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Sin Ch’aeho (1880?1936) , Liang Qichao (1873?1929) , Modernist Projects , Hero , Confucianism

    The pre-colonial decade (1900–1910) in Korea was both a time of imperialist intrusions and a time in which Koreans tried to accept the changing world, actively adapting themselves to the new environment in which the sovereign nations were engaged in a fierce Darwinian contest for survival. The new, competitive international system promised some possibilities of dynamism, whereas the roles had been more or less permanently fixed in the old, Chunghwa-centred world.1 And while Korea in the early twentieth century was a weak state on the verge of full colonization, intellectuals could hope, at least theoretically, that it would develop into a stronger nation—maybe even into a power in its own right2—at some point in the future.

    As change was now the prerequisite for survival, the images of the leaders who were to lead their people to development and survival were also prone to change. “Sages” were transformed into a new category of outstanding humans, namely “heroes”.3 In other words, the paragons of Confucian moral politics came to be transformed into Darwinist victors that could guarantee the survival of their collectives (nations etc.). Tales of heroes were the favoured material for a large number of modernist intellectuals, both in China and in Korea.4 Sin Ch’aeho (1880–1936), the early twentieth century’s paradigmatic modernist intellectual in Korea, was also fond of heroic narratives.5

    However, should Sin’s modernist narratives of heroes and the heroic simply be seen as a sign of the rejection of the Confucian legacy? In aiming to build a modern nation state in Korea, Sin both relativized and at the same time re-systemized traditional Confucian ethics from a new, nationalist, standpoint. So far, the scholarship on Sin Ch’aeho has emphasized the rupture between his ideas and the Confucian past, and evaluated Sin as a modernist, anti-traditional thinker par excellence.6 In this article, we argue, however, that Sin’s heroes were also deeply related to Confucian views on moral personality.

    The modernist ideologists, most of them having a Confucian background, found it only natural to utilize Confucian ideological formulae or stereotypes when formulating their new, nationalist ideals. At the same time, they also often borrowed from the authority of classical images and formulae to boost the appeal of their new ideologies. Newly-coined “heroes” came to look like “sages” of the past in a number of aspects. The study of these ideological overlaps and appropriations is the task of the present article.

    As is amply shown in existing scholarly literature, Sin Ch’aeho’s (1880–1936) outlooks on modernity, nation and state were heavily influenced by the Social Darwinist vision of Liang Qichao (1873–1929), modern China’s representative thinker who accepted the modern world based on the understanding that now “we live in the times of the survival of the fittest”.7 However, as we will show in the present article, Liang’s influence upon Sin was not necessarily limited to modern matters. Liang too received a Confucian education in his formative years and even successfully passed the Qing Dynasty’s government-run provincial examinations in 1889.8 It may be assumed that the experience of Confucian learning from his formative years continued to influence his thinking throughout his life.

    It is already established in the pre-existing scholarship that the modernist visions of both thinkers were related and indeed similar on many points; the salient differences between the two, however, have gone unnoticed for the most part. The present study focuses on the modernist projects of Sin Ch’aeho and Liang Qichao, as reflected in their narratives on heroes and heroism. Both the similarities and differences between the two can be seen through the prism of their relatedness to Confucian ethics and ideals. Liang Qichao, China’s paradigmatic modernist enlightener, made decisive contributions to the development of China’s modern thought while never fully discarding his Confucianism.9 Sin was less thorough a Confucian, although he did learn the Confucian classics in his youth.10 The present study will attempt to unpack the character of the modernist projects of both Sin and Liang with focus on their Confucian sides, which have been rather under-researched in the existing scholarship. In fact, rather than simply being a shift from sagehood to heroism, the ideological changes in early twentieth-century China and Korea should probably be defined as a transition from the image of sage statesmanship to the ideal of citizenship.11 However, in a world in crisis, becoming a citizen was a heroic deed in itself, and the construction of the heroic could not be unrelated to the Confucian legacy.

    In comparing these two thinkers, emphasis will be put, respectively, on the periods in which their most feverish modernist activities took place. In Liang’s case, this will be 1902–1906, the period which started with the newspaper serialization of his seminal modernist treatise, Xinminshuo (The new citizen, 1902–1906). In Sin’s case, it will be 1907–1910, the time of intense debates on the Korean nation and its more than problematic (in light of Japanese colonial encroachment) future, when Sin, then a nationalistic journalism star, and many of his contemporaries, were all deeply influenced by Liang’s ideas on modernity. We will reconsider the relationship between their modernist visions and Confucianism, and compare their relative positioning vis-à-vis Confucian ideas. This will enable us to re-evaluate the Confucian elements in their modern ideas, and also to reveal the differences between them. Emphasis on these differences will help us understand why the two thinkers chose such mutually different paths as they did in the end—Liang ending up as a Confucian revivalist, and Sin as an anarchist radical.

    1See Andre Schmid, Korea between Empires (NY: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. 55–61, on the process of “de-centering” China in early twentieth-century Korea.  2Yi Sŭngwŏn et al., Kungmin kukka ŭi chŏngch’ijŏk sangsangnyŏk (Political imagination of the nation state) (Seoul: Somyŏng, 2003), pp. 190–210.  3See, for example, the arguments in this article: Yu Yŏng’ok, “Kŭndae kyemonggi chŏngjŏnhwa model ŭi ilbyŏnhwa—Sŏnggun esŏ yŏngung ŭro,” (The change of the canonization model during the modern enlightenment period—from sage to hero) Taedong munhwa yŏn’gu 67 (2009): 295–327. While Yu mentions the example of George Washington being often described in early twentieth-century Korean publications as a “sage ruler” with discernably Confucian features (pp. 315–321), she largely treats the imported, Western-originated heroes as being basically unrelated to the local, Confucian paradigms of the ideal (male) ruler personality which the former were destined to “drive out and substitute.” We, however, aim to draw attention to the interrelationship between the former and the latter, with the latter forming the essential background for acculturating the former.  4On the Korean case, see: Yi Hŏnmi, Han’guk ŭi yŏngungnon suyong kwa chŏn’gae, 1895–1910 (The discourse of “heroes” in Korea: Reception and development, 1895–1910) (Seoul National University, Foreign relations Department, M.A. thesis, 2004). On Liang Qichao’s case, see: Matsuo Yoji, “Ryō Keichō to shiden” (Liang Qichao and historical biographical writings)”, In Hazama Naoki (ed.), Ryō Keichō梁啓超 (Liang Qichao) (Misuzu Shobō, 1999), pp. 257–295. While Yi Hŏnmi rightly points to the European, Social Darwinist roots of the modern hero cults in late nineteenth- early twentieth-century East Asia, and persuasively shows how the Western biographies of modern heroes reached Korea via Japan and China, she largely ignores the local background for the acceptance of such a modern cult, namely Confucian views on the types of male personality ideally suited for the tasks of governance (although they are mentioned in passing: pp. 32–33 etc.). In this contribution, on the contrary, we are going to emphasize the pre-existing ideological environment which made such importation possible.  5One of the first inclusive research articles on Sin’s heroic narratives was written by the patriarch of South Korean Marxist historiography, Kang Man’gil (b. 1933): “Sin Ch’aeho ŭi yŏngung, kungmin, minjungjuŭi” (Sin Ch’aeho’s heroes, political nation and mass ideology), in Sin Ch’aeho, ed. Kang Man’gil (Seoul: Koryŏ Taehakkyo Ch’ulp’anbu, 1990), pp. 50–78.  6The new scholarship on Sin, which emphasizes his Social Darwinist mindset, is represented by U Namsuk, “Sahoe chinhwaron ŭi Tongasia suyong e kwanhan yŏn’gu” (On the reception of Social Darwinism in East Asia), Tongyang chŏngch’i sasangsa 10:2 (2011): 117–141. In a similar way, U Namsuk’s “Sin Ch’aeho ŭi kukkaron yŏn’gu” (Study on Sin Ch’aeho’s theory of statehood), Han’guk chŏngch’ihak hoebo 32:4 (1999): 3–27 emphasizes the modernist features of Sin’s political views (beliefs in popular sovereignty, volkgeist, inevitability of interstate competition etc.). The Sin Ch’aeho research of the 1970s–early 1990s, typified by Sin Yongha’s authoritative Sin Ch’aeho ŭi sahoe sasang yŏn’gu (Study of Sin Ch’aeho’s social ideas, Seoul: Han’gilsa, 1991) and Sin Ilch’ŏl’s Sin Ch’aeho ŭi yŏksa sasang yŏn’gu (Study of Sin Ch’aego’s historical ideas, Seoul: Koryŏ Taehakkyo Ch’ulp’anbu, 1983), mostly painted him as a emphatically modernist political philosopher as well. An analysis of Sin’s views on the modern nation state typical of 1980s’ South Korean scholarship, may be found in: Sin Ilch’ŏl, “Sin Ch’aeho ŭi kŭndae kukkagwan” (Sin Ch’aeho’s views on modern statehood), in Sin Ch’aeho, ed. Kang Man’gil, pp. 1–30. A pioneering Anglophone study on Sin Ch’aeho also emphasizes his role in creating Korea’s modern national(ist) identity: Michael Robinson, “National Identity and the Thought of Sin Ch’aeho: Sadaejuŭi and Chuch’e in History and Politics,” Journal of Korean Studies 5 (1984): 121–142.  7Xinminshuo (The new citizen; hereafter XMS), Chapter 3 (Definition of the new citizen), in Yinbingshi wenji (Literary works from the ice-drinker’s studio; hereafter YBSWJ) (Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju 1989 [1936]), Fasc. 4, p. 6. Original: Xinmin congbao (hereafter XMCB, No. 1, February 8, 1902.  8Joseph Levenson, Liang Ch’i-Ch’ao and the Mind of Modern China (London: Thames and Hudson, 1959), p. 16.  9Hao Chang, Liang Ch’i –Ch’ao and Intellectual Transition in China, 1890–1907 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971). In this book, it is vividly shown that even in the time of his strongest infatuation with Western ideas, Liang never directly attacked Confucianism.  10On Sin Ch’aeho as a Confucian thinker, see: Song Inch’ang, “Sin Ch’aeho ch’ŏrhak sasang ŭi yuhakchŏk chomyŏng” (A Confucian interpretation of Sin Ch’aeho’s philosophical ideas), in Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho ŭi hyŏndaejŏk chomyŏng (A contemporary interpretation of Sin Ch’aeho), ed. Taejŏn Taehakkyo Chiyŏk Hyŏmnyŏk Yŏn’guwŏn (Seoul: Taunsaem, 2003), pp. 167–188.  11Hao Chang, p. 298.


