Communauté(s) en Chine ?

Ce texte est à paraître dan les actes du colloque de Lyon Communauté: carrière d’un concept (16-19 mai 2018, Lyon 2, IRHIM, Niall BOng org.)


In What Sense “Community” Is a Typical Confucian Problématique?

— Pei WANG, Tsinghua University[1]


Abstract: The term社群(shequn; Gemeinschaft; community) was not a traditional Confucian problématique. “三纲五常”(the three cardinal guides and the five human relationships) was the mainstream ethical understanding in ancient China. Non-mainstream religions, associations, and academies were the closest approximations to the concept of community. Modern Western concepts of sociology were first introduced into China in the late 19th century, but intellectuals understood them in culturally distinctive ways according to traditional values and in response to the need to strengthen Chinese state. The modern idea of community along with the contrasting concept of society was only popularized in the age of industrialization starting from the late 1970s.

Keywords: Community; society; Confucian


The word « community »(“shequn”) has been widely used in modern Chinese. In academia, it is invoked in sociology as well as in political philosophy where the concept of « communitarianism » has been widely researched and discussed as a typical Confucian problématique. The understanding and discussion of the “community” cannot be separated from the difference between Gesellschaft (society; shehui;社会) and Gemeinschaft (community; shequn; 社群). However, Gemeinschaft (社群; shequn) is a relatively new concept, while Confucian has a much longer tradition. How could Gemeinschaft be a typical Confucian problématique? To explain this, we will trace the acceptance of Western sociology in modern China. We will first clarify the specific meaning of “社”(she) and “群”(qun) in ancient Chinese, followed by a discussion of the reception of the term “society” in the late Qing period, and the fact that large numbers of institutes (xuehui) emerged at that time. Finally, we will discuss the acceptance of Tönnies’ concepts of Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft, and how Gemeinschaft became a typical Confucian problématique in modern times.


“She” and “Qun” (“社”& “群”)

“社群”(shequn) is the translation of “community” in modern Chinese. In ancient Chinese, the difference between the words « she » and « qun » is very obvious. On the left side of « 社 » is « 示 », which is related to the gods, and on the right is the word « 土 », which means land. In ancient Chinese, « 社 »(she) means God of land. The meaning of the word « she » is always related to the land in use, either the site of sacrifice to the god of the land, or day of sacrifice to the god of the land, or the local social commune. Then there were words such as « 结社 »(jieshe; form an association), which were first used to describe the form of organization of Buddhism. A typical example is used to describe the form of the White Lotus, a branch of Buddhism. The word « 结社 »(jieshe; form an association) has an obvious religious association and seems to express an intention that transcends the clan and family. After all, the aim of the association is to ascend to the Western Pure Land of bliss after death. However, we need to point out that Buddhist associations are still closely related to the local community, which is not only controlled by the local officials, but also closely linked to the local monasteries. Therefore, « 结社 »(jieshe; form an association) seems detached from the local, but also limited by the local factors.

The original meaning of the word « 群 » (qun) refers to a kind of animal that gathers in groups. On the right side of the word is « 羊 »(sheep), as the ancients believed that sheep naturally like to gather together.[2] « The Book of Songs[3] says: « three animals for a qun », three or more animals come together to form a collective crowd (group; herd; flock) can be called « qun. » When it comes to the human world, a small range means « friends », sometimes a small group of people, sometimes a large group, more broadly, it means « common people ». In the pre-Qin period, the « 群 » was a relatively neutral description of the aggregation of individuals from the same species. Whether the group was of animals or of human beings, whether it was large or small, whether it was for justice or self-interest, varies according to the specific context. The word « 群 » emphasizes the plural aggregation of homogeneity, and homogeneity is the most important feature of « 群 ».

To sum up, the essence of « she » and « qun » in ancient Chinese is not the same, which is mainly reflected in the difference of the bonds that form the community. The former tends to refer to local communes, and the latter to homogeneity of the group; the latter can also refer to all the people, but the former cannot. All this directly influenced the late Qing intellectuals to translate « society » as « qun« .

