The Sacred and the Cannibalistic: Zhou Zuoren’s Critique of Violence in Modern China
This article explores the ways in which Zhou Zuoren critiqued violence in modern China as a belief-‐‑driven phenomenon. Differing from Lu Xun and other mainstream intellectuals, Zhou consistently denied the legitimacy of violence as a force for modernizing China. Relying on extensive readings in anthropology, intellectual history, and religious studies, he investigated the fundamental “nexus” between violence and the religious, political, and ideological beliefs. In the Enlightenment’s effort to achieve modernity, cannibalistic Confucianism was to be cleansed from the corpus of Chinese culture as the “barbaric” cultural Other, but Zhou was convinced that such barbaric cannibalism was inherited by the Enlightenment thinkers, and thus made the Enlightenment impossible. Through critiquing the violence in intellectual persecution and everyday life, and through identifying modern intellectuals and the masses as the major sponsors and agents of violence, Zhou questioned the legitimacy of the mainstream Enlightenment, modern political movements, and national salvation by defining them as inherently irrational and violent.
This article is from Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 36 (2014): 25–60. Posted with permission.