Space, Power and Society: Imagined Centre and Evolution of Chinese Psyche

A/Prof. Pawel Zygadlo1

1Department Of China Studies, XJTLU, , China

The notion of ‘Centre’ (zhongyuan, zhongyuan), for centuries, has been associated with the right to rule widely employed by the ones who claimed rights to govern China. Despite being challenged by numerous modernisation movements of 20th and 21st centuries, the entanglement between power and physical and imagined centre, seems to remain a vital factor determining self-identification and socio-cultural positioning of the individual even in contemporary China. The appreciation of physical, or imagined centrality of the individual and communities that one belongs to, seeking justification of actions and behaviours by appeal to the ‘central sanction’ (zhongyang), or ‘central importance’ (hexin) are almost indispensable elements of socio-political discourses and self-perception of the individual. This paper intends to first investigate the notion of the centre as it is expounded in the Classics. Subsequently, it will illustrate the way such understanding determines the socio-cultural self-positioning of the individual. In the following part, this paper will demonstrate how this perception had been challenged by modernity and how it adapted to the challenges of modern times. In conclusion, it will argue that despite numerous changes and necessary adaptations, the notion of ‘centre’   remains one of perpetuating values determining the uniqueness of Chinese culture and society.


Paweł Zygadło is Associate Professor in the Department of China Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. He earned his PhD degree in Philosophy from National Chengchi University in Taipei in 2013 and then went to work in Mainland China. His research interests include Chinese philosophy, Chinese pragmatics, sociocultural psychology and intercultural communication. He authored one book and several journal articles. His most recent research project The Concept of Face in Contemporary Chinese Society: Theory and Practice, funded by Research Development Fund of XJTLU examines the adaptation and meaning of the notion of Face (lianmian) in 21st-century Chinese society.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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