Ch'ien Mu

Ch'ien Mu
Born (1895-07-30)30 July 1895
Jiangsu Province, Qing Empire
Died 30 August 1990(1990-08-30) (aged 95)
Taipei, Taiwan
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Chinese Philosophy
School Confucianism
Ch'ien Mu
Traditional Chinese 錢穆
Simplified Chinese 钱穆
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 賓四
Simplified Chinese 宾四
Literal meaning (courtesy name)

Ch'ien Mu, (Chinese: 錢穆; pinyin: Qián Mù; 30 July 1895 – 30 August 1990), was a Chinese historian, educator, philosopher and Confucian. He is considered to be one of the greatest historians and philosophers of 20th-century China.

Life in China

His biographer sketches the "economic mold" of Seven Mansions, his ancestral home in Wusih, Kiangsu (now Wuxi, Jiangsu), to suggest that in his childhood world the "small peasant cosmos" of rituals, festivals, and beliefs held the family system together. He received little formal modern education, but gained his knowledge on Chinese history and culture through traditional home study.[1]

He started his teaching career as a primary school teacher in hometown when he was eighteen. He farewelled to the rostrum at ninety-two years old.

Life in Hong Kong

Ch'ien arrived in Hong Kong in 1949. With help from the Yale-China Association, along with other scholars he cofounded New Asia College.[2] He later received honorary doctorates from both Yale University and Hong Kong University.[3]

Life in Taiwan

Ch'ien relocated to Taiwan in October 1967 after accepting an invitation from the then President Chiang Kai-shek in response to the Hong Kong 1967 Leftist Riots. He was given land in Waishuangxi in the Shilin District to build his home Sushulou (素書樓) while continuing as a freelance academic researching and giving lectures at universities in Taiwan. Ch'ien retired from teaching in 1984. After becoming one of the three constituent colleges of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in 1978 New Asia College inaugurated the Ch'ien Mu Lectures in his honour.

On June 1, 1990 the then Legislative Yuan members Chen Shui-bian (later the 10th and 11th President of the Republic of China) and Chou Po-lun, both of the Democratic Progressive Party (Taiwan) espousing the Taiwan Independence Movement, had accused Ch'ien of occupying public land as the nature of gifting the land for Sushulou by Chiang Kai-shek to a private citizen was deemed to be illegal. Ch'ien and his wife moved out of Sushulou and relocated to a high-rise apartment in downtown Taipei City.

Ch'ien died on August 30 of 1990, a little less than three months after being forced to move out of Sushulou. Many of Ch'ien's supporters condemned the practice Chen and Chou of using Chien for scoring political points against the Kuomintang. Both Chen and Chou have since apologized for the damages of their accusations towards Chien, and Sushulou is now the location of the Ch'ien Mu Memorial.


Ch'ien wrote extensively on Chinese classics, history and Confucian thought. Unlike many 20th-century Chinese intellectuals influenced by the New Culture Movement of the 1910s who are fundamentally skeptical of traditional Chinese thought and Confucianism, he insisted on the importance of traditional values of Chinese culture. By the time of his death in 1990, his objections to the rejection of tradition of Confucianism had gained wider credence, partly through the influence of his student at New Asia College, Yu Ying-shih.[4]


Critics of Chien's ideas, such as Li Ao, tend to focus on his superficial knowledge of non-Chinese currents of thoughts when he wrote his treatises on cultural studies, and his lack of objective, scientific method-based, defense of traditional Chinese culture. Wang Yongzu (Wong Young-tsu) condemns Chien's own bias as "19th century traditionalist" in his "A Comment on Chien Mu's Treatise on Chinese Scholarships During the Qing Dynasty" (錢穆論清學史述評) being unable to view 19th century currents of thoughts with contemporary (20th century) perspectives. It could be argued, however, the opposition is based upon the critics' support of the New Culture Movement's legacies, which Chien explicitly rejected.

Another recurring theme from Ch'ien's critics, from the 1930s onwards, concerns his defense of traditional Chinese political system, headed by a monarch but with the government filled by examinations-based mandarins, as a representative form of government, as a simplistic fantasy.

In his survey, Traditional Government in Imperial China: A Critical Analysis Ch'ien describes the basic constitutive elements of China's traditional government as it evolved. He concentrates upon those dynasties he considers China's most representative: the Han, Tang, Song, Ming and Qing; and critically analyzes and compares their governmental organization, civil service examination system, taxation and defence.



  1. Pt I, Jerry Dennerline Qian Mu and the World of Seven Mansions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).
  2. "About New Asia: History". Chinese University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  3. "Traditional Government in Imperial China: A Critical Analysis".
  4. Hung-yuk Ip, Tze-ki Hon, Chiu-chun Lee, "The Plurality of Chinese Modernity: A Review of Recent Scholarship on the May Fourth Movement," Modern China 29.4 (2003): 490-509.

Further reading

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
President of New Asia College
Succeeded by
Wu Chun-xing
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