    In the new Darwinist world, competition was assumed to lead to progress. Liang Qichao took the supposed main stages of civilization’s development—barbarity, semi-civilization and civilization—and applied this scheme to China. Not surprisingly, the result of this operation did not significantly differ from the ways in which Europeans assessed China’s position at that time. It was still far from being fully civilized.12 From this modernist viewpoint, traditional China had long been in a state of a gradual decline, constantly waiting for a sage—who emerged once in a millennium—to save it.13 In such a China, progress was only possible after this sort of past was thoroughly destroyed.14

    In this brave new world, the first thing Liang demanded of his “heroes” was for them to fit in with the age that they happened to live in. While following the (newly introduced) logic of the universal laws (i.e. the scientific laws of the physical and social worlds), the “hero” was also supposed to be cognizant of the “trends of the times.”15 Universal laws (kongli) in pre-modern China most likely meant the ethical and cosmological norms of the Neo-Confucian order; in Liang’s language, however, it meant, first and foremost, what he now believed to be the laws of social evolution. “Heroes” had to accept that evolution was powered by competition, they had to rightly define the stage on which their own society stood, and then they had to lead it towards a new stage. In a word, “heroes” were supposed to lead others in the endless struggles for survival.

    The hero’s character and ways of behaviour naturally depended on the position that his society presumably occupied on the rungs of the world’s evolutionary ladder. The ability to identify precisely this position and follow the trends of the times was, according to Liang, one of the most important heroic qualities. In Liang Qichao’s view, contemporaneous “heroes” had to follow the trends of the twentieth century, and one of these trends was visible in the actions of the American presidents, William McKinley (1897–1901) and Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909), who successfully shifted U.S. foreign policy from “the principle of co-existence and mutual respect for territorial integrity to imperialism.”16 Imperialism was seen by Liang as a new stage of civilization which China also had to reach at some point.

    Liang tended to regard the stage of China’s development in his time as being transitional.17 According to him, such a period was a novelty for China as it had a long history of unchanging and unified imperial statehood. At the same time, the period of transition was also a “great arena for heroes and worthies.”18 “Heroes” were needed in order to consolidate the progressive “trends of the times,” but they could not have appeared if these trends had not already been present. Introducing the then fashionable discussion on whether it was the “heroes” that made their “times” or it was the “times” that made these “heroes,” Liang tended to arrive at the conclusion that the “times” and “heroes” were in a mutual cause-and-effect relationship.19

    As long as Liang Qichao accepted social evolution as a universal law, societal change independent of human volition also had to be accepted. Had Liang been born in a society that allegedly stood at the vanguard of social evolution, it might have been logical for him to believe that the “times” played a determining role in the emergence of “heroes.” But as China was universally seen as being backward in evolutionary terms, changes were supposed to be generated through human volition. Therefore, Liang’s conclusion that the “times” and “heroes” were in a mutual cause-and-effect relationship was objectively the most logical for such a historical figure that found himself within a society that was “inferior” in evolutionary terms.

    Liang’s “heroes” of the transitional period were to possess a set of three major virtues. Having divided the transitional age into the early, middle and late phases, Liang defined the main virtue of the early transitional period’s heroes as an “enterprising and adventurous spirit.” The middle transitional age required more of “patience,” while the “ability of judgment” befitted the late transitional period. An adventurous spirit was to destroy the conservative leanings of the majority; patience was needed to wait for the results which would not easily show themselves in the beginning; judgment was needed in the end, in order to choose the ways that genuinely suited the people and their circumstances.20

    According to Liang’s predictions, once the transitional period was successfully passed, China would enter the same stage at which Europe already stood—that is, the stage of national statehood.21 The “new citizens” of Liang’s magnum opus, Xinminshuo represented exactly the author’s desire to turn the Chinese people into nationals/citizens (Ch. guomin; Jap. kokumin). Liang’s work was to contribute to the process of preparing China for the age of liberal governance. This age of liberal governance would not need “heroes” since all were now expected to possess the qualifications for personal autonomy.22

    Influenced by Japan’s premier modern journalist and strong Darwinian thinker, Tokutomi Sohō (1863–1957), whom he assiduously read, often adopting whole passages from Tokutomi’s writings into his own, Liang tended to call all members of a nation “nameless heroes”23 and, through Xinminshuo, appealed to all of them to take action themselves. The virtues befitting the nameless heroes of the new age are introduced in Xinminshuo under the name of gongde, public virtue. The most important public virtue for Liang himself was guojia sixiang—“the ideas of the state”—since he believed that only a strong state could guarantee an individual’s right to existence.24

    From the late 1890s, when Liang acquired literary fame for the first time, and until the establishment of Xinmin congbao (New citizens’ general newspaper) in 1902, Liang used to believe in the need for heroes in this transitional age and the nameless heroes in the new age of mass nationalism. However, he had to put off his expectations for a republic that was run by nameless heroes following his polemics against the republican revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925). He simply did not consider the Chinese at that time to be prepared enough for liberal governance. In his view, they still needed heroic leaders.25 The authori-tarian (“despotic”) rule that was seen to be needed to govern people still unsuited to liberal governance was called enlightened despotism (kaiming zhuanzhi) in Liang’s works. Following Liang’s line of thought, it could be seen as being enlightened as long as the rulers prioritized the common good over their personal benefits (administrative rent, in contemporary terms).26 Such rulers were to be highly virtuous people, able and willing to utilize all their energies for the sake of heightening their state’s competitiveness.27

    Enlightened despotism was the final conclusion of Liang’s quest for a strong state, which he more or less equated with modern civilization. He tried to present his project of enlightened despotism as civilized by saying, for example, based on the viewpoint of the universal law of the survival of the fittest, that constitutionalism was not necessarily superior to despotism.28 As long as a strong state equalled, for Liang Qichao, modern civilization as a whole, any means needed to achieve this goal were also accepted as being civilized. Heroes were the main actors behind the creation of a strong state, and they were to choose any means to carry out this role.

    Sin Ch’aeho in the first decade of the twentieth century,29 strongly influenced as he was by Liang Qichao, shared Liang’s definition of the twentieth century as the age of imperialism.30 His relatively stronger interest in “heroes” and their nation-saving role was closely related to the desperately tragic situation of Korea, which was threatened with colonization.31 His narratives of heroes reflected the vision of the “new people” who were to lead their people through the new and dangerous world. Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Korea was hardly in a position to expand its territory, but Sin—not unlike the majority of the modernist intellectuals in Korea at that time—regarded the likes of Napoleon and Bismarck as the real modern heroes, due to their records of territorial expansion. He did not differ from Liang Qichao in equating heroic deeds with national territorial gain. In his pioneering piece of historical fiction, Ŭlchi Mundŏk (1908), he aspired to describe the famed Koguryŏ general, historically known for his brilliant defense against the Sui Dynasty’s military incursions in the early sixth century, in a fantastic way as a great conqueror successfully appropriating Chinese and Jurchen lands for Koguryŏ’s gain. Sin tended to describe such historical military heroes as Admiral Yi Sunsin (1545–1598) as being “heaven-sent,” writing the novelized biographic accounts of Yi and Ŭlchi in the hopes that a new hero of the same scale would soon be born in Korea.32 In the end, the ultimate purpose of Sin’s biographical writings on heroes was to create heroic citizens of Korea.33

    The Confucian value of loyalty (Kor. ch’ung, Ch. zhong) stood in the centre of Sin’s views on the world, history and politics, but it was qualitatively different from the old concept of loyalty to the sovereign. In one of his 1910 writings, Sin defined the old “absolutist” order, in which sovereign and state were seen as synonymous, as a trait of infantile (“ancient”) society and pointed out that in modern society, nation-state institutions were taking over the erstwhile functions of the monarchy—monarchy itself becoming, in the end, just one of them.34 And when it came to the struggle against the monarchy, which was refusing to become just one of the state institutions, Sin the historian maintained an unequivocally positive stance (although Sin the journalist was prevented by a variety of objective limitations from being equally explicit on the issue). For example, Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) the regicide was for Sin a “representative great hero, who was driven by the considerations of humanity’s common good, rather than personal ambitions.”35 While Liang Qichao was never too explicitly positive about revolutions, Sin was consistently approving of them, from the beginning and to the very end of his career as a writer and public intellectual.