One of the more direct factors is that Xunzi[4] argued, « Only people can form qun[5]« :

“Humans are not as strong as oxen, or as fast as horses, but oxen and horses are used by them. How is this so? I say it is because human are able to form communities (群; qun) [6]while animals cannot. Why are humans able to form communities? I say it is because of social divisions. How can social divisions be put into practice? I say it is because of yi (sense of morality and justice). And so if they use yi in order to make social divisions, then they will be harmonized. If they are harmonized, then they will be unified. If they are unified, then they will have more force. If they have more force, then they will be strong. If they are strong, then they will be able to overcome animals.”[7]

When Xunzi said that people could form “qun”, he didn’t mean homogenous aggregation, but the meaning of « 明分使群 »(the division of society into classes). In late Qing dynasty, Yan Fu[8] cited Xunzi to introduce sociology, and in the Wuxu period (1898)[9], Xunzi was also cited for mobilizing intellectuals to form communities. But they didn’t cite Xuzi in the same aspect. Most intellectuals in the Wuxu period focused on setting up institutes that took the meaning of aggregation of “qun”, but avoided the premise of « 明分 »(clarify the division of classes), which was precisely the foundation of ancient China, and also what Yanfu was concerned.

It’s worth noting that the concept of “society” was first introduced into China along with the concept of “sociology”. When sociology was introduced into China, there was a difference in translation. This difference is related to different approaches to the introduction of sociology at that time: one involved the adoption of Japanese translation of Western terms; the other involved the creation of new words to directly translate Western terms. In the former case, Zhang Taiyan (1869-193) accepted the word « shehuixue »(社会学; sociology) in Japanese when he translated the Sociology of Nobuta Kishimoto (1866-1928) in 1902. In the latter case, the direct translation of “sociology” was « qunxue »(群学) used by Yan Fu in 1897. The former translation is widely used in modern Chinese, especially in the way that clarify the difference of society and community stated by Tönnies, which had been introduced into China in 1934. We will discuss the acceptance of « qunxue »(群学) and Tönnies in the next two parts.


“Qunxue” and “Xuehui” (“Sociology”& “Institutes”)

When Yan Fu translated Spencer’s The Study of Sociology (1897-1903), he translated “society” into « qun« (群) and sociology into « qunxue« (群学). Yan Fu said: « [Spencer’s book emphasizes] the evolution of nature, in order to explain the ethics and governance of human relations. This new study is called qunxue (群学), reminding us of Xunzi(荀子, BC313-BC238) who said that people are nobler than animals, because of the ability to form qun(群). That’s why we called Spencer’s theory as qunxue (群学).  » Yan ‘s understanding of Spencer’s society, was not only about the evolution but had carried the implication that it was important to educate people with ethical relations in order to govern a country well. In Yan’s view, society was not only progressive, but also maintained by ethical relations.[10] Yan’s interpretation of Spencer was clearly influenced by Confucian ethics.

The issue of evolution and ethical relations was always the focus of Yan Fu’s introduction of western sociology. He also translated Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics. But the Chinese title of this book – The Theory of Evolution — is half the title of the original English one. Yan didn’t agree with Huxley’s juxtaposition of the evolution as the opposite of ethics. For Yan, evolution is the foundation of qunxue (群学; sociology), society is the product of evolution, and society is an ethical category of differences and hierarchies, beginning with the gradual evolution of men and women. And this is in accordance with Book of Changes[11]: « there are men and women, then couples; there are couples, then fathers and sons; there are fathers and sons, then monarchs; there are monarchs, then higher and lower; there are higher and lower; and then there are propriety and righteousness. »

Yan Fu’s introduction to evolution and sociology has two opposite consequences. On the one hand, both evolution and sociology caused great discussion and ideological trend at that time; on the other hand, Yan Fu’s translation of « evolution » and « society »— »tianyan » and « qunxue »—are not frequently used at that time as « jinhua »(进化) and « shehui »(社会) which are introduced directly from Japanese. It could exist many explanations for the choice of specific translations. Let us focus on the background and influence of Yan Fu’s introduction of Spencer and Huxley. Yan Fu introduced « evolution » and « society » because of the influence of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894), and his translation caused a stir in China. At that time, the most important problématique in China was to save the nation. So the theory of evolution was not popular in China as a natural science theory, but popular as a social theory that urges continuous updating and progress, making real improvement on the society and politics. In contrast, Japanese readers had no interest in the relationship between evolution and ethics, that is, they were generally concerned with biology, and philosophy.

