Though particular texts have long held culturally foundational authority, debates over the idea of a canon and the texts that are to compose it are a much more recent phenomenon, one that originated in the United States and quickly spread to other countries. The present article situates China in the international trend of canon studies by tracing how the Chinese conceptualization of the canon was modernized in the 1990s by Western ideas when canon studies were introduced to China by Dutch scholar Douwe W. Fokkema. While embracing the Western notion of the canon as always in a dynamic process of change that involves aesthetic qualities as well as a power mechanism, Chinese scholars, under the influence of culturally specific practices of literary criticism, the Confucian principle of the golden mean, and the more recent Marxist teaching of dialectical thinking, refuse to replicate Western discourses, instead adhering to a more dialectical treatment of the mutually antagonistic positions. Moreover, China's rising international status and its pursuit of wider global influence have led Chinese scholars to approach literary (re)historiography as an opportunity to showcase Chinese scholarship and to enhance China's national image.

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