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Title: Secular China
Authors: Gungwu, W. 
Issue Date: Jul-2003
Citation: Gungwu, W. (2003-07). Secular China. China Report 39 (3) : 305-321. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: What I want to emphasise is that the Chinese have been primarily concerned with the worldly and the temporal from ancient times. This means that, unlike the west which had to deal with a powerful church for centuries, the Chinese had begun with a secular outlook that ensured that no church could be established to challenge political authority. In short, we may say that in Europe the secular evolved from a religious core or, as some might argue, the secular departed from a religious norm, whereas in China, what was worldly was the norm. This worldliness was taken so much for granted as the foundation of Chinese life that the Chinese have not found it necessary to emphasise the words needed to convey the idea of being secular. Indeed, when the European concept of secular was introduced to China, there was some difficulty finding the right word to capture its specific meaning. Religious affairs were never so influential in China that an indigenous concept was needed to determine how to deny or minimise the power of religion. Over the past century, the only idea of European secularism that attracted the attention of Chinese leaders and intellectuals was that of 'secular education'. The Chinese were struck by the strenuous efforts made by many western states to keep religion out of their public schools. In this context, the Chinese chose the word shisu to translate secular as being the closest rendering of the idea of church-state separation, but that did not alter the fact that the Chinese had no idea what an official church meant.
Source Title: China Report
ISSN: 00094455
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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