On Michael Nylan’s “Learning and Emulation in the Early Empires in China”

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The essay examines the tension between dependence and authority in the discourse on “learning” (xue) as developed in Michael Nylan’s lecture, “Learning and Emulation in the Early Empires in China.” “Learning” points in two different directions. On the one hand, it suggests subjection to the authority of the learned (dependence). On the other hand, however, learning transforms the self into an authoritative person (authority). Nylan helpfully outlines how certain texts in the early empires argued, somewhat counterintuitively, that subjecting oneself to authority is to have authority. The essay concludes by examining how the discourse of xue relates to ongoing discussions about “exemplarity” in Chinese intellectual and political history and points to possible new directions for research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-147
Number of pages2
JournalChinese Literature and Thought Today
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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