It is a commonplace in modern Chinese history that the twin-concept of t'i–yung espoused a doctrine of cultural conservatism in late-Ch'ing China. Briefly, the dichotomy is seen as a call to preserve the ‘substance’ (t'i) of the Chinese cultural tradition by adopting the ‘function’ (yung) of Western technology, or simply, to strengthen Confucian China by implementing Western-inspired reforms; hence, the famous slogan, ‘Chinese learning for fundamental principles and Western learning for practical application’ (Chung-hsueh wei-t'i Hsi-hsueh weiyung). Both the slogan and the position it reflects have long come under criticism. An early, influential critic was Yen Fu, the well-known interpreter of Social Darwinism in late-Ch'ing China. In 1902, in a published open letter to the editor of Wai-chiao pao (Foreign affairs magazine), Yen expanded on an earlier view of a contemporary schlar, Ch'iu T'ing-liang, that the notion of t'i-yung, when properly applied, refers to the two complementary aspects of a single entity and not to attributes from two different juxtaposed objects. To drive home his point, Yen cites an analogy. An ox as t'i has its yung, which is to carry heavy loads, whereas a horse as t'i has its yung, which is to go long distances. Now the attempt to combine a t'i with an extraneous yung is like ascribing a horse's function to an ox's body, or vice versa, and the result could only be a bizarre mismatch, an affront to nature's purposes.