The interactions and tensions between Western and Chinese ideas and values have a long and complex history. In recent years, however, hostility in China to Western claims about “universal values” has become so intense that they now lead the list of seven topics that should not be discussed in China. This paper will explore the issue through the lens of the contemporary revival of Confucianism in China. It will focus on the World Zhu Family Association’s promotion, since 1993, of the universal significance of Zhu Xi’s Family Instructions. It will discuss recent work written with some degree of association to the Zhu group, such as Chen Lai’s recent books on Chinese values as well as a Shanghai edited volume, What’s Called Universal? Who’s Values? In addressing how such work explores these questions, this paper will ask: what might we learn about the struggle over universal values by surveying the claims of this sector of Contemporary Confucians in China?
Hoyt Cleveland Tillman 田浩 is Professor of Chinese History in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. He earned a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University, under the direction of Benjamin Schwartz and Ying-shih Yü. In 2000, he became the first Sinologist to be awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize (Humboldt-Forschungspreis) for his research contributions. He is an affiliated researcher at Peking University’s Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History. He is currently also a visiting research scholar at the National Library’s Center for Chinese Studies and Academia Sinica’s Institute of History & Philology. He has taught at Peking University, Renmin University of China, National Taiwan University, Ludwig-Maxillian-Universitaet in Munich, and the University of Washington. He has written or edited more than a dozen books and over a hundred referred articles and essays. Most of his research has focused on the history of Confucianism in the Song, Jin and Yuan periods; however, one of his current projects is the revival of Confucianism in China today.