05/03/2014 Justifying Humanity in Post-Mao China? The Problem of Evil in Shifting Contexts

Alexander Chow
(Edinburgh University)

Chinese traditional thought generally upholds an understanding of humanity as fundamentally good and perfectible.  These positive and optimistic anthropologies are asserted in the history of China's three major religio-philosophical traditions.  While many Western debates about the problem of evil are within the category of 'theodicy', in China, the problem of evil is historically a subject discussed vis-à-vis a good and loving humanity – articulated in various anthropodicies.  However, during the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) of the Maoist regime, Chinese society experienced many horrible examples of moral evil.  After a brief presentation of China's intellectual history, this paper will show how holocaust-like events of the communist revolution gave rise to alternative accounts to the problem of evil, which, in turn, have been constructions of liminal, third spaces within post-Mao China.

First published: 17 October 2014