It was the defeat of China at the end of the Qing Dynasty that inspired the intellectuals to rethink the political and social conditions of that time. At the same time as the translation and acceptance of sociology, there formed numerous « xuehui »(institution; 学会) in the Wuxu period (戊戌变法; 1898 Reform period). Kang Youwei[12] said: « China’s atmosphere has always been loose, literati and officials are limited by the prohibitions of society, dare not meet to learn from each other, so the transfer is extremely difficult. To change the atmosphere, to open up mind, and to introduce new knowledge require to form large qun(群). » “A large qun is a country; a small qun, a company, a shehui (社会). »[13] Yan Fu’s translation and introduction of « evolution » and « sociology » emphasized the need to unite with people in the competition among all nations, thus realizing enlightenment and governance. Then in the late Qing Dynasty, the rise of a large number of institutes triggered by the reformists emphasized the importance of forming qun(群) to create new ideas, gathering intellectuals to enlighten the people, so that China could be revitalized.

Let us note three points here. First, Kang Youwei’s understanding of « group » was different from that of Yan Fu. Yan Fu thought that society is ethical and that’s how human beings are different from animals, so he used « qun » to translate “society”. To Kang Youwei, as long as people gather together, it is valuable. Its standard of judgment is « strong », rather than « good ». Second, The understanding of « shehui »(社会) by Kang Youwei at that time was not « society ». His use of the word « shehui »(社会) refers to a private company, which is influenced by Japanese terms. Third, as Kang Youwei said, under the Chinese ethos, intellectuals seldom meet and discuss, so that they have a closed mind.

Kang Youwei’s observation of Chinese intellectuals was sharp and accurate at that time. However, it differs from the tradition of Confucianism. At the beginning of Confucianism, Confucius gathered people to give lectures at Apricot altar, which was already a move to break the class limitation of education and to spread the opportunity of receiving education. In the Qin and Han dynasties, the aristocrats and bureaucrats once again held the access of knowledge. In the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), Buddhism spread to China, and there was a relatively equal spread of knowledge among the monasteries, which in turn stimulated the Confucian education. In the Song Dynasty, Confucianism and Buddhism had an extremely fierce confrontation and fusion. Confucian intellectuals and monks also had close contact. At the same time, the imperial examination system gave more equal access to the rise of the common people, and government schools could not meet the wide range of needs. At this time, the establishment of non-government academies developed rapidly. During the Yuan Dynasty, academies flourished, but were too formalized. Due to the promotion of several famous Confucian ministers in the Ming Dynasty, the academy began to come back to life again.[14] By the Qing Dynasty, the government began to fully supervise the academy, and the vitality of the academy gradually fell down.

As a relatively equal way to disseminate knowledge, the academy is similar to a community with the critical spirit of actual politics. The academy itself has many aspects: it is the product of the imperial examination system, which is a system that tries to break the class solidification and realize the class circulation; and it is also a supplementary section of the hierarchical society of ritual and order[15]. And the academy also has inherited from Confucius the spirit of equality.[16] The complexity of the academy made the intellectuals in the late Qing Dynasty see the possibility of breakthrough: Seeking new knowledge, gathering the masses, inspiring the wisdom of the people, setting up the academies not only followed the tradition of the ancient academy of learning, but also widely popularized the “new”(western) knowledge, enlightening the people’s sense of mission. The institute during Wuxu period not only inherited the tradition of ancient academies criticizing the actual politics. In itself, it has a clear political nature. In sum, the institutes during Wuxu period are typical modern communities, which are formed by a group of people sharing the same ambition, which is different from the Academies in ancient China.

