Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(2,500 words)

If by intellectuals in the broader sense one means a scientifically or artistically educated elite, then the Chinese intellectuals (zhishifenzi) of the 20th century are descendants of the Confucian literati or scholar-officials (wenren or shidaifu) who traditionally determined cultural and political life in China as intellectual elites. Owing to their specifically Confucian background, the pre-modern literary intellectuals developed characteristics which have persisted into modern times, and which distinguish their successors' self-image fr…

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Pohl, Karl-Heinz, “Intellectuals”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 23 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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