    Sin Ch’aeho’s vision of the heroic—albeit using ancient and medieval Korean examples—was as markedly modernist as his political views. For example, in Ŭlchi Mundŏk, Sin does not limit himself to discussing General Ŭlchi’s personal virtues; what interests him, is “Ŭlchi’s spirit,” which he characterizes as “the spirit of independence” and contrasts it with the “slavish Sinophilia” of later times. To express it in a modern way, Sin was narrating what he considered to be the positive volkgeist of the Koreans:

    The story of King Gou Jian of Yue “sleeping on sticks and tasting gall” while preparing a victory over the rival kingdom of Wu belongs to the classical arsenal of East Asian literary rhetoric. Underpinning its use here, however, is the modern nationalist view, which emphasizes national consciousness and popular attachment to national rights. Interestingly enough, the examples of heroic peoples with a high level of national rights’ consciousness mentioned by Sin Ch’aeho include both Korea’s ancient Koguryŏ kingdom and the archetypically modern state of the Netherlands which is praised for having fought a “thirty-year-long in-dependence war against Spain.”37

    Following Tokutomi Sohō’s famed expression, the modern nation was to consist of a multitude of nameless heroes.38 Such beliefs were common to both Liang and Sin, the latter being definitely influenced by the writings of the former.39 Not unlike Liang, Sin was also sensitive to the objective conditions of the heroes’ emergence—that is, to the “trends of the times.” For Sin, the “times” meant societal mores (the epochal zeitgeist) rather than the more profane socio-economic conditions. For example, Korea, in Sin’s view, was a place dominated by “the concept of the family” (clan loyalties) and “private factions” scrambling for influence, and lacked state-minded patriots who would, in the spirit of public virtue, regard “the whole of our country as their own household”.40 However, despite all of the disadvantages of the “times”—or, we should rather say, in direct proportion to the perceived degree to which Korea was disadvantaged—Sin was desperately calling for the emergence of patriotic heroes. Unless a new type of hero, one able and willing to “negotiate with the world”—that is, to make the whole world into his arena—was to emerge in Korea, the Taehan Empire (as Korea was officially styled from 1897) as a nation state would have no future.41 The “spirit of freedom and independence,” or what Sin sometimes called “the country in a spiritual sense of the word” (chŏngsin sang kukka) in the minds of even a small minority of nationalist “heroes” was, for Sin, the only hope in the otherwise rather hopeless situation of Korea.42

    With the age of high imperialism (1870–1914) displaying a disturbing spectacle of conquests and colonial aggression against “natives” all around the globe, the modernist intellectuals of China and Korea were cementing their belief in the law of the jungle as an evolutionary phenomenon. Winning in the global dog-eat-dog fight was understood as the only way to ensure survival, and building a strong state that could take charge of such a momentous task was seen as the most pressing need.43 Liang Qichao, in the belief that China was not yet threatened with immediate downfall, regarded an enlightened despotism, structured around a group of rulers with strong modern awareness and incorruptible ethics, as the best possible answer to this challenge of the times. Compared to Liang’s musings on enlightened despotism, Sin Ch’aeho’s search for heroes that could save a dying country was much more desperate from the very beginning. For the intellectuals of countries that could realistically expect to survive in the new global jungle, it was clearer that “heroes” were created by the “times”; once the “times” followed their right course, “heroes” were no longer needed. However, for Korea’s distressed patriots the possible emergence of such “heroes” was their last hope. Indeed, Sin found no hope in the fully inept leaders of a dying Korea. Instead, he desperately searched for models of the heroic everywhere, both in Korean and foreign history. And since foreign heroes were not appealing enough to arouse Korean patriotism, Korea’s own ancient and medieval heroes were markedly preferred. Sin hoped that a new generation of younger heroes would then appear. Sin’s appeal to the heroic potential of Koreans was addressed to all members of Korean society, regardless of their status.44 It was quite clear that Sin was more interested in the plebeian strata than Liang.

    12“Lun Zhongguo yi jiangqiu falu zhi xue” (On the necessity for Chinese to research on laws): YBSWJ, Fasc. 1, p. 93. Original: weekly Shiwubao, No. 39, September 17, 1897. In this fragment, Liang is pessimistic enough to agree with the Westerners who supposedly viewed China as a “third-rate barbaric country.” But otherwise, Liang viewed China as being still “before” the stage of civilization, but on the stage of “transition” to it. See: “Guodu shidailun” (On the transitional period): YBSWJ, Fasc. 6, p. 27–32. Original: weekly Qingyibao (hereafter QYB), No. 83, June 20, 1901. Fukuzawa Yukichi’s (1835–1901) views on the “stages” of “civilizational development,” which seem to have been the main influence beyond Liang’s perception of “civilization’s progress,” may be seen in his early oeuvre, Outline of the Theory of Civilization, transl. David Dilworth and Cameron Hurst (NY: Columbia University Press, 2009 [1875]).  13XMS, Chapter 11 (On progress): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 59. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  14XMS, Chapter 11 (On progress):YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 60. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  15Zhiyushu (The book of freedom; hereafter ZYS), Chapter “Haojie zhi gongnao” (Hero’s common brains): YBSWJ, Fasc. 2, p. 34. Original: QYB, No. 32, December 13, 1899.  16ZYS, Chapter “Ershi shiji zhi xingui” (The new devils of the twentieth century): YBSWJ, Fasc. 2, p. 65–69. Original: QYB, No. 98, November 21, 1901.  17See the footnote 12 above.  18“Guodu shidailun” (On the transitional period): YBSWJ, Fasc. 6, p. 27–32. Original: QYB, No. 83, June 20, 1901  19ZYS, Chapter “Wuming zhi yingxiong” (The nameless heroes): YBSWJ, Fasc. 2, p. 48–50.  20“Guodu shidailun” (On the transitional period): YBSWJ, Fasc. 6, p. 27–32. Original: QYB, No. 83, June 20, 1901  21Ibid.  22“The “newness” of the “new citizens” does not mean that renewed people exist somewhere separately from the rest of the people. It means that all people have to renew themselves. (…) The rise and fall of countries is not caused by their geography and does not depend on heroes. Countries are organic units [consisting of their people]” XMS, Chapter 2 (On the utmost urgency of renewing the people in today’s China): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 3. Original: XMCB, No. 1, June 8, 1902.  23ZYS, Chapter “Wenming yu yingxiong zhi bili” (The proportion between heroes and civilization): YBSWJ, Fasc. 2, p. 85. Original: XMCB, No. 1, June 8, 1902. In “Wuming zhi yingxiong” (The nameless heroes), it is explicitly mentioned that “Tokutomi’s Seishi Yoroku begins with the chapter entitled ‘Nameless heroes’.” Seishi Yoroku was a collection of essays first published by Minyūsha in 1893–1895. On the influence Tokutomi and other Japanese thinkers exerted on Liang, see: Hiroko Willcock, “Japanese Modernization and the Emergence of New Fiction in Twentieth Century China: A Study of Liang Qichao,” Modern Asian Studies 29/4 (1995): 817–840.  24XMS, Chapter 5 (On public virtue): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 12.  25ZYC, Chapter “Wenming yu yingxiong zhi bili” (The proportion between heroes and civilization): YBSWJ, Fasc. 2, p. 86. Original: XMCB, No. 1, June 8, 1902.  26On rent-seeking behavior, see Elie Appelbaum and Eliakim Katz, “Seeking Rents by Setting Rents: the Political Economy of Rent-Seeking,” Economic Journal 97/387 (1987): 685–699  27“Kaiming zhunzhilun” (On enlightened despotism): YBSWJ, Fasc. 17, p. 13–83. Original: XMCB, No. 73–75, 77, January 25–March 25, 1906.  28“Kaiming zhunzhilun” (On enlightened despotism), Chapter 6 (On the states where enlightened despotism is applied, and the timing of application): YBSWJ, Fasc. 17, p. 34.  29The pre-1907 writings by Sin Ch’aeho are mostly not extant. He is understood to have been a thorough student of the Confucian classics prior to being awarded the degree of paksa (often translated as “doctor” or “erudite”) at Korea’s central Confucian college, Sŏnggyun’gwan. His journalistic activities peaked in 1907–1910, and “heroes” were among the central subjects of his writings at that period.  30“Isip segi sin kungmin” (The new citizens of the twentieth century): Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho chŏnjip 丹齋申采浩 全集 (Collected works by Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho; hereafter TSCC), ed. Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho Chŏnjip P’yŏnch’an Wiwŏnhoe (Ch’ŏn’an: Tongnip Kinyŏmgwan Han’guk Tongnip Undongsa Yŏn’guso, 2008), Vol. 6, pp. 734–746. Original: Taehan maeil sinbo (hereafter TMS), Febraury 22–March 3, 1910.  31“Yŏngung kwa segye” (Hero and the world): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 621–622. Original: TMS, January 4–5, 1908.  32“Sugun cheil wi’in Yi Sunsin” (Yi Sunsin, the greatest naval hero): TSCC, Vol. 4, pp. 525–526, 533.  33“Isip segi sin kungmin” (The new citizens of the twentieth century): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 734–746. Original: TMS, Febraury 22–March 3, 1910.  34“Kun kwa kuk” (Monarch and the country): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 550. Original: TMS, January 29, 1910.  35“Taeyŏngung soyŏngung” (Big hero, small hero): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 552. Original: TMS, February 2, 1910.  36Sin Ch’aeho, Ŭlchi Mundŏk, ed. and transl. by Pak Kibong (Seoul: Pibong Ch’ulp’ansa, 2006), p.41.  37Sin Ch’aeho, Ŭlchi Mundŏk, p. 40.  38See footnote 23 above.  39As mentioned in footnote 23, in ZYS, Chapter “Wuming zhi yingxiong” (Nameless heroes), it is explicitly mentioned that “Tokutomi’s Seishi Yoroku begins with the chapter entitled ‘Nameless Heroes.’” On the ideological connections between Tokutomi, Liang and Sin, see: Yi Hŏnmi, Han’guk ŭi yŏngungnon suyong kwa chŏn’gae, pp. 56–58.  40“Isip segi sin Tongguk yŏngung” (The new Korean hero of the twentieth century): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 724–728.  41“Yŏngung kwa segye” (Hero and the world): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 621–622. Original: TMS, January 4–5, 1908.  42“Chŏngsin sang kukka” (The state in the spiritual sense of the word): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 673–674. Original: TMS, April 29, 1909.  43On Social Darwinism in China in late nineteenth-early twentieth century, see: James R. Pusey, China and Charles Darwin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). On Social Darwinist influences on Korea’s early nationalism, see: Vladimir Tikhonov, Social Darwinism and Nationalism in Korea: the Beginnings, 1880s–1910s. (Leiden: Brill, 2010).  44Sin Yongha, Sin Ch’aeho ŭi sahoe sasang yŏn’gu, pp. 92–96.


       3-1 Non-Capitalist Modernity

    Liang Qichao’s visions of enlightened despotism were directly related to his reassessment of private virtues in Xinminshuo. In the chapter on private virtues, in Xinminshuo, Liang Qichao critically reflected on his own erstwhile one-sided emphasis on public virtue, assuming that “the reason why daily talks on public virtues by learned people did not bring any results is because the cultivation of private virtues by individuals was deficient.”45 Following the Spencerian insight concerning the possible destructive effects of progress in such cases where the people’s character had not reached a satisfactory level,46 Liang envisioned the possibility of the ideas of liberty, equality, duty, competition and rights destroying the social order if they were not accompanied by (rather traditional) private virtues. The cultivated chosen few were to be in charge of private virtue cultivation among the people, until the people themselves reached a supposedly satisfactory level.47

    From Liang Qichao’s viewpoint, importing the basics of Western ethics into China was hardly realistic. Thus, the private virtues to be cultivated were to be the traditional virtues. Of course, these private virtues, even while being based on Confucian values, were to be fitted to serve the cultivation of public virtue. And the most central public virtue was the omnipresent “ideas of the state.”

