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From Chinese Cosmology to English Romanticism

The Intricate Journey of a Monistic Idea

Yu Liu



Published: Apr 27 2023


Published: Apr 27 2023

OA Ebook
Published: Apr 27 2023


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A culturally sensitive and rewarding new understanding of the cross-cultural interaction between China and Europe

In this important new work author Yu Liu argues that, confined by a narrow English and European conceptual framework, scholars have so far obscured the radical innovation and revolutionary implication of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth's monistic philosophy. Liu's innovative intellectual history traces the organic westward movement of the Chinese concept of tianren heyi, or humanity's unity with heaven. This monistic idea enters the European imaginary through Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci's understanding of Chinese culture, travels through Spinoza's identification of God with nature, becomes ingrained in eighteenth-century English thought via the landscaping theory and practice of William Kent and Horace Walpole, and emerges in the poetry and thought of Coleridge and Wordsworth. In addition to presenting a significantly different reading of the two English poets, Liu contributes to scholarship about English literary history, history of European philosophy and religion, English garden history, and cross-cultural interactions between China and Europe in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries.

Dr. Yu Liu is a professor of English at Niagara County Community College in New York State. In addition to over thirty-five essays in peer-reviewed journals of literature, history, and philosophy, he is the author of Poetics and Politics: The Revolutions of Wordsworth (1999), Seeds of a Different Eden: Chinese Gardening Ideas and a New English Aesthetic Ideal (2008), and Harmonious Disagreement: Matteo Ricci and His Closest Chinese Friends (2015). For his research, he has received the support of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship (2006-2007), a Fulbright fellowship at City University of Hong Kong (2012-2013), a Karlgren-Eisenstadt Residential Fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (spring of 2018), and numerous short-term library research fellowships in the United States and Great Britain.

"Yu Liu offers a groundbreaking analysis of cross-cultural exchange by exploring the influence of Chinese philosophical traditions on English art, gardening, and literature up to the Romantic period. This is a must-read for scholars interested in Anglo-Chinese relations between 1600 and 1830."—Robert Markley, W. D. and Sara E. Trowbridge Professor of English, University of Illinois

"In this deeply learned study, Yu Liu traces a 'relay of ideas' that made their way from Chinese philosophy to Western Romanticism, transformed along the way in Spinoza's thought and in theories of English landscape gardening. A tour de force of intellectual history, his book shapes a persuasive story out of disparate strands whose significance deepens when seen in a unifying perspective."—Leo Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Research Professor of Literature, Emeritus, Harvard University

"A thoughtful and imaginative attempt to trace the migration of the ancient Chinese cosmological unity of heaven and humanity to seventeenth-and-eighteenth-century Europe via the China Jesuits, Spinoza, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, leading to the redesign of English gardens and Romantic poetry."—D. E. Mungello, professor of history emeritus, Baylor University

"In his powerfully original monograph, From Chinese Cosmology to English Romanticism, Yu Liu upends the all-too-familiar asymmetry of theorizing Chinese culture through a Western conceptual structure. He mounts a carefully documented and compelling argument that the 'idea' of the persistent Chinese organismic worldview captured in the language of 'humanity's unity with nature' set its roots in the antinomian European Enlightenment thinkers as early as the complex Rites Controversy, and then spreads out as a root system through the heretical philosopher Spinoza to shape British Romanticism in all of its parts."—Roger T. Ames, Peking University

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