In 1920-21 Bertrand Russell lived and taught in Peking (Beijing), publishing this book on his return to England. In 1920 he had visited Bolshevik Russia, talked to Lenin, and was unimpressed by what he had seen. China, however, was another matter. Like many travelers, he often saw what he wanted to see, and after Europe’s Great War, he found many signs of hope in China. In that country, he was welcomed by the young intellectuals who saw him as a representative of modern and scientific thought. They, however, were trying to cast off much of the old tradition that they thought held China back, and they were often opposed to Russell’s urging that they hold on to much of their own tradition, which he saw as superior to that of Europe, particularly after the terrible slaughter of 1914-18 on the continent. His work is very much a product of its time, and today, almost a century later, many are still trying to explain China — a very different China from Russell’s — to an outside world.
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