    The modern heroes who succeeded in strengthening their states were described by Liang Qichao in the following fashion:

    Liang Qichao did not deny that destruction was indeed needed in China, but he also insisted that one had to possess the moral quality of compassion to be qualified to engage in such destruction. Generally, the moral qualities that Liang preached were limited to the Confucian cultivation of mind-heart. While Liang did not deny that everybody’s cultivation could mutually differ, he also emphasized zhengben (K. chŏngbon, “rectifying the basics”), shen du (K. sindok, “caution even while alone”) and jinxiao (K. kŭnso, “diligence in following even small disciplinary rules”) as his own favourite methods of cultivation. As Liang admitted himself, these methods were most often mentioned in the context of the practices of Wang Yangming’s school.49 Liang hoped that heroes armed with ethical qualities of the sort described above would successfully lead China through the transitional period. “Lofty and pure nature” meant that a hero’s character was to be based on the inherent compassionate qualities of the human mind-heart (burenzhixin) rather than on utilitarian considerations.50

    Compassion, known from the Mencian tradition as ceyin—literally “taking pity” on others—basically meant “the sharing of others’ pain” (Mencius 3:6).51 Since compassionate people were expected to excel in sacrificing their own well-being for the sake of others, it was also hoped that they would also become public-minded patriots in the modern sense of the word. Of course, the quality that Liang demanded of them was not Mencian compassion in the original sense of the word. The compassion of Confucian thinkers was to transcend political borders, while Liang wanted his “heroes” first and foremost to be self-sacrificial in their relationship with their state. While the old signifier was used, what was signified by it was rather modern patriotism. The reason Liang was stubbornly using the old signifier was due to his distrust of the utilitarian mode of behaviour. “Utilitarian” (gonglizhuyi) meant, in Liang’s vocabulary, actions based on personal profit calculation, while compassionate gentlemen were to sacrifice themselves for their state’s sake without seeking any quid pro quo. As long as they did not benefit themselves, they were to be regarded as pure-minded.52

    In fact, profit motive—as long as individual profits were concerned—hardly had any place at all in Liang’s construction of virtue. Public virtue meant exhausting oneself for the state’s sake, and private virtue was needed to boost public ethics. Liang’s ideal of a distant future’s republic was based not only on government by law but also on a vision of a state constituted by non-egoistic, publicly-minded citizens. Both heroic leaders and those who were led were to become non-egoistic patriots. Good examples of this were the “three Italian heroes,” Camillo Benso Cavour (1810–1861), Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882) and Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872) (see Part Four of this paper) on whom Liang projected his ideas about pure-minded, self-sacrificial citizenry. According to Liang’s judgment, “they had no [calculation] of profits and losses in their mind and eyes, and did not mind honour, fame, difficulties or joys, success or failure.”53

    It was only logical that Liang Qichao, with his initial rejection of both revolution and profit motive, ended up in the 1920s rejecting again both capitalism and socialism and proposing “Confucian socialism” as an alternative to both. In his December 1922 Xianqin zhengzhi sixiangshi (History of pre-Qin political ideas), he proposed a vision of an ideal society supposedly based on pre-Qin Confucian thought. This society—which was to selectively accept certain features of both socialism and capitalism—was supposed to approximate the Confucian ideal of Datong (Great Unity).54 While it is unclear to which degree all these ideas were meant to be realized, one thing is clear—Liang Qichao did not like the idea of a capitalist society based on profit calculations.

    In Sin Ch’aeho’s case too, all the “sundry desires” (chab’yok) which could prevent the loyal subject of the state from following his sense of righteous indignation (pibun kanggae) were rejected unconditionally. For example, the “ludicrous and licentious novels read by the people”—such as the classical So Taesŏng chŏn (Tale of So Taesŏng) which contained strong elements of folk Taoism—or the “belief in earning merit by worshipping Buddha” were all unconditionally rejected, as they were “useless for raising people’s morality.” Instead, Sin’s ideal new novel would “talk about the depths of human characters or things’ principles, explain the rise and fall of various states in olden times and in our own days, change readers’ nature, making evil ones kinder and malevolent ones gentle and obedient.”55 The gentlemen of the new times were to learn about the rise and fall of various states in order to maximize their feelings of patriotic devotion.

    In his famed philosophical essay on smaller and greater selves, Sin Ch’aeho clearly contrasted the “spiritual, soul-related and authentic greater self” omnipresent in the whole Cosmos, to the “inevitably mortal, material and superficial smaller self.”56 He also made it abundantly clear that no one could simultaneously cultivate both types of egos. People could belong to the elated realm of the “spiritual, soul-related and authentic greater self” once they felt shame for their country, burned with a wish to take revenge on its enemies, and—even if sick and lonely—united themselves with others in their patriotic loyalty. However, as long as people were obsessed only with their advancement in the world, they would be forever separated from the greater self. To put it briefly in Sin’s own words, “to seek ease and comfort for the mortal self is only degradation from the viewpoint of the greater self.”57 These words are a good outline of Sin’s views on human desires.

    Such a theory of desire further developed traditional Neo-Confucian notions, just substituting “Heavenly principle” (Ch. tianli, Kor. ch’ŏlli) with patriotism. Restraint was a common cultural code among Confucian literati. The great Neo-Confucian philosophers of China and Korea—Zhu Xi (1130–1200), Yi Hwang (1501–1570), Yi I (1536–1584) and others—were for Sin the “ancients” whose “slaves” the modern citizens should not become.58 However, all his negative views on Neo-Confucianism notwithstanding, Sin was seemingly influenced greatly by the ascetic tendencies of Neo-Confucian thought.59

    Sin did not utilize Neo-Confucian asceticism simply to build up a persuasive image of the modern patriot. He evidently also practiced what he preached. Most of his friends who knew him from the early 1900s described Sin as a person with very little interest in life’s pleasures or its practical side, and simultaneously deeply obsessed with what he saw as moral duty. Obviously free from the usual personal desires, Sin also had little tolerance for such desires in others, as they could endanger the feeling of duty and moral integrity. In the still Confucian atmosphere of Korea in the first decade of the twentieth century, such people were supposed to be generally respected. Sin Ch’aeho, however, was seen as almost an eccentric, so unusually assiduous was he in following the canons of the Confucian gentlemanly way. Eccentricity of this sort, however, also generated admiration for Sin in the nationalist milieu of the time that was still permeated with traditional values; this eccentricity can also be seen to have contributed to the prominence of his writings.60 At a time when the Confucian unity of word and deed was still respected, Sin managed to prove the authenticity of his appeals to unselfish patriotism by having what was generally viewed as an almost unworldly style of life.

    While Liang and Sin had their differences, both were Confucian thinkers who regarded ethical beliefs to be the guiding principles of all actions. Within the Confucian ethical system, the pursuit of personal profit is viewed negatively, and although this is not to say that Confucian ethical beliefs can be directly related to modern patriotism, their anti-egoistic ethos was naturally favored by Liang and Sin within the critical situation of that time, with its imperative for national self-strengthening. These moral considerations shaped the views of both Liang and Sin on the issue of industrial development and modern enterprise. Not unlike Sin Ch’aeho and his fellow Korean nationalists, Liang Qichao advocated the development of modern industry that was needed to stave off Western in-cursions.61 That was, however, on the level of national considerations and did not necessarily imply the actual acceptance of personal profit-making. In the same way, Sin Ch’aeho could accept economic survival instincts as long as national survival or national subjectivity was on the agenda as well. A desire to enrich oneself personally was nothing more than evil egoism from Sin’s point of view. Sin was, indeed, appealing to his countrymen to be industrious and enterprising, and to pioneer new production technologies and develop manufacturing in a situation in which Japanese traders were gradually acquiring hegemony in a Korean market already saturated with all sorts of imported manufactured goods.62 That did not mean, however, that he was prepared to allow the developers of national manufactures to act out of their own motives for profit. With Sin’s Confucian legacy, it was extremely difficult for him to accept capitalism as a private enterprise-based market economy.

    Neither Liang Qichao, with his emphasis on the ethics of morality and responsibility of the Confucian elite, nor Sin Ch’aeho, with his ascetic and exclusivist vision of patriotic devotion, were prepared to regard the personal profit motive as being something closely related to civilization and social evolution. In a word, both were non-capitalist thinkers who were rather inclined to view the pursuit of personal profit as a shortcut to treason and as a subjective condition for the downfall of the state that they both dreaded. Both accepted industrialization as an epochal demand, but it was either the state or a patriotic individual acting in the state’s interest who was to become the subject of this process.

       3-2. Jiaohua and “Development”

    While Liang dabbled with republican ideas at one point, his more established belief was that China was to become a “fit” country in a Darwinian sense under the leadership of a group of “heroes,” rather than through a republican revolution. After having serialized Xinminshuo, Liang had the tendency of constantly delaying the point at which the creation of the “new citizens” looked realistically feasible. In fact, he did not attempt to cover his elitism even in Xinminshuo:

    Since the masses were just too busy with their daily survival, Liang was incessantly urging the heroic elite to act on its own.64 Liang explained his political ideals in the 1906 essay, Kaiming zhunzhilun (On enlightened despotism), and it was in his 1909 Guan Zi zhuan (Biography of Guan Zi) that the desirable traits of the de facto supreme ruler under such a system—that is, a prime-minister—were concretized. Liang’s enlightened despotism was a system under which the monarch would reign but not rule, and he saw this as a logical continuation of the political design ascribed to the great statesman of ancient China, Guan Zhong (c. 720–645 BC).65 Apart from this, Guan Zhong was re-interpreted as an early proponent of the rule of law and the theory which vested sovereignty in the state rather than in the monarch’s person. Moreover, he was seen as a thinker and politician who aimed at morally improving the ruled through the implementation of the rule of law.66 That was also Liang’s vision of an ideal political leader:

    Guan Zhong was seen as a great politician since he was able to understand what best fit the “times.” Liang also describes both him and Confucius as two mutually comparable politicians, both utilizing education for the improvement of the moral standards of their societies. As long as the “times” were concerned, Liang assumed that the contemporaneous “times” were fit for despotism as well as for education aiming at preparing the people for a better future; however, they were still not fit for democracy. Politicians were to employ despotic forms since these were inevitable in such a context, but they were also to possess the ideals that would eventually morally uplift their people.

