Discover Christmas gifts we know they'll love

Liang Qichao

Thoughts From the Ice-Drinker's Studio

Thoughts From the Ice-Drinker's Studio

Essays on China and the World


'China's first iconic modern intellectual. His lucid and prolific writings, touching on all major concerns in his own time and anticipating many in the future, inspired several generations of thinkers' Pankaj Mishra

'A country does not become corrupt and weak overnight. Rather, we are now reaping the evil harvest of what previous generations sowed.'

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.

Liang said that he wrote from an 'ice-drinker's studio', implying that underneath his dispassionate, disabused and rational tone lay an ardour and passion which only ice could cool. China could only recover through a clear-sighted, informed understanding of its enemies - and by engaging in a thorough-going self-critique. Liang did not propose aping the West but taking only what China needed to 'renew the people' and create 'new citizens'. Then China would be able to expel its invaders, reform its society and become a great power once more.

This selection of pieces shows Liang's extraordinary range and the burning sense of mission which drove him on, attempting to galvanize and refresh an entire nation. 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.