Rethinking Gu Yanwu from a Global Qing Perspective

John Delury, professor of Chinese studies, Yonsei University [Seoul]

Gu Yanwu (1613-1682) was one of the more incisive political thinkers of the early decades of the Qing, and he went on posthumously to exercise a towering influence on dominant intellectual trends for the life of the dynasty—from 18th century evidential research (kaozheng) of Dai Zhen, to the 19th century statecraft reform (jingshi) of Wei Yuan, all the way up through early 20th century cultural nationalism of Liang Qichao. In this lecture, Professor John Delury revisits his earlier work on the life and thought of Gu Yanwu, the subject of his dissertation 15 years ago, by locating Gu Yanwu in a global Qing context. How were Gu’s lived experiences as well as his ideas about politics, economics, and society informed by developments outside China’s borders? How aware was Gu of the global trends shaping the Ming-Qing transition and early Qing, and to what degree did he factor that larger context into his writings? Was Gu Yanwu’s critique of two despotisms, which (according to Delury) is the central concept of his masterpiece, The Record of Daily Learning [1670/1695], connected to global currents in political thought and intellectual history? Finally, was there any global legacy left by Gu and contemporary relevance to world politics in his ideas, or is his significance as a thinker bounded by the limits of the sinosphere?

Registration is required to attend the lecture. Once registered you will receive the Zoom link.

Supported by a gift from Leung Tung Peter & Lin Young.

John Delury is a historian of modern China and US-China relations. He is Professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), also serving as chair of the undergraduate Program in International Studies at Yonsei’s Underwood International College (UIC) and founding director of the Yonsei Centre on Oceania Studies.

John is the author of Agents of Subversion: The Fate of John T. Downey and the CIA’s Covert War in China (Cornell, 2022) and co-author with Orville Schell of Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century (Random House, 2013). Based in Seoul since 2010, his articles can be found in journals including Asian Survey, Journal of Asian Studies, Late Imperial China, and Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies. His commentaries on current affairs appear in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, and Washington Post, and he contributes book reviews for the quarterly journal Global Asia, where he is associate managing editor.

John is a senior fellow of the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations; public intellectual fellow of the National Committee on US-China Relations; Pacific Century Institute board member; National Committee on American Foreign Policy leadership council member; and member of the Council of Foreign Relations. He is a part of the Republic of Ireland’s foreign affairs advisory network and is invited to offer his analysis on East Asian affairs with government, think tank, corporate, and civil society organizations globally. A native of Sacramento, California, he studied at Yale University for his BA, MA, and PhD in history.