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It was good enough to be praised and imitated in 18th century Europe.

Nevertheless, it has given China a tremendous handicap in their transition from government by men to government by law, and personal considerations in Chinese government have been a curse.

In English, the term intellectual identifies a "literate thinker"; its earlier usage, as in the book title The Evolution of an Intellectual (1920), by John Middleton Murry, denotes literary activity, rather than the activities of the public intellectual.) denotation broadened, to mean "specialized", a man who earned his living writing intellectually, not creatively, about literature: the essayist, the journalist, the critic, et al.

In the 20th century, such an approach was gradually superseded by the academic method, and the term "Man of Letters" became disused, replaced by the generic term "intellectual", describing the intellectual person.

In Joseon Korea (1392–1910), the intellectuals were the literati, who knew how to read and write, and had been designated, as the chungin (the "middle people"), in accordance with the Confucian system.