In the late Qing Dynasty, China’s weak defeat stimulated a debate among large numbers of intellectuals, and their reflection on China and their study of the West intertwined. In order to improve the politics and society at that time, they were encouraged to introduce « evolution » and « sociology » in the academic field, and to « set up institutes » in action. If we apply Tönnies’ distinction again, Yan Fu seems to have used the Chinese word « qun »(群), which has the meaning of the word “Gemeinschaft”(community), to translate the word “Gesellschaft” (society). But this dislocation is also understandable, because there was no “Gesellschaft” in Tönnies’ sense in Chinese society at the time.[17]

However, the conceptions of « Gemeinschaft » and « Gesellschaft » of Tönnies had been introduced into China soon after the acceptance of Spencer and Huxley. It was not that influential as Qunxue(群学) at that time[18], but deeply influenced the narrative of “community” today[19]. We will discuss this acceptance in the next part.


« Community  » and « Society » (Gesellschaft & Gemeinschaft )

The term “community” is the product of history and its reception in China was influenced by culture. The word « community » could be traced back to Tönnies; its spread to China can be traced to the early 20th century when some Chinese sociologists returned from study in United States. These sociologists studied and introduced Tönnies’ sociology to China. The earliest introduction should be Wu Wenzao[20]’s “On Systematical School of Sociology in Germany”[21], in which he used the terms « natural society » and « human society », respectively, to translate “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft”, while in another article he argued they could also be translated as « shequ » and « shehui ».[22] It is worth noting that, at that time, the term « shequ » was a new vocabulary, created by Wu Wenzao, because he did not think there was a corresponding term in Chinese before this.

Generally speaking, when Wu used « shequ » and « shehui », the corresponding English terms were “community” and “society”. Considering the translation of these two words from German to English, it was closely related to the Chicago school’s research on the community in the city. Wu graduated from university in United States, and this experience also had affected him. More specifically, the positioning of his “sociology of community” influenced Wu’s translation. Tönnies’s distinction between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft was assumed to be quite formal and theoretical, while when Wu promoted his sociology of community, he emphasized empirical research, claiming that sociologists needed to do research on the community in order to observe and understand society.[23] For Wu, “society is an abstract concept that describes collective life. It is the general term for all the systems of all complex social relations. Community is a concrete expression of the actual life of people in a certain area. It has a material basis and could be observed. » [24]This sort of sociological research based on field works is what he called “sociology of community”.

Wu also defined “sociology of community” with history in mind. He claimed that “community”(shequ) is a modern concept. In fact, this -restriction is directly related to the methodology he provided for the sociology of community. Since Wu emphasized field survey and research, communities were the objects of his study at the time. Meanwhile, as community still had cultural factors and culture is the product of history, it can be traced back to a relatively distant era, say late Qing dynasty. The history before the opium war (1840) should be considered as object of historical sociology but not the sociology of community.

Wu repeatedly emphasized field research because of several specific considerations. From an ideological point of view, the May 4th (1919) Movement has already engulfed the whole China; from a political point of view, social disturbances spread throughout the country since the national revolution; from a social point of view, the pace of change rapidly increased. China was in the midst of major changes that had not been seen in thousands of years. In this period of rapid change from the “old” to the “new”, if sociologists do not observe, record, and study in time, the current situation would soon be gone. Hence, Wu argued that sociologists needed to study and keep the historical materials from this period of time.

