This article employs the history of Confucianism in modern Japan to critique current scholarship on the resurgence of Confucianism in contemporary China. It argues that current scholarship employs modernist formulations of Confucianism that originated in Japan's twentieth-century confrontation with Republican China, without understanding the inherent nationalist applications of these formulations. Current scholarly approaches to Confucianism trace a history through Japanese-influenced U.S. scholars of the mid-twentieth century like Robert Bellah to Japanese imperialist and Chinese Republican nationalist scholarship of the early twentieth century. This scholarship employed new individualistic and modernist visions of religion and philosophy to isolate fields of “Confucian values” or “Confucian philosophy” apart from the realities of social practice and tradition, transforming Confucianism into a purely intellectualized “empty box” ripe to be filled with cultural nationalist content. This article contends that current scholarship, by continuing this modernist approach, may unwittingly facilitate similar nationalist exploitations of Confucianism.

You do not currently have access to this content.