Reflections on Contrasting Views on Themes in Chinese Civilization


  • Gunnar Haaland



modern China, Leninist capitalism, Confucian superstructure, guanxi, corruption, mianzi (face)


CORRECTION: On Page 9, Paragraph 3, Line 7, the date of the Yüan dynasty (1279 – 1368) has been changed to Yüan dynasty (1271 – 1368).


Like any complex civilization, China contains the confluence of range of traditions of knowledge that people draw on in their interpretations of and reactions to events in the 'world' they are exposed to. However traditions of knowledge serve multiple purposes and may lead to contradictory views on important issues. Chairman Mao when reflecting on two dominant cultural traditions – the Confucian school and the Legalist school - stated that in China there is always two opposite viewpoints. The traditions of knowledge expressing such divergent viewpoints had for more than 2000 years been nurtured and elaborated in the organizational context of the Chinese Empire. An important concern in these traditions is their emphasis on lessons to be drawn from past historical experiences. In the present situation the historical consciousness allows for alternative guidelines for interpreting events taking place on national as well as on global arenas.

Keywords: modern China; Leninist capitalism; Confucian superstructure; guanxi; corruption; mianzi (face)

DOI: 10.3126/dsaj.v4i0.4510

Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Vol.4 2010 pp.1-20


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Author Biography

Gunnar Haaland

Haaland, Gunnar is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen. Theoretically his research foci include the interplay between processes in nature and processes in society, the cultural content of ethnic identities in their politico-economic contexts, and application of anthropological perspectives to the interpretation of prehistoric remains. Empirically most of his work has been done in Sudan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and China. He has been Honorary Professor at the following universities: College of Ecology and Environment Science, Inner Mongolian Agricultural University, China; Department of Sociology, Anhui University, China; Yunnan Nationalities University, China. In addition to his permanent position at University of Bergen he has held short-term teaching assignments at University of Khartoum, Sudan; Tribhuvan University, Nepal; Fudan University, and Yunnan University of Nationalities, China. He has worked as consultant to a variety of international agencies (e.g. FAO, ILO, IFAD, World Bank, ILCA) in 12 African countries and 6 Asian countries. His most well-known publications are 'Economic Determinants in Ethnic Processes'. in Barth, F.: Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Norwegian University Press Oslo 1969; 'Nomadization as an Economic Career among Sedentaries in the Sudan Savanna Belt' in Cunnison, I and James, W.: Essays in Sudan Ethnography. Festschrift to Evans Pritchard, C Hurst & Company. London 1972; 'Cultural Content and Ethnic Identity'. in Grønhaug, Haaland and Henriksen: The Ecology of Choice and Symbol. Essays in the Honour of Fredrik Barth, Alma Mater. Bergen, 1991; 2008 'Explaining causes in evolving contexts: From Nepali hill Farmers to Business Managers in Thailand' in Against the Grain. The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology. AltaMira Press 2008 ISBN 978-0-7591-1172-1. s. 43-66. Haaland was awarded the King's Medal of Merit in Gold (Norway) on 17 December, 2007.


How to Cite

Haaland, G. (2011). Reflections on Contrasting Views on Themes in Chinese Civilization. Dhaulagiri Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 4, 1–20.