Fan Wenlan and the “Debate on the Formation of the Han Ethnic Group (Minzu)”

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.7, 2020


Fan Wenlan and the “Debate on the Formation of the Han Ethnic Group (Minzu)”



Zhang Yue


In the context of Chinese Marxist historiography of the 1950s, the debate on the formation of the Han ethnic group was a unique case triggered by Fan Wenlan’s “On the Reasons China Became a Unified Country from the Qin-Han Period On.” However, Fan’s paper did not aim to argue with the Soviet scholar Yefimov, but rather to correct “faults and errors” in the old edition of the Compendium of General History of China. Fan Wenlan said that studying Marxism required “similarity in spirit” rather than “outward similarity,” and that “the concrete facts of history are precisely the basis of presence and absence.” That was not only his basic viewpoint in the debate, but also the basic principle he put forward as he devoted himself to correcting the dogmatism of Chinese Marxist history. Fan’s careful attitude toward the applicability of Stalin’s definition of ethnicity and Soviet historians’ views on the solution of China’s historical problems is based on his understanding of Han history as “the formation of a unique people under unique social conditions.” Reviewing the debate on the formation of Han ethnicity is of great significance for the study of the history of Chinese ethnic groups today.