The Chinese Liberal Spirit

Selected Writings of Xu Fuguan

By Xu Fuguan
Edited and translated by David Elstein

Subjects: Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Confucianism, Chinese Studies, Democracy, Ethics
Series: SUNY series, Translating China
Hardcover : 9781438487175, 351 pages, April 2022
Paperback : 9781438487168, 351 pages, October 2022

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Table of contents

A Note on Language

Preface: My Father
Hsu Woochun (Xu Wujun)

David Elstein

Part I: Autographical Essays

1. My Life of Study

2. The End of Democratic Review

3. Mourning My Enemy, Mourning My Friend

Part II: Ethical and Political Thought

4. Two Layers of the Chinese Political Problem

5. The Construction and Advancement of Ruist Political Thought

6. The Fundamental Character of the Ruist Spirit, Its Limitations, and Its Rebirth

7. The Chinese Way of Governance—After Reading Collected Writings of Master Lu Xuan

8. Between Academia and Politics

9. The Culture of the Heart‑Mind

10. The Creation of the Chinese Free Society

11. The Ruist Distinction between Cultivating Oneself and Governing Others and Its Significance

12. Why Oppose Liberalism?

13. The Fundamental Structure of Mengzi's Political Thought and the Problem of Rule of Man and Rule of Law

14. The Origin of Kongzi's Idea of Rule by Virtue

15. The Question of Ruist and Daoist Personal Cultivation in Literature


The first English-language translation of an important figure in modern Confucian thought.


Xu Fuguan (1903–1982) was one of the most important Confucian scholars of the twentieth century. A key figure in the Nationalist Party, Xu was involved in the Chinese civil war after World War II and in the early years of the Nationalist government in Taiwan. He never ceased to believe that democracy was the way forward for the Chinese nation. Making his ethical and political thought accessible to English-speaking readers for the first time, these essays analyze the source of morality and how morality must be realized in democratic government; they also provide a sharp contrast to the claim that democracy is not suitable for China—or that Confucian government should be meritocracy, not democracy. They also share the reflections of a man who lived through the Chinese revolution and remained strongly critical of the governments in both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan.

David Elstein is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the editor of Dao Companion to Contemporary Confucian Philosophy and the author of Democracy in Contemporary Confucian Philosophy.


"One of the most prominent representatives of contemporary New Confucianism, Xu Fuguan also represents how a Chinese intellectual deeply committed to Chinese cultural heritage can embrace the core values of democracy. Being the first book-length English translation of Xu's works, this volume fills an important gap. " — Peimin Ni, author of Understanding the Analects of Confucius: A New Translation of Lunyu with Annotations