The true meaning of enlightenment is to expose the uneducated to literacy and sense. In ancient China, people used to "get enlightened" at a very early age when they were still kids in order to be cultured. Otherwise, they would be deemed "poorly cultured or non-sufficiently enlightened". People were quoted as saying that. It was said that the extent of enlightenment people were exposed to in their early days would determine the amount of intelligence they were able to achieve down the road.
Likewise, human society, in the process of its transformation from a traditional society to a modern one, is closely associated with enlightenment; namely, there will be no modernization short of enlightenment.
Nevertheless, "enlightenment", as a term used in the modern language, originated in the west in recent times. In human history, modern ideas and movements of enlightenment made their debut in England in the late 17th century. And they were then spread to such European countries as France and Germany, subsequently rippling through North America as well as Asian countries like Japan and China in the late 19th century.
The industrial revolution, market oriented economy or constitutional systems would never have materialized in either Europe or Americas if the west had not brought forth such great thinkers of enlightenment as Rock, Smith, Voltaire, Rousseau, or Diderot. The same is true of China, where its intellectuals, having been influenced by the modern ideology of enlightenment since the late Qing Dynasty against a backdrop of "National Salvation", launched a series of events such as the Westernization Drive, the Reform Movement of 1898, and the New Cultural Movement in an attempt to reform the traditional Chinese culture and to mold their people into a brand new type of Chinese nationals with the help of modern ideology from the west. And this is especially true of contemporary China, where, in 1978, the grand debate on whether or not "practice is the sole criterion for testing truth" triggered the freeing of people’s mind, resulting in the tremendous achievement brought forward by the "reform and opening up" - a brief glimpse into the great impact of the ideological power.
However, a misconception has, for a long time, been conceived by people who think that is what those intellectuals and philosophers with foresight use to enlighten, educate and teach the unenlightened. As a result, the word enlighten has become a transitive verb with the rest of the uncultured world as its object. In reality, the essence of enlightenment is, according to Kant, one of the modern enlightenment thinkers, not "enlightenment or inspiration from others" but "self-awareness"; namely, people wake up from a state of immaturity due to self reasons (a state in which one is unable to apply self rationality due to a lack of instruction) with the root cause being people 's lack of the application of reason instead of their lack of reason.
Such an insight has so far been shining giving off rational brilliance.
The cornerstone of enlightenment in the west is derived from people's cognition of objective laws, for instance, theories such as Copernicus' "Heliocentric Theