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I should like to share with you some thoughts about modernity and modernization that are drawn from notes I took during a visit in October 1992 to Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan. I report from these notes mainly as a historian and partly as an amateur ethnographer without any special claim to “ethnographic authority.”
On that occasion, some one thousand citizens from the region gathered in Hachinohe to celebrate the 290th anniversary of the birth of Andō Shōeki (1703–62), the provocative eighteenth-century thinker and physician who practiced in this former castletown. I had been invited to give a lecture at a symposium on “Andō Shōeki and Today” and the “sympathetic relationship between community and nature” (Najita 1993).
Until Recently, Vietnamese Scholars agreed that the modern Vietnamese novel emerged in the North and that the first instances of the genre were Hoàng Ngọc Phách's Tố Tâm (Pure heart) and Nguyển Trọng Thuật's Qủa dủa đỏ (The red melon), both published in 1925. Now it is becoming generally accepted that the Vietnamese novel developed first in the South—in the French colony of Cochinchina, a region that stretched from the modern towns of Biên Hóa and Phan Thiết to Cà Mau, the southern tip of Vietnam. Trần Chánh Chiếu published Hoàng Tố Anh hàm oan (The unjust suffering of Hoàng Tố Anh) in 1910, the same year that another Southerner, Trủỏng Duy Toản (illustration 1), published Phan Yên ngoại s (An unofficial history of Phan Yên). Hồ Biểu Chánh (illustration 2), who was to become the most prolific southern novelist, published his first novel, Ai làmc (Who can do it?), in 1912.
Historians and sociologists often treat the appearance of uniformed, armed, and bureaucratically organized police as one of the effects of industrialization. Because Europe and America had few cities of great size before the Industrial Revolution, we often have failed to separate the impact of urbanization from that of industrialization.
The data from China, on the other hand, suggest that city police forces are rooted in the social effects of population concentration with or without industrialization. In particular, the dynamics of a large, dense, and heterogeneous population produce an increased number of urban subcultures, and the potential for constant conflict among them leads to growth of the territorial arrangement that sociologists call spatial order.
Anyone Who Works in the Field of Area Studies knows from experience that cultures are different. Indeed, the effort to understand the distinctiveness of cultures in comparative perspective is a central undertaking of the modern humanities and social sciences, not only in Asian studies but in studies of other parts of the world. But works on the subject seldom discuss the conceptual and methodological issues involved. What do we mean by culture in the context of comparative statements? How can a culture's distinctiveness be conceptualized? What is required to demonstrate that such distinctiveness exists, what it consists of, and what influence it has on the performance of societies? In the case of Chinese studies, how far have we come in establishing that Chinese culture is distinctive, in what ways, and with what consequences?
It is helpful to discuss these issues in terms of two bodies of literature with different ways of conceptualizing culture and its distinctiveness, although I intend to blur the distinction at the end. Following Ying-shih Yü, I will label the two approaches hermeneutic and positivistic. I do not argue that one of the approaches is better than the other; each achieves goals that the other does not. The real problem is lack of clarity about the different logical statuses of the kinds of findings that typically emerge from the two approaches. This can lead to problems when insights are transposed from the hermeneutic approach into positivistic language or vice versa.
Chin Yao-Chi (Ambrose Y. C. King) is internationally known for the knowledgeability and fluency with which he uses many of the perspectives of Western social science to discuss Chinese culture, modern Chinese history, and current developments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Born in 1935, growing up in Shanghai, he obtained a Ph.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh and today is Professor of Sociology and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His life, however, has also been rooted in Taiwan, where he lived for many years after the fall of the mainland, and where he obtained both his B.A. and M.A. degrees. Long before the promise of the Republic of China's development became obvious, at least as early as 1966, he recognized it, astutely introduced Western modernization theory to analyze it, understood that pursuing it required not iconoclasm but a process of critically and creatively building on the inherited culture, and widely influenced Taiwan intellectuals as they tried to make sense out of their complicated, often distressing situation (Chin 1979, 1987, 1991). The publication of eleven of his articles written during the last decade (a few originally in English) by Oxford University Press (Chin 1992) rightly indicates that his views about Chinese modernization should be weighed by all those around the world concerned with this issue, not just by small scholarly circles. Yet just how insightful are his views? To what extent are they shaped by premises that have commonly informed much modern Chinese thought, and that many Western scholars could not easily accept? To what extent has Professor Chin himself “self-consciously” (tzu-chueh) identified any such premises and pondered their viability?