    Authentic rulers, in such a framework, were to be people in Liang’s style, whose idealized features Liang ascribed to Guan Zhong. In many ways, Liang’s vision further developed the traditional Confucian understanding of a chief minister’s roles. They were to be morally superior in the traditional sense and at the same time they were to be cognizant of the needs of the new age. To emphasize the necessity of personal moral cultivation for enlightened despots, Liang accentuated private virtues even more than public virtues in the final part of the Xinminshuo. However, the ultimate aim of private moral cultivation was again to ensure the development of public virtue.68

    In Liang’s judgment, a good example of a European politician who succeeded while cultivating and practicing virtues was Count Camillo Benso Cavour. Among the “three heroes” discussed in 1902 Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan (Biographies of the three heroes who made Italy) on the basis of an adopted Japanese rendition of their English biography, Garibaldi is portrayed as an indefatigable soldier, while Mazzini is described as a revolutionary idealist.69 In fact, both Mazzini and Cavour––the third hero of Liang’s biographical work–– had already been mentioned in Liang’s 1901 biography of Kang Youwei. Mazzini ––together with Kang himself and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)––were regarded by Liang as heroes ahead of their time.70 The reasons for such a characterization were Mazzini’s republican convictions,71 as well as his idealism.72 Unlike Mazzini, Cavour was a hero that fit very well into his times.73 In fact, much of what Cavour did fitted nicely into Liang’s own political dreams. Not unlike Liang himself, Cavour was a proponent of constitutional monarchy, and an opponent of republicanism and revolution.74 While Mazzini fought for revolution and republican rule, Cavour saw them as being impractical and ruinous for the country.75 Almost simultaneously with the serialization of Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan, Liang described revolution and republicanism in a negative way in Xinminshuo as well.

    Both Guan Zhong and Cavour were seen by Liang as courtiers who were happy enough to serve a sovereign matching their characters and ambitions. Revolution was to be avoided as much as possible since it would bring destruction and not construction; the changes were to come through the established channels of court politics. The members of an enlightened elite, with the monarch’s permission, were to make judgments on the needs of the times and then change their ways accordingly.76

    Aside from good luck in meeting a wise monarch, a heroic politician’s private morality was seen as yet another source of his success. It appears as if Liang sincerely believed that a knowledgeable, experienced77 and, above all, moral politician would use his position to benefit the subjects of the state rather than himself. Until people were mature enough to rule themselves, they had to entrust matters of government to the elites and simply rely on the latter’s jiaohua (K. kyohwa, education and transformation of the ruled by the ruler).

    This long-standing Confucian belief had previously already played a role in Liang’s public career. During the One Hundred Days’ Reforms, Kang Youwei, at that time Liang’s mentor, conceptualized his relationship with Emperor Guangxu (r. 1875–1908) exactly in terms of Confucian moral politics and the ties of trust between a wise monarch and able minister—to which the concept of fitting in with the new era was added.78 After a brief flirtation with republicanism, Liang returned in the end to this time-honoured political vision, which at the same time looked fitting for China’s situation at that time.

    Not unlike Liang, Sin Ch’aeho emphasized state and nation, and also impatiently waited for the “heroes” to save both. Already in his earliest extant journalistic writings (dating from 1907), he used the likes of Napoleon, Washington and Peter the Great as examples of public virtue.79 Foreign heroes, however, could only have limited appeal for patriotic Koreans who were now to be trained in modern public virtue. Sin acknowledged that nation-state building outside of Europe had to follow European precedents, but at the same time was highly apprehensive about the possible loss of national essence (K. kuksu, J. kokusui) in the process of Westernization. “Our bodies and our brains, but full of their [foreign] spirit” was Sin’s worst nightmare, and he was keen to prevent what he conceptualized as spiritual enslavement by Westerners or (Westernized) Japanese.80 In the spirit of an expression loved by Sin, the “preservation of the national essence” (Kor. kuksu pojon, Jap. kokusui hozon), “we” had to learn first and foremost from “our” heroes.

    As the Confucians of his time were not useless either—given their weight and status in Korean society—Sin considered it necessary to make a special appeal to their patriotism, asking them “to respect virtue and to follow the original Way of Confucian scholars, untarnished by the pursuits of fame or profit.”81 Himself a graduate of Korea’s traditional Confucian seat of higher learning, Sŏnggyungwan, Sin late in the first decade of the twentieth century viewed Confucian values mainly as instruments of modern nation-building. As a useful instrument, Confucian values were to be neither fully rejected nor uncritically upheld. In one of his writings of the first decade of the twentieth century, Sin analyzed Confucianism on equal grounds with other, newly introduced religions—such as Christianity or Islam—and applied the same criteria to all of them, agreeing to accept what seemed true, while rejecting what looked old-fashioned. Just as with Christianity, Confucianism was to be selectively adopted, as long as its values were needed.82

    Sin’s personal favorites were the Chosŏn dynasty thinkers who were afterwards, in the 1930s, categorized all together as the Sirhak (Practical Learning) School (this category had yet to be established in the first decade of the twentieth century)––brave iconoclasts with a strong sense of practical needs and a deep interest in economic and social issues. Asking himself if any of the personal literary collections from the Chosŏn past were still of any use, Sin Ch’aeho answered––following the opinion of a known encyclopedic scholar, Yi Ik (Sŏngho, 1681–1763)––that the medical classic by Hŏ Chun (1546–1615), Tong’ŭi pogam (The precious mirror of the Eastern medicine), as well as Yi I’s (Yulgok, 1536–1584) Sŏnghak chib’yo (The collected essentials of the sage teachings) and Yu Hyŏngwŏn’s (Pan’gye, 1622–1673) Pan’gye surok (Records of Pan’gye) were the most valuable. The Sirhak scholars tended to be quite encyclopedic in their approach. Indeed, Sin mentioned in one of his articles of the first decade of the twentieth century that the great champion of “practical” scholarship Chŏng Yagyong (Tasan, 1762–1836) was the very symbol of all-inclusive erudition. Chŏng’s enthusiasm about Korea’s geography and history allowed Sin to see him as a pre-modern prototype of a national intellectual.83

    Aside from the non-orthodox, non-mainstream scholarship of the Chosŏn period, Sin Ch’aeho also had a limited interest in Neo-Confucian ethical theories, as long as they could be considered to inspire patriotism. He wished that Korea’s Confucians would be in the vanguard of “reform and enlightenment for the obstinately conservative masses.” While loyalty was seen as an ultimate product of the highest value of filial piety in orthodox Confucianism, Sin saw it as the ultimate value in itself, and regarded trust, sincerity and wisdom as instruments of its cultivation.84 Loyalty, originally simply one of the Confucian values, was absolutized by Sin as the main public virtue, and all of the other traditional ethical values were re-positioned as tools for its cultivation. Since Sin tended to regard the whole state as “one big family,” then the “heroes and worthies” who sacrificed themselves for its sake were seen as filial children by implication.85 Thus, in the end, just as in Liang’s Xinminshuo,86 loyalty as the main public virtue was seen to be synonymous with filial piety as the main private virtue. The state was now to become the universal parent of sorts for all its citizens.

    The modernized Confucian values described above were to be used to encourage Koreans on the way towards building a nation state seen as a community of sentiments rooted in the reified “national essence.” The ideal leaders for such a community were also imagined in recognizably Confucian ways. For example, in his 1908 Ŭlchi Mundŏk, Sin treats the main protagonist’s “firm spirit” as being the wellspring of his strategic and diplomatic abilities. Skills were seen as peripheral; mind-heart was to be put into the centre. Sin problematized the way in which Ŭlchi was treated in the classical work of Korean traditional historiography, Samguk sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms, 1145), where, in Ŭlchi’s biography, only his composure, bravery, ability to react correctly according to the circumstances and strategic talents were mentioned as his main virtues. According to Sin, Ŭlchi uniquely distinguished himself by possessing sincerity and strength of character and by demonstrating his penchant for adventure and daring undertakings.87 Sincerity, strength of character and uniqueness of virtue and skills were seemingly taken from the traditional laudatory descriptions of Confucian military men in pre-modern biographical literature.

    At the same time, not everything depended on heroes themselves. In Sin’s analysis, Korea’s medieval military hero Kang Kamch’an (948–1031) deserved the same fame as Cavour for having defeated the enemies of the Koryŏ Dynasty, but was much less known and lauded, since Koryŏ society was just too ignorant to appreciate him, unlike the more civilized Italians of the nineteenth century.88 Sin Ch’aeho firmly believed that only the “preservation of the national essence” would allow Korea to reconstruct itself into a nation state populated by nameless heroes. Nameless heroes of the new, nationalized Korea, Sin hoped, would enter into strong emotional ties with their past, taking pride in the greatness of Ŭlchi Mundŏk and Yi Sunsin.

