An Acropolis in China: The Appropriation of Ancient Greek Tradition in Modern Chinese Literature

Research output: Other contribution


This dissertation explores the transcultural relationships between modern China and ancient Greece, with a view toward appreciating how Greek philosophical and literary visions have been received, reformulated, and repurposed by Chinese writers from the turn of the twentieth century to the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966. The project is a combination of intellectual inquisition and textual analysis. Contextualized in the narrative of modern Chinese intellectual history, my study focuses on critical analysis of certain literary texts that contain or appropriate Greek elements. The objective of this study is to uncover the sophisticated transcultural practice in Chinese writers’ creative representation of what they consider the original source of the Western civilization. This in turn has contributed to the making of new intellectual trends that characterize modern Chinese culture. While constructing “a Greek layer” in the characteristics of Chinese modernity, these intellectuals’ reception of Greek imagery was also conditioned by their own political and cultural purposes. This reception was a process of appropriation that turned ancient Greece into an integral element in the formulation of a new cultural subjectivity of modern China, a course defined by David Damrosch as to mobilize elements derived from the foreign works within a vital and ongoing home tradition. This dissertation considers the Chinese translations of, introductions to, and commentaries on texts of Greek antiquity as recreations adapted to the domestic context. My study does not only analyze what has been rendered and changed in the translations of the broad term when compared with the original texts, but also treat the translations as reformulated texts that succeeded in representing Greek imagery as an internal part of the intellectual history of modern China. As the first comprehensive study of the multi-layered literary relationships between ancient Greece and modern China, this study aims to better understand the modernization of Chinese literature and culture in the context of transculturation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
TypeDoctoral dissertation
PublisherHarvard University
StatePublished - 2016


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