Resumo da intervenção de Haiyan Yang, no Congresso Internacional sobre o Impacto de Darwin
Encountering Darwin and Creating Darwinism: the Chinese Case
The year 2009 marks the confirmation of Charles Darwin as a global brand. Just as a strong white light fragments into colorful beams through a prism, Darwin presents multiple images. These different, even contradictory, images symbolize the various contexts where he has been encountered and consequently the diverse understandings and appropriations of Darwin. This paper will investigate the Chinese case as one of these varieties.
The official image of Darwin in the People’s Republic of China (founded in 1949) is three-fold. First he is described as a modest, diligent and persistent scientist, in spite of his long-term illness. Secondly he is labeled as a great materialist who was buried in Westminster Abbey in the company of Newton - the other “great materialist”. Thirdly, he is seen as a brave atheist who struggled against reactionary religious forces. Yet when Darwin and evolution were first introduced into and appropriated in China at the turn of the twentieth century, the official image mentioned above was barely recognized. At that time, there were few professional scientists in Chinese society, and learning had not been categorized into separate subjects residing in distinct institutional spaces. Without the obvious dichotomy between materialism and idealism in Chinese intellectual life, and with few religious issues to contend with, Darwin’s image was as yet unformed and open to interpretation. The overwhelming concerns about China’s survival gave intellectuals exclusive attention to the problem of human evolution and social evolution, and consequently shaped the first translation, interpretation, discussion and distortion of works by Darwin and his followers. But this state of flexibility and openness dissolved gradually with the rise of Marxism and the foundation of the new China. Another triad took hold, made up of materialism, atheism and scientism. Evolutionism in the new context was used to justify violent revolution, unceasing class struggle and a perfect future as an historical inevitability. I shall illustrate how the currency of Darwinism, when initially created, was widespread, vibrant, and flexible, and then how over time it became solidified with the changes in intellectual, social and political climates.
Finally, I don’t wish in this paper to add one more piece to the jigsaw puzzle of the individual and separate receptions of Darwin in different countries. Rather, I shall portray the Chinese experience as a part of the active response, discussion, debate, and even creation that can be woven into the whole fabric of global communications of Darwin.
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