    As Confucianism tends to emphasize the cultivation of the ruled by their supposedly virtuous rulers, Confucian virtue constitutes the desirable qualities that rulers should possess for the sake of successful moral cultivation within their realm. Sin Ch’aeho, with his emphasis on the raising of patriotic consciousness, wished to use the Confucian logic of virtue for his aims. Indeed, compared to Liang Qichao, he was relatively more interested in the nationalist use of Confucian ideological resources. Sin also placed greater emphasis on the degree of nationalization of the masses, compared to Liang’s emphatic focus on the great deeds of a chosen few. Liang wanted to envision these few heroes as highly moral Confucian gentlemen; Sin, by contrast, was more interested in using Confucianism as just one of the tools for constructing a nation state on a broader popular basis. Sin demanded a patriotic spirit from “all the people” who were to acquire the position of the main political subject. Heroes were surely advocated by Sin too, but they were not to become the exclusive subject of political and ideological cultivation in the modern sense of the word. As we mention in more detail below, Sin translated Liang’s Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan into Korean but added his own concluding chapter to his translation, and emphasized there that Italy’s unification was brought about by “hundreds and thousands of nameless Mazzinis.” Koreans were urged to “become like Mazzini, follow Mazzini themselves.”89 Sin did not want to give up the perspective Liang suggested when Xinminshuo was first serialized––the vision of autonomous, empowered people who were “renewing” (modernizing) themselves on their own. In a word, Sin wanted Koreans to cultivate themselves into a heroic nation, rather than be cultivated by an elite of enlightened heroes.

    45XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 118–143. Original: XMCB, No. 40–41, November 2, 1903.  46Herbert Spencer, Social Statics (London: J.Chapman, 1851), pp. 178–180.  47XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 118–143. Original: XMCB, No. 40–41, November 2, 1903.  48XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 133–134. Original: XMCB, No. 40–41, November 2, 1903.  49XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 137–143. Original: XMCB, No. 40–41, November 2, 1903.  50Ibid. Liang’s pursuit of “public virtue” may be characterized as utilitarian, but “compassion”—seen as the driving force beyond the pursuit of “public virtue”—is not explainable in utilitarian terms. As argued by Hao Chang, the fusion of “public” and “private” virtues was a Confucian construction compatible with modern Western ethics (Hao Chang, pp. 272–295). However, it looks as if co-existence of “private” and “public” virtues in Liang’s ethical theories was indeed self-contradictory. See: Yi Hyegyŏng, Liang Ch’ich’ao: Munmyŏng kwa yuhak e ŏlk’in aejŭng ŭi sŏsa (Liang Qichao: the narratives of love and hate tied to civilization and Confucianism) (Seoul: T’aehaksa, 2007), pp. 105–114.  51On the Mencian theory of human nature and compassion as its innate quality, see: Irene Bloom, “Mencian Arguments on Human Nature (Jen-Hsing),” Philosophy East and West 44/1 (1994): 19–53.  52XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 138.  53“Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan” (Biographies of the three heroes who made Italy), Conclusion: YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, pp. 56–61. Original: XMCB, No. 22, December 14, 1902.  54Xianqin zhengzhi sixiangshi (History of pre-Qin political ideas): YBSWJ, Fasc. 50, pp. 1–182. On Liang’s idea of Datong (Great unity), see: Yi Hyegyŏng (Worldview and view on modernization—the case of Liang Qichao) (Seoul: Munhak kwa Chisŏngsa, 2002), pp. 322–339.  55“Kŭn’gŭm kungmun sosŏl chŏja ŭi chuŭi” (For the attention of authors of recent novels): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 638–639. Original: TMS, July 8, 1908.  56The distinction between the “smaller” and “greater” selves also seems to have been influenced by Liang Qichao’s piece, “Yu zhi sisheng guan” (My view of life and death): YBSWJ, Fasc. 17, p. 9. Original: XMCB, No. 59–60, December 1904–January 1905.  57“Taea wa soa” (Greater self and smaller self): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 648–652. Original: TMS, September 16–17, 1908.  58“Kusŏ kanhaeng non” (On republishing old books): TSCC, Vol. 6, p. 658. Original: TMS, December 18–20, 1908.  59It is well known that Sin Ch’aeho started his Confucian studies as a teenager with Sin Kisŏn (1851–1909), an heir of the Confucian scholarly lineage of the Kiho (Metropolitan) School going back to Yi I (Yulgok, 1536–1584). In this school, the material element (ki) was not seen as simply secondary. Yi I emphasized the “inseparability” of principle (Ch. li, K. ri) and material force and understood the material element as a “function” (Ch. yung, K. yong), that is, the concrete functionality of principle. Sin Kisŏn tended to believe that “pure” and “impure” elements are all mixed up in the material element-based human nature (kijil). However, while he did not view human emotionality negatively as such, he believed that the right way to become a “sage” was to develop respect for the principle-based cosmic order (kŏgyŏng – “dwelling in respect”), proceed with philosophical inquiries into principle (kungni – “studying the principle”) and continually follow the routines of Confucian self-cultivation. That is, the way to sagehood went through the study and internalization of the ordered nature of things, not tarnished by desires. Sin Kisŏn, “Myŏnggang mundap” (Dialogue with Myŏnggang), in Sin Kisŏn chŏnjip (Collected works of Sin Kisŏn) (Seoul: Asea Munhwasa, 1981), Vol. 2, p. 105. Kwŏn Oyŏng, Sin Kisŏn sasang yŏn’gu (Research on Sin Kisŏn’s ideas), Academy of Korean Studies (Han’guk Chŏngsin Munhwa Yŏn’guwŏn), M.A. thesis, 1983, pp. 19–22.  60On Sin’s personality and reputation, see Ch’oe Honggyu, Sin Ch’aeho ŭi minjokchuŭi sasang (Sin Ch’aeho’s nationalist ideas) (Seoul: Hyŏngsŏl Ch’ulp’ansa, 1986), pp. 96–106.  61XMS, Chapter 14 (On the production and distribution of profits): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 80–96. Original: XMCB, No. 19–20, October 31, November 14, 1902  62“Isip segi sin kungmin” (The new citizens of the twentieth century): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 734–746. Original: TMS, Febraury 22–March 3, 1910.  63XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 125. Original: XMCB, No. 38–39, October 4, 1903.  64XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 132. Original: XMCB, No. 38–39, November 2, 1903.  65On Liang’s visions of “enligtened despotism” (or “absolutism”), see also: Xiaobing Tang, Global Space and the Nationalist Discourse of Modernity: the Historical Thinking of Liang Qichao (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 153–162.  66“Guan Zi zhuan” (Biography of Guan Zi), Chapter 6, Paragraph 6 (The aim of the rule of law): YBSWJ, Fasc. 28, p. 30–33.  67“Guan Zi zhuan” (Biography of Guan Zi), Chapter 5 (Guan Zi’s rule of the law principles): YBSWJ, Fasc. 28, p. 11.  68According to Liang, “public virtue is to be achieved by developing further the private virtues”: XMS, Chapter 18 (On the private virtues): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 119. Original: XMCB, No. 38–39, October 4, 1903. “Private virtues” were thus seen as the source for achieving “public virtue.”  69Liang’s biographies of various “heroes”—often translations of Japanese translations of biographies in European languages—were periodically printed in XMCB. In issues 9 (June 1902) to 22 (December 1902), Liang serialized the Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan (Biographies of the three heroes who made Italy, hereafter YJSJZ). The book was originally based on Sir John Marriott’s Makers of Modern Italy (London: Macmillan, 1889); it is assumed that Liang mostly used the Japanese biographies of the “three Italian heroes” loosely based on Marriott’s book, especially Itari kenkoku sanketsu (The three heroes who made Italy), ed. Hirata Hisashi (Minyūsha, 1892). Later, Sin Ch’aeho made a translation of Liang Qichao’s work into Korean (with heavy use of Chinese characters): It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn (Seoul: Kwanghak Sŏp’o, 1907). On Sin’s view of the “Italian heroes,” see the text of the present article below. On the similarities and differences between Marriott’s, Hirata’s, Liang’s and Sin’s versions, see: Son Sŏngjun, It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn ŭi Tong’asia suyong yangsang kwa kŭ sŏngkyŏk (The East Asian reception of Makers of Modern Italy: Forms and their character) (M.A. thesis, Seoul, Sŏnggyun’gwan University, 2007). The discussion below on Sin’s relatively more positive treatment of Mazzini draws largely on the arguments developed by Son, while the arguments on Liang’s privileging of Cavour are based primarily on our own research.  70“Nanhai Kang Xiansheng zhuan” (The biography of respected teacher Nanhai Kang [Youwei]): YBSWJ, Fasc. 6, p. 57–89. Original: weekly QYB, No. 100, December 21, 1901.  71YJSJZ, Chapter 9 (The situation after the revolution): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 24. Original: XMCB, No. 15, September 2, 1902.  72YJSJZ, Chapter 3 (Cavour personally tills the fields): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 10. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  73“Nanhai Kang Xiansheng zhuan” (The biography of respected teacher Nanhai Kang [Youwei]): YBSWJ, Fasc. 6, p. 58. Original: QYB, No. 100, December 21, 1901.  74On Cavour’s views and policies, see: Derek Beales and Eugenio Biagini, The Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy (Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education, 2002), pp. 106–134.  75YJSJZ, Chapter 1 (Italy’s situation before the three heroes: The young days of the three heroes): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 2–4. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  76Historically, Confucians had to face a situation in which, as long as they recognized the legitimacy of a monarch, their most meaningful real-life calling was symbolized by the image of an able prime minister, and the key to realizing their political ambitions was the monarch’s recognition and monarchical promotion in the ranks of officialdom. Consequently, the Confucian political ideals emphasized promoting able prime ministers and entrusting them with most day-to-day administrative duties as being the monarch’s most important role. As Liang characterized Cavour: “Cavour was an indefatigable hero, but if he had not met such a wise and firm king as Victor Emmanuel II how could he have succeeded and left his fame to posterity?” YJSJZ, Chapter 11 (Cavour reforms domestic policies): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 28. Original: XMCB, No. 15, September 2, 1902.  77YJSJZ, Conclusion: YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 56–61. Original: XMCB, No. 22, December 14, 1902.  78At that point, reformers aimed at what they termed “people’s rights” (Ch. minquan, Jap. minken), rather than at the development of democracy. “People’s rights,” in their usage, would imply the right of political participation for the educated shenshi (gentry) class. See Hajama Naoki, “Ruso to Chūgoku: Chūgoku ni okeru burujūa kakumei shisō no keisei” (Rousseau and China: The formation of bourgeois revolutionary ideas in China) Shisō 649 (1978): 190–203. Moreover, at the point when he finally got Guangxu’s ear, Kang Youwei was no longer as interested in introducing parliamentarism to China as before, wishing instead to promote reforms on the basis of an activist monarchic power. See Min Tugi, Chungguk kaehyŏk undong ūi yŏn’gu: Kang Yuwi chungsim ŭi 1898 nyŏn kaehyŏk undong ūi kibon panghyang (Research on the reformist movement in China: the basic directions of Kang Youwei’s 1898 reform movement) (Seoul: Ilchogak, 1985).  79“U’gong isan ron” (About the foolish old man who moved a mountain): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 490. Original: Pojŏn ch’inmokhoe hoebo, Vol. 9, November 15, 1907.  80“Tonghwa ŭi pi’gwan” (Pessimistic view of assimilation): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 672–673. Original: TMS, March 23, 1909.  81“Kyŏnggo yurim tongp’o” (Appeal to our Confucian countrymen): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 623–624. Original: TMS, January 16, 1908.  82“Yu chilli” (Truth only): TSCC, Vol. 6, p. 542. Original: TMS, January 7, 1910.  83“Kukhanmun ŭi kyŏngjung” (Relative importance of the Chinese and Korean scripts): TSCC, Vol. 6, p. 627. Original: TMS, March 17–19, 1908.  84“Kyŏnggo yurim tongp’o” (Appeal to our Confucian countrymen): TSCC, Vol. 6, pp. 623–624. Original: TMS, January 16, 1908.  85“Kukka nŭn chŭk ilkajok” (The state is one family): TSCC, Vol. 6, p. 642. Original: TMS, July 31, 1908.  86XMS, Chapter 5 (On public virtue): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 12.  87TSCC, Vol. 4, pp. 41–48, 88–91.  88“Kang Kamch’an kwa Kapui” (Kang Kamch’an and Cavour): TSCC, Vol. 6, p. 531. Original: TMS, December 14, 1909.  89Liang Qichao, trans. Sin Ch’aeho, It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn (Three heroes who made Italy), transl. into modern Korean by Ryu Chunbŏm and Chang Munsŏk (Seoul: Chisik ŭi P’unggyŏng, 2001), p. 122.