From the perspective of the discipline of sociology, Wu believed that the blind pursuit of promoting China’s modernization (namely, Westernization) made students more and more distant from the country’s traditional culture and spirit, which was not a desirable phenomenon for the development of Chinese sociology. Wu studied at Tsinghua University in the early years (1917-1923), when the education was all American-style, and the teaching materials were basically English original textbooks. After the May 4th Movement broke out, he also participated in the Tsinghua demonstrations. Later, he also studied in the United States with the intention of ​​saving the country by education. However, after returning to China and teaching at Yanjing University, he was very dissatisfied with the status quo of completely Westernized Chinese sociology. Correspondingly, he advocated the Sinicization of sociology. He argued that the main point of Sinicization of sociology lies in « starting with the hypothesis and ending with the field survey », which means we must combine theoretical approaches with the field research on community in order to understand Chinese society. If students only have Western sociological education, without any knowledge of the old ritual that has affected Chinese society for thousands of years, it will negatively affect the process of understanding Chinese society. The advantage of field research is that there are still some elders who have good understanding of the old rituals. Through their customs, the students of sociology could understand the functions of folk customs, the basis of the social structure, and the spirit of the tradition.[25]

Wu’s introduction of Tönnies’s work was based on his concept of “sociology of community” in China. He introduced Tönnies’ concepts “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft” to clarify the source of the English terms, “community” and “society”, which was the theoretical background of “sociology of community”. For Wu, among the concepts of “community” and “society”, it is “community” that was his problématique. “Society” appeared as a pair of words of “Community”, and was meant to be an object that needed to be understood through the study of community. This is also why community in the sense of “sociology of community” greatly deviated from the idea of “Gemeinschaft” that Tönnies had in mind.[26]

The second wave of the introduction of Tönnies’ work in China followed the period of reform in the late 1970s. The disciplinary system of sociology was gradually restored in Chinese universities. Tönnies’ sociological theory was introduced again in China under this background. At that time, the introduction of Tönnies did not come directly from the original German text, but rather from The History of Bourgeois Sociology from the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 20th century, a former Soviet sociological textbook[27]. The Soviet Science Press published the original edition of the book in 1979. From the preface of the original edition, we know that the introduction to the history of sociology in this book was in line with the development of sociology in the Soviet Union at that time, namely, with the history of Marxist sociology as the center, and a critique of theories of non-Marxist sociology. The preface of the Chinese translation expresses a similar awareness of problématique.

Although Wu Wanzao and Fei Xiaotong[28] had made great efforts to research and disseminate Tonnie’s theory, it’s worth asking why their contributions were not influential when sociology was established again as a discipline in Chinese universities in the late 1970s, and why he theories of Western sociology were introduced through textbooks from the Soviet Union. There might be two reasons. On the one hand, when Western sociological theories swept China again, Weber and Parsons were the most influential thinkers, which were roughly related to the major subjects of the transitional society and modernization in China. Tönnies’ “Gemeinschaft”, however, had to be driven by the process of urbanization, and it was only because of the process of urbanization that attention was paid to it; this also follows the tradition of community research developed by Wu Wenzao[29]. On the other hand, for China, the term “Gesellschaft” was slowly understood only after the Reform and Opening up in the late 1970s, and it was never the problématique of the Chinese scholars before that time.[30] “Gesellschaft”, which organizes highly diverse individuals through the concepts of law, power, system and interest, could only be understood by common people after the late 1970s. For China, except for a small number of people who studied abroad in the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949), most people did not understand this kind of “Gesellschaft”, nor was it the general problématique of Chinese intellectuals.

Confucian and Community

In ancient China, there were early association organizations of Mohism[31], and there was also the concept of small community such as « people who had been selected on the same list »(同榜) and « fellow countrymen »(同乡). In addition, according to Tönnies’ point of view, the ancient Chinese family, or clan could also be regarded as community. But « community » or « qun » in ancient Chinese never became the problématiques of ancient Chinese.

According to Confucian thought, sovereign and minister, husband and wife, father and son, brother and friend are the five kinds of just interpersonal relations (五伦;五常), which should be practiced actively by everyone, and every person should plan and realize his life from these five aspects in his own specific ethical situation.[32]

The concept of paternity and son is central to the five human relationships, because the relationship between father and son is the basis of the concept of « five human relationships »; this kind of relationship is the most natural, and the starting point of all ethical relations.[33] Based on this, the relationship between husband and wife, sovereign and minister, and down to the relationship of brothers and friends, are all in line with the natural relationship of human beings.[34]

The highest and final development of the concept of “the five human relationships” are the “three cardinal guides”: « ruler guides subject, father guides son, and husband guides wife. » This also contains a historical perspective, after all, in the literature, “three cardinal guides” first appeared in the Western Han Dynasty, Comprehensive Discussions in the White Tiger Hall[35]. However, it is difficult to deny that three cardinal guides are not the essence of the ancient Confucian tradition in the pre-Qin period.

