Social Sciences History Seminar
Abstract: This paper examines how the worship of ancient wisdom affects economic progress in historical China, where the learned class embraced classical wisdom for millennia but encountered the shock of Western industrial influence in the mid-19th century. Using the number of sage temples to measure the strength of classical worship in 269 prefectures, I find that classical worship discouraged intellectuals from appreciating modern learning and thus inhibited industrialization between 1858 and 1927. By contrast, industrialization grew faster in regions less constrained by classicism. This finding implies the importance of cultural entrepreneurship, or the lack thereof, in shaping modern economic growth.