      >  As seen through Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan

    As we have shown above, Liang and Sin’s heroes did not stray too far away from the sages of the Confucian tradition. Both thinkers were willing to selectively use the old ethics with a view to producing heroes in the present. China and Korea were to be reborn as modern nation states, and heroes were needed to take responsibility for this paramount task. Since the task was obviously a public one, the old values related to the pre-existing concept of gong (K. kong), that is, the state, or public governance sphere, were reactivated. However, the abstract Heavenly principle was replaced by the more concrete—and modern—patriotism. As patriots, modern heroes were at the same time also required to demonstrate traditional qualities—self-sacrifice, self-restraint (jinxiao, shen du etc.), asceticism, sincerity, etc.

    It was not only the locally invented, East Asian patriotic heroes that were Confucianized; the same fate also befell the imported, Western heroes. A good example of how this happened is the appropriation of the heroic images of the Risorgimento in Liang Qichao’s 1902 Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan (Biographies of the three heroes who made Italy) mentioned above. This work is especially interesting in the present context, since—as we also mentioned above—Sin Ch’aeho translated it into mixed Sino-Korean script and published it in 1907 as It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn, with certain changes and additions. A comparison of the changes Liang made using the materials provided by the pre-existing biographies of the Risorgimento heroes by Marriott (1859–1945) and Hirata (1871–1923), which he used as the basis for his own work,90 and the changes Sin made using Liang’s volume as the original, which he translated with certain omissions and additions, will show quite clearly both the overlaps and differences in Liang’s and Sin’s respective views on modern heroes.

    Liang actively used information supplied by Hirata’s book, but radically changed its structure, added his own foreword and conclusion (to which he attached his name), and expressed his own ideas. Sin basically accepted the structure of Liang’s book as it was, but again added a foreword and conclusion of his own, and also expressed his opinion of the protagonists by certain additions to and omissions from Liang’s original in his translation.

    Hirata’s foreword in his Itari kenkoku sanketsu is basically an academic exercise on the “unification of the nations” in Europe after the French Revolution. It is obvious that it was not necessarily written with a view to stirring up the patriotic sentiments of its Japanese readers.91 Liang Qichao, however, mentioned the “unification of the nations” only in connection with patriotism. Liang’s foreword begins with the statement that “patriots are the most precious people in the world under Heaven.”92 However, when it comes to patriotic rhetoric, Sin Ch’aeho goes even further. For him, a patriot is “a messenger sent by Heaven, a Buddha living in this world, a foreboding of the coming spring in the northern lands, a thunder clap amidst a drought.” Sin’s patriots are expected to “think about their country when they lie down, think about their country when they sit down, think about their country when they sing, think about their country when they recite poems, think about their country when they laugh, think about their country when they lament.” In the end, even “rotten bones” are expected to be “resurrected and made to move” by the strength of patriotic devotion.93 A historical book on the Risorgimento was remade by Liang and Sin into a textbook of patriotism.

    The points where Sin and Liang come closest to each other are their common belief in Social Darwinism, the motif of an unselfishly patriotic hero who sacrifices himself for his nation’s independence, and Confucian morals enabling such heroism.94 What Liang saw as the most salient traits of the Risorgimento leaders—their purported “noble characters free from self-deceit,” as well as “lofty self-cultivation, depth of philosophy, nobleness of ideals, and strength of their Dao”—comes much closer to the holistic Confucian view of virtue. 95 Sin Ch’aeho pictures the Risorgimento personalities in a remarkably less Confucian way. Mazzini is praised for his “indomitable spirit even in the moment of defeat,” Garibaldi is alleged “to have never regretted his actions or retreated, and never giving up in a cowardly way,” while Cavour is lauded for the “broadness of his strategies and concerns.” Sin continuously emphasized that the source of such, almost superhuman, qualities, is only the patriotic devotion of the protagonists, rather than any specifically Confucian cultivation of virtue.96 While Liang’s and Sin’s attitudes towards Confucian virtues appear to be somewhat contrasting, in fact both thinkers needed Confucian morality for their respective heroes.

    However, all these similarities notwithstanding, Liang’s and Sin’s positions were already beginning to diverge in the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. In fact, some of the differences between the two thinkers could already be sensed in their opposing attitudes towards the Confucian set of traditional ethics. On the political plane, Liang’s China had lost its hegemonic position in East Asia but was hardly threatened with immediate extinction. Liang, an elite Confucian degree-holder acutely aware of his position and responsibilities, could thus attempt to learn lessons from the successful statesmen of the West and Japan.97 As long as Liang’s own positioning was concerned, the world, in fact, had not even changed that much. After all, the image of a self-sacrificing Confucian had a millennia-long pedigree in China. It was only the idea of obtaining this new knowledge from abroad and “fitting” it for the Chinese that was somewhat new.

    Sin’s Korea was, however, on the verge of an abyss—directly threatened by Japanese colonization. And Sin, faced with an impasse in real politics, naturally became more interested in the impassioned, romantic enthusiasm of the revolutionaries, who were more likely to fail than to succeed but whose self-sacrifice was, at least, morally impeccable. At the same time, his main, fully positive heroes—the likes of Admiral Yi Sunsin and General Ŭlchi Mundŏk—were (strongly idealized) personages from (partly imagined) history rather than contemporary statesmen. Sin generally tended to demand almost superhuman ability to perform self-sacrifice than real political or military skills, from his favourites. Moreover, his demand of limitless self-sacrifice was addressed not only to the elites but also to the masses. Unlike Liang, Sin was emphatically positive about revolutions, and saw the masses as the emerging subject of societal power. Whereas Liang privileged a successful statesman, Cavour, and regarded Mazzini at best as one of the stepping stones for Cavour’s success, Sin was definitely in favour of the uncompromising revolutionary whom he admired for his self-sacrificial character.

    While translating Liang’s Yidali jianguo sanjiezhuan, Sin deliberately omitted those passages where Mazzini’s failures were emphasized, as well as the fragments where Mazzini was presented simply as Cavour’s (albeit reluctant) collaborator. For example, while translating Liang’s rendering of La Giovine Italia’s (Young Italy) program, Sin omitted the following passage: “[Mazzini] could not but lament the cruelties of war, with its smell of blood, but also thought that, if war is inevitabile then it should be better fought as early as possible.”98 Mazzini the militant, as imagined by Sin Ch’aeho, could not lament the cruelties of armed conflict. Yet another passage Sin chose not to translate was Liang’s assessment of Mazzini as someone who just “started tilling the field,” whereas the “harvest,” that is, the glory of Italian unity, was eventually reaped by Cavour.99 In Sin’s logic, the glory was to belong to the armed movement for Italy’s independence, even if it failed to achieve its tasks. The passages where Liang characterized Mazzini’s failure to establish republican order in Italy as “Heaven’s unwillingness to make Italy into a republic”100 were also taken away. Sin Ch’aeho, a member of the secret republican organization Sinminhoe (established in 1907), had reason to sympathize with Mazzini’s ideals.101

    For Liang Qichao it was almost impossible to collaborate for any sustained period with Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionaries, despite coming quite close to Sun Yat-sen at some point in 1902. The republican plans contradicted the logic of Liang’s statist nationalism since they denied the legitimacy of the existing state. Moreover, Liang could not find a place for the old ethics in the discursive construction of a republic based on the logic of “universal” Western modernity. The environment was becoming more and more radical—especially after the May Fourth Movement in 1919—but in constrast to this, Liang was more and more turning his gaze onto the Confucian past.102 He tended to view democracy as a form of governance under which average human beings could fully demonstrate their egoisms. He could not completely reject the values of democracy in theory, but it was not easy for him to approve of a republic in practice. He could find some solace, however, in referring to the principles of the Book of Changes (Yijing) in a somewhat modernized form—“the cosmos as a whole is originally incomplete and that is why creation and evolution never end”—and concluding that human history represents a long line of gradual evolution, the end of which is out of our sight,103 and that a purer form of democracy might be realized some day in an ideal society.