Modern Confucian scholars think that the concept of « the five human relationships » can still be developed according to the changes of the new era, but that the « three cardinal guides » are not desirable because they want the inferior to fulfill their unilateral duties. However, we do not have to be confined to the modern view; in fact, « monarch and minister, husband and wife, father and son » are among the five human relationships, and these three elements are the same, and people in different positions have mutual demands and commitments. In this sense, the « three cardinal guides » and « the five human relationships » share the same spirit. For a hierarchical relationship, the superior should reflect the virtue corresponding to the position. If one side is not faithful, the other side can give advice or even resist. The most direct and fundamental difference between “the three cardinal guides” and “the five human relationships” is that “the three cardinal guides” clearly defined a hierarchy of domestic politics, and « the five human relationships » were more from an ethical point of view to discuss. To the ancient Chinese, the angle of understanding life is “the three cardinal guides” and “the five human relationships”, and the most important concern for politics is “the three cardinal guides”.[36]

The relative equality (resemblance) of brothers and friends is also very important, as an indispensable part of everyone’s ethical life. However, if we discuss such a structure as « individual-family-country », we need a corresponding political hierarchy, and the relationship within brothers and friends could become the ethical dimension in this hierarchical framework, but it does not have a political characteristic. In order to draw people out of “the three cardinal guides” with a hierarchical structure, the brotherhood or friendship is a typical approach to form a community and also a common way of forming a religious group. From this perspective, we could understand why people call each other brothers and sisters in religious communities (not only in ancient China, but also in western tradition), and why there is a spirit of equality in Shuyuan (Academy; 书院) in ancient China.

However, as China gradually changed from an ancient imperial maintained by “the three cardinal guides” to a modern state maintained by law, the meaning of « 群 » retreated from a society containing hierarchy (as Xunzi and Yan Fu claimed, in a Confucian way) to a community of people who share the similar values in a modern society (as Wu Wenzao found, in a modern way). So now the translation of “community” (Gemeinschaft) in Chinese is mainly « 社群 ».


In ancient China, “family-state” politics with a hierarchical structure defined one’s daily life, and “the three cardinal guides” determined this political form. For thousands of years, the concept of “three cardinal guides” shaped and dominated the ethics and politics of Chinese people, and also profoundly and directly affected the Chinese acceptance of Western sociology. When Yan Fu translated “society” into « qun »(群), he was obviously affected by this tradition, because he chose to use a word with ethical (Confucian) implications to refer to society.

However, with the establishment of a modern industrialized social system, individuals who had been regulated by the relationship between the family and the country were uprooted by the torrent of revolution and development, while also being offered the possibility of forming new communities of like-minded people. That’s why Wu Wenzao emphasized the study of communities in modern society. Those relatively homogenous communities were not based on the hypothesis of rational people in economics, but around certain ethical values, which is the background that Chinese intellectuals have in mind when they talk about « community » today.

Recently, there have been some discussions about the tradition of communities in traditional Confucian theory, for example, Theodore de Bary’s discussion on Zhu Xi’s idea of community compact.[37] We have to note that the community compact was designed on the foundation of “三纲五常” (“the three cardinal guides and the five human relationships”), which was still considered a part of “family-state” ethics-politics. Only after the reform period in the late 1970s, people in China could understand society in the modern way, and community as a contrasting conception, and consequently Tönnies’ theory and the School of Chicago of Sociology, also became more popular.

