Chinese academic views on Shang Yang since the open-up-and-reform era

Yuri Pines, Carine Defoort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Book of Lord Shang attributed to Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE) is one of the most controversial products of ideological debates in pre-imperial China (pre-221 BCE). Forty years ago, Li Yu-ning summarized previous rounds of debates that peaked with the Shang Yang fervor of the early 1970s. The present article takes over where she ended, further exploring trends in studies of the Book of Lord Shang since the Openup- and-Reform Era (1978-). The paper shows that despite a clear tendency of depoliticization of these studies, scholars are still deeply influenced by the tradition of using the figure of Shang Yang as a foil in contemporary political debates. In their evaluation of Shang Yang’s legacy, many contemporary Chinese scholars continue to use traditional views, but also modern ideas such as the "rule of law," "progress," "evolution," "dialectic," or the Marxist theory of distinct social stages. They all contribute to the ongoing relevance of Lord Shang to current China.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Chinese Thought
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Yuri Pines?s work as co-editor and translator of this issue was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant 240/15) and by the Michael William Lipson Chair in Chinese Studies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Taylor & Francis.


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