    In contrast to Liang Qichao, Sin Ch’aeho, having developed as a public intellectual under the dark shadow of the impeding downfall of his country, demonstrated certain radical tendencies from the very beginning. It was visible already in his pre-1910 ideas, with their trademark absolutisation of patriotism. After Korea’s colonization and Sin’s self-imposed exile in 1910, this tendency was only further strengthened, for understandable reasons. In one of his unpublished essays, “Money, cannons, curses,” assumed to have been written in the late 1910s or early 1920s, Sin singles out curses as the force which would help colonial slaves to organize themselves in order to “stab the masters’ bellies with sharp blades and kill them before they even manage to moan.”104 In essays of this kind, the morals of Confucianism figure, at best, as obstacles along the way of a radical anti-colonial struggle.

    Sin’s radicalized, absolutized patriotism of the first decade of the twentieth century developed eventually into the anti-colonial radicalism of the 1910s–1920s. Meanwhile, Sin grew increasingly positive about violence from below and sceptical towards the Confucian legacy. In one of his essays written presumably in the early 1920s, the old morality, which did not permit officials or commoners wishing to correct the mistaken actions of their superiors anything more radical than remonstrance, was branded “slavish morality” and depicted as one of the reasons behind the conservative turn of pre-colonial Korean society and its eventual demise.105 With the passing of time, Sin’s belief in violence from below gradually strengthened. In his seminal December 1922 Chosŏn hyŏngmyŏng sŏn’ŏn (The manifesto of Korean revolution), Sin, now a firm follower of anarchism, declared that Koreans were to choose between revolution and death from hunger, and appealed for a mass awakening of the people and direct violence by them—which could imply the destruction of the colonial institutions and facilities and the killing of “pro-Japanese” Koreans. “The current economic system, based on the plunder of the majority for the benefit of a tiny minority,” was rejected together with colonialism. Interestingly, the restoration of Korea’s state sovereignty is barely mentioned at all in the Chosŏn hyŏngmyŏng sŏn’ŏn. At that time, Sin aimed at building a society which would no longer be constrained by any sort of domination or oppression, be it by capital or state bureaucracies.106

    In a word, we can say that in the 1920s Sin Ch’aeho wanted independent, post-colonial Korea to become a non-capitalist society of the sort dreamt of by the anarchist revolutionaries of the Korean Heroic Corps (Ŭiyŏldan), rather than a capitalist state.107 Whereas in the 1910s Sin Ch’aeho substituted the absolutised patriotism for the Heavenly principle of the old Confucian ideology, in the 1920s Sin, who had witnessed the strength and potential of mass political action during the March First Movement in 1919, emphasized the masses and their inevitable tool of liberation, namely, violence from below. In fact, it is specifically emphasized in Chosŏn hyŏngmyŏng sŏn’ŏn that neither sages nor heroes are to bring political awakening to the masses—the masses are to get awakened themselves in the process of a violent struggle against the existing order.108 And it was understood that, following this mass revolution, the restored, renewed Korea—as, hopefully, the rest of the world as well—would not be a market economy-based class society.

    Liang Qichao and Sin Ch’aeho started their life as nationalist public intellectuals in the first decade of the twentieth century with a rather similar discourse on heroism at the service of the nation state. The final outcomes of their ideological evolution were, however, widely divergent. Unlike Sin the revolutionary, Liang eventually became more interested in defending the existing order of things against any radical revolutionary attempts, and in justifying the positions of the existing elites with the logic of traditional ethics. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Sin Ch’aeho was one of Liang’s followers as far as the issue of constructing and developing a modern nation state in Korea was concerned. Sin’s life as such was rather an object lesson in the ethics of the Confucian gentlemen but it was not easy for Sin to stick to the traditional ethics as an ideological form. Not unlike Liang Qichao in 1902, when he only started to serialize Xinminshuo, Sin chose instead to emphasize the public virtue of nation state-oriented patriotism only. And, unlike Liang, Sin continued to view Confucian virtues rather as obstacles in the way of the development of a modern ethos.109

    90See the footnote 69 above.  91Hirata Hisashi, Itari kenkoku sanketsu, p. 5.  92YJSJZ, Foreword: YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 1–2. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  93Liang Qichao, transl. by Sin Ch’aeho, It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn, pp. 3–6.  94Hirata, in his book, mentioned “sang-froid, inner strength, firm enthusiasm, unyielding sincerity, sharp judgment and sound common sense” as the main features of the “three heroes’” characters. Hirata Hisashi, Itari kenkoku sanketsu, p. 6.  95YJSJZ, Conclusion: YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 56–61. Original: XMCB, No. 22, December 14, 1902.  96Liang Qichao, trans. by Sin Ch’aeho, It’aeri kŏn’guk samgŏlchŏn, p. 12.  97On Liang’s understanding of European history, see: Xiaobing Tang, pp. 80–117.  98YJSJZ, Chapter 2 (Mazzini establishes La Giovine Italia and writes a memorial to the Sardinian king): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 9. Original: XMCB, No. 10, June 20, 1902.  99YJSJZ, Chapter 9 (The revolutionary situation): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 24. Original: XMCB, No. 15, September 2, 1902.  100YJSJZ, Chapter 10 (The wisdom of the Sardinian king—Cavour becomes a minister): YBSWJ, Fasc. 11, p. 26. Original: XMCB, No. 15, September 2, 1902.  101Son Sŏngjun, pp. 117–132.  102Yi Hyegyŏng, Ch’ŏnhagwan kwa kŭndaehwaron: Yang Kech’o rŭl chungsim ŭro, pp. 322–339.  103“Xianjin zhengzhi xixiang shi” (The history of pre-Jin political ideas): YBSWJ, Fasc. 50, p. 84. This work was written in December 1922.  104“Kŭmjŏn, ch’ŏlp’o, chŏju” (Money, cannons, curses): Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho chŏnjip (Collected works of Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho), ed. Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho Sŏnsaeng Kinyŏm Saŏphoe (Seoul: Hyŏngsŏlsa, 1972), Vol. 3, pp. 127–130.  105“Todŏk” (Morality): Sin Ch’aeho munhak yugo sŏnjip (Selected unpublished literary works by Sin Ch’aeho), ed. Kim Pyŏngmin, (Yanbian: Yanbian Daxue Chubanshe, 1994), pp. 151–154.  106“Chosŏn Hyŏngmyŏng Sŏn’ŏn” (The manifesto of Korean revolution): Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho chŏnjip, ed. Tanjae Sin Ch’aeho Sŏnsaeng Kinyŏm Saŏphoe, Vol. 3, pp. 37–45. See a commentary on the content of this document in Yi Horyong, Sin Ch’aeho tasi ilkki: Minjokchuŭija esŏ anak’isŭt’ŭ ro (Re-reading Sin Ch’aeho: from a nationalist to an anarchist) (Seoul: Tolbegae, 2013), pp. 195–219.  107Sin Yongha, pp. 237–266.  108This point is noticed by Yi Horyong: Sin Ch’aeho tasi ilkki: Minjokchuŭija esŏ anak’isŭt’ŭ ro, p. 205.  109Kim Pyŏngmin, Sin Ch’aeho munhak yŏn’gu (Research on Sin Ch’aeho’s literary works) (Seoul: Ach’im, 1988), pp. 189–203.


    Both Liang and Sin attempted to ideologically solve the crises faced by their states and societies, and Sin shared Liang’s modernist attachment to the “new citizens” and nation state. As Liang emphasized in his explanations on what “new citizen” should mean, “new” implied both the importation of something unknown before, and simultaneously adjusting pre-existing beliefs and norms to the new times. In China, the concept of the state as a subject of global competition was to be imported, while the pre-existing definition of Chinese-ness was to be adjusted to the standards of modern nationalism, as the new times required.110 To encourage the common consciousness of Chinese-ness, Liang chose Confucian ethics, remade into a form of modern patriotism. Sin, indeed, needed traditional ethics for the same reasons.

    In this article, we compared the modernist images of heroes in Liang’s and Sin’s writings, using their respective distance from traditional Confucian ideals as a yardstick. Both Liang and Sin needed Confucian exhortations about self-sacrifice in order to boost nationalism aimed at preserving the independence of their states. Confucian ethics, with their trademark negative attitude towards private profit seeking and encouragement of self-sacrifice for the public good, were among the main reasons why both thinkers eventually came to prefer non-capitalist roads to modernity. While emphasizing the role Confucianism played in their respective modernity projects, we also paid attention to the differences between them, as expressed in divergent attitudes towards the Confucian legacy.

    Both thinkers, indeed, treated Confucianism in vastly different ways. For Liang, prior to its utilitarian value, Confucianism was first and foremost a matter of deep personal convinction. He sincerely believed in gentlemen’s (junzi) moral duty to cultivate themselves and subsequently protect non-gentlemen and lead them towards a state of better cultivation (xiuji zhiren—“cultivate oneself and administer others”). The concrete content of gentlemen’s jiaohua (“educating and transforming one’s subjects”) or its scope could vary, but in any case, the cultivated were invariably the only subjects of politics. Their ethical duty included an understanding of the unprecedented changes in the world and a timely response to them. Patriotism was important for the moral elite in the new circumstances, but Liang did not feel that it should bring any basic changes to his, essentially Confucian, views on human life and ethics.

    Unlike Liang, Sin Ch’aeho did not make an intellectual career by advocating the restoration of Confucian values—while nevertheless embodying many of these values in his own personal practice. It is important to note that his pronounced selflessness was rather a way of practicing patriotism, rather than a Confucian value practice as such. As long as Confucian values were not advantageous for the patriotic cause, they tended to lose their meaning for Sin. Confucian elitism, hardly fully compatible with modern nationalism, was abandoned without much difficulty. Unlike Liang, Sin saw the masses as the nascent subject of the unfolding history of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist liberation, and placed great hope on their direct action.

    110XMS, Chapter 3 (Definition of the new citizen): YBSWJ, Fasc. 4, p. 6. Original: XMCB, No. 1, February 8, 1902.

  • 1. 1898?1901 QYB: Qingyibao (Newpaper of disinterested criticism) google
  • 2. 1904?1910 TMS: Taehan maeil sinbo (The Korean Daily News) google
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