Volume 15, Issue 2, 2018
Conceptual History: China, Asia, and the Global
How the Concept of “Nature” Emerged and Evolved in Modern China
The entrance of “nature” from English to Chinese and the transformation of the word ziran 自然 in Chinese had been intertwined together. In the formal process, “nature” was not translated as ziran at first while in the latter process, the western concept and Chinese ideas of nature combined together with multiple, comprehensive meanings in the history of modern China. This means the second process consists some major transformations of ziran as a key concept in modern China. Firstly, it has been a process of materialization for the traditional concept of ziran from ancient China. Secondly, traditional ideas of nature like tian, tianran, ziran, got revived during their association and collaborations with western understandings of nature as a concept of naturalist philosophy. Thirdly, it was also in this process where a humanistic and existential definition of ziran began to emerge, not only as a response to the materialized understanding of ziran, but also created the confrontation between a material occidental civilization and a spiritual oriental civilization. This dualist view not only ignored other thought like Romantism, Humanism and ideas which go against materialism or scientism, but also overlooked materialism and scientism itself in the history of Modern China.