Liang Qichao

Thoughts From the Ice-Drinker's Studio

Thoughts From the Ice-Drinker's Studio

Essays on China and the World


The power, anger and fluency of Liang Qichao's writings make him one of the towering figures in modern Chinese literature. He saw his great, almost unmanageable task as an attempt to write China into the new era - to provide an ancient country, devastated by civil war and foreign predators with the intellectual equipment to renew itself. China could only recover through a clear-sighted, informed understanding of its enemies - and by engaging in a thorough-going self-critique. Then China would be able to expel its invaders, reform its society and become a great power once more.

Liang said that he wrote from an 'ice-drinker's studio', implying that underneath his dispassionate tone lay an ardour and passion which only ice could cool. This selection of pieces shows Liang's extraordinary range and the burning sense of mission which drove him on. Blending together Confucianism, Buddhism and the Western Enlightenment, Liang's ideas about nation, democracy and morality had a profound impact on Chinese visions of the political order, though the China that eventually emerged from the further disasters of the 1930s and 1940s would be a very different one.