Confucianism in ancient times was not just an ethical theory or a political theory, but the whole framework of everyday life, education, and politics. As Chen Yinke[38] stated, “三纲五常” (the three cardinal guides and the five human relationships) should be regarded as similar to Plato’s δέα, just in order to contrast with the concrete carriers such as social system and economic system, and to highlight that the three cardinal guides dominate all aspects of society, economy and culture. At the same time, the three cardinal guides also need these specific institutional carriers to achieve it. After the Reform period, the carriers of “三纲五常” (the three cardinal guides and the five human relationships) not longer exist, and Confucianism assumed the less all-encompassing role of a critical theory, similar to communitarianism in the western political philosophy as a critique of liberalism. When it was introduced into China, communitarianism coincided with Confucian concerns, emphasizing tradition, non-individualistic ethical values, and personal narratives, and not simply abstract personal rights or shallow personal interests. So it’s only recently that community became a typical problématique in China.



[2] There are different explanations of the left part “君” of the character “群”. A typical phonetic explanation is “群” took the sound of the character “君”, according to《说文解字》(Shuowen Jiezi; an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary). Another explanation is semantic, indicating there is a paronomastically association between them, according to《白虎通义》(Baihutong; 79AD, on the subject of the true meanings of the classics). Rf. Roger Ames: “Responds”, in Appreciating the Chinese Difference, Jim Behuniak (ed.), State University of New York Press, 2018, p.280. Roger Ames argues that 君子(junzi; exemplary person) is a major Confucian term, which has direct relation with the term “community” (群; qun) semantically and theoretically (Junzi is assumed to be the exemplary person of his community). However, what we have to point out is that in Baihutong, the term “君” is raised as the contrasting term of “臣” (chen; ministers), meaning emperor. The original text in Baihutong “君,群也,下之所归心。” (Emperor, qun, who is the one has everyone’s loyalty.) In this context, we should interpret “君” as emperor, and “群” in Xunzi’s sense, a hierarchically ethical-political group. Although « 群 » is used in many Confucian classics, it is not used in the modern way, as a conception as contrast of society.

[3] Shijing, 诗经, the oldest existing collection of traditional Chinese poetry, dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC.

[4] Xunzi, 荀子, BC310–BC235, a Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States period.

[5] The concept of “Qun” in Xunzi is not just a flock or a crowd of animals, but a community organized of humans by hierarchical order.

[6] There is another translation of “Qun” here as “society”. Rf. Xunzi, trans by John Knoblock, Hunan People’s Publishing House, 1999, p.237.

[7] Xunzi: Xunzi, trans. by Eric L. Hutton, Princeton University Press, 2014, p.76.

[8] YAN Fu, 严复, 1854-1921, was a Confucian scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western sociology in late Qing dynasty, including Spencer and Huxley.

[9] The 1898 reform period, a failed 104-day national reform, from 11 June to 22 September 1898 in late Qing dynasty.

[10] In fact the initiative of Yan Fu’s translation is to speak of Expansive Learning (大学; Daxue ; one of The Four Books) in a more precise and clear way.

[11] I Ching, 易经, an ancient divination text and the oldest of the Confucian classics, BC 1000–BC 750.

[12] KANG Youwei, 康有为, 1858-1927, a Confucian scholar, noted calligrapher and reformer of the late Qing dynasty.

[13] Kang Youwei: The Chronological Life of Kang Youwei, the Materials of the Reform Movement of 1898 (Book 4), p. 133.

[14] Especially the Taizhou School (泰州学派, 16c-17c) in Yangming’s post-school (阳明后学), which is widely taught in the folk, has caused a great deal of controversy and influence. Interestingly, the Taizhou School has a very close relationship with Buddhism. As for the relationship between Confucianism and Buddhism, it needs for another separate article.

[15] In ancient China, one is firstly a being bonded by ethical and political ties, then a being in a community, which is formed by similar beings.

[16] The academy did not cover the education of women at first, but in the late Ming Dynasty (1368–1644); for example, LI Zhi (1527–1602)’s academy had female students.

[17] An interesting point is, in late Qing dynasty, intellectuals’ comprehension of international politics was similar to Tönnies’ Gesellschaft, with features as legal system, pursuit of benefits, spirit of contract, etc.

