chapter  11
30 Pages

Advisors to rulers: Serving the state and the way


From the seventh century to the dawn of the twentieth, certain intellectuals in China, commonly known as scholar-officials, constituted an indigenous profession of great social importance. Other more familiar professions, such as law, medicine, and engineering, arose relatively late, largely in response to and in imitation of Western models. Indeed, the pattern of development in China displays almost an inverse trajectory-steps to de-professionalize scholarofficials were taken in the early twentieth century, especially by members of the May 4 movement, just as other professions were establishing themselves. Yet many Chinese intellectuals continued to adhere to the scholar-official ethos through much of the twentieth century, as advisors and ministers to one or another autocratic ruler of a strong centralized state.