their Queen/King was most sincere precisely because they were detached from power. Indeed, the decency of the English constitutional monarchy ignited the dormant “ancient Confucianism” in these late Qing Confucian scholar/officials who allied themselves with Western democratic institutionalism to fight against the age-old enemy of Confucianism: the notorious and cruel dictator the First Emperor of Qin (260-210 BC).

But there was also a strong force in modern Chinese history that yearned for the wealth and power of the nation through a modern-day First Emperor facilitated by an alliance of the traditional “Legalist” thought and radical authoritarian ideology from the West. Confucianism, in any case, had not been in that company.

ProfQinHuiProfessor Qin Hui 秦晖 is Professor of History at Tsinghua University, China. His research has covered several fields in economic history, social history and history of ideas. He has published more than twenty books including Fields and Garden Poetry and Rhapsodies (田园诗与狂想曲), Ten Treatises on Tradition (传统十论), Out of the Imperial System (走出帝制), Common Baseline (共同的底线), Issues and Isms (问题与主义), Revelations from South Africa (南非的启示).


China’s republican revolution of 1911 is overwhelmingly considered – notwithstanding ongoing debates over its nature, course, and outcomes-a necessary and positive step on the country’s path toward social and political “modernization.” Yet if viewed in the context of traditional Chinese political culture, the haphazard abolition of the millennia-old monarchic form of rule appears as less prudent. In this talk Prof Pines addressed the short and long-term repercussions of China’s transformation from a monarchy into a republic and reassessed its political and cultural consequences. This renewed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of China’s abolition of monarchic rule may be of interest to historians of traditional and modern China and also of some relevance to those concerned with China’s ongoing attempts to redefine its cultural image.

yuriBorn in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1964 Yuri Pines works at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses on political thought of pre-imperial (pre-221 BCE) China and on the political culture of imperial China. He is also involved in studies of political, social, and religious history of pre-imperial and early imperial (Qin) China and of early Chinese historiography.