By Joseph R. Levenson
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Extra info for Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: Volume Three: The Problem of Historical Significance
Primitive communism', somehow more credible than Mencius' idyll of settled communities (with their mulberry trees everywhere, and women nourishishing silkworms, and each family with its five brood hens and two brood sows), assured Liao that, yes, there was a ching-t'ien. Then the 'primitive' slipped away—at least the 'primitive' of the relativistic materialists, 'primitive' in the sense of rudimentary or first in the stages of progress—and a Rousseauistic 'primitive' was spirited into its place.
He had 'broken the economic influence of the hereditary ruling class';12 he represented a 'stage in the establishment of the chiin-hsien system',13 a stage, that is, of rationalized local government by centrally appointed officials, no longer by regional magnates. Fan Wen-Ian (b. 1891) described the repercussion^of the Ch'in conquest in terms that would seem to exhaust the vocabulary of qualitative change—the great monarchs of Ch'in and Han unified, reduced the feudal lords, fixed the chiin-hsien administrative system, organized vast public works, standardized weights and measures and script and system of laws.
Consolidated the State which (in other hands) gave such novel scope to Confucian bureaucracy. Mao knew it, others knew it, they actually described these eras as vastly different, and only an a priori assumption made them paste the feudal label over the cracks. Everything was feudal for a long time, but for Mao and his epigones pre-Ch'in feudal was aristocratic-autonomous, post-Ch'in feudal was autocratic-centralized. Somewhere under this verbiage lay a clear sense of essential transformation.