[18] In late Qing period, the constitution of modern China had not been well established by politicians and not well accepted by intellectuals and common people; there was no match of Gesellschaft in Tönnies’ sense. During the period of great transformation from ancient imperial to modern state, Yan’s introduce of Qunxue with strong Confucian implications was relatively more influential.

[19] Tönnies’ distinction of Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft is more easily accepted by people today in China, as there is a well-established modern state.

[20] WU Wenzao, 吴文藻, 1901-1985, a sociologist, anthropologist, ethnologist.

[21] Wu Wenzao: “On Systematical School of Sociology in Germany”, originally in Sociology, Yenching University Press, 1934, in Anthropological and Sociological Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, pp. 85-121.

[22] Wu Wenzao: “Recent Trends in Western Community Studies”, 1935, in Anthropological and Sociology Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, p. 151.

[23] Wu Wenzao: “The significance and function of Field Studies in Modern Communities”, originally in Social Studies, 1935, No. 66, in Anthropological and Sociological Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, p. 144.

[24] Wu Wenzao: “The significance and function of Field Studies in Modern Communities”, originally in Social Studies, 1935, No. 66, in Anthropological and Sociological Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, p. 144.

[25] Wu Wenzao: “The significance and function of Field Studies in Modern Communities”, originally in Social Studies, 1935, No. 66, in Anthropological and Sociological Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, pp. 149-150.

[26] The same is true of Fei Xiaotong, who in his book From the Soil —The Foundations of Chinese Society uses « 礼俗社会 » and « 法理社会 » to translate German “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft” respectively, but also advocates the use of « 社区 »(shequ) to translate the English word “community”. Wu Wenzao influenced him.

[27] И.С. KOH: The History of Bourgeois Sociology from the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 20th century, translated by Liang Yi, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 1982.

[28] FEI Xiaotong, 费孝通, 1910-2005, a sociologist, anthropologist.

[29] Tönnies’ “Gemeinschaft” was firstly introduced into China by Wu Wenzao, who was deeply influenced by the Chicago School of Sociology, focusing on urban studies. City becomes a typical form of Gesellschaft, and Gemeinschaft refers to community with a geographical sense, namely district or village.

[30] Wu Wenzao: “The significance and function of Field Studies in Modern Communities”, originally in Social Studies, 1935, No. 66, in Anthropological and Sociological Studies, Nationalities Publishing House, 1990, pp. 146-147.

[31] Mohism began to decline after the Warring States period, and almost disappeared in the Han Dynasty. See LIANG Qichao: Laozi, Confucius, Mozi and their Schools, Beijing Press, July 2016. When Liang Qichao discusses the Mohist School, he examines it as a religion, in which he repeatedly laments the spirit of sacrifice of the Mohist believers for the religion. To us, it is worth noting that this association is also religious, that is, to uproot the individual from the “family-state” politics based on blood ties, in order to form a kind of detached community outside the “family-state” politics.

[32] Between father and son, there should be affection; between sovereign and minister, righteousness; between husband and wife, attention to their separate functions; between old and young, a proper order; and between friends, fidelity. Mencius emphasized this perspective in Confucian tradition, which had deeper influence than Xunzi in ancient China.

[33] For more discussion, see ZHANG Xianglong, Family and Filial Piety, Joint Publishing Company, 2017.

[34] If we must have a comparison with Western ethics, we should consider echoing Aristotle’s function arguments (not corresponding to the deontology), and when Aristotle claims that the soul of man has its own function, he also believed that this is the nature of human beings. See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1.

[35] Baihutong, 白虎通义, 79AD, on the subject of the true meanings of the classics.

[36] It should be pointed out that women are also political beings. The three cardinal guides’ request for women is not blind obedience, but women’s understanding of “family-state” politics, and their political wisdom had often saved the whole family and even the whole government. See Robin Wang, Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: writings from the Pre-Qin period through the Song Dynasty, Hackett Publishing, 2003.

[37] Rf. Theodore de Bary: Nobility and Civility, Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 135-138.

[38] CHEN Yinke, 陈寅恪, 1890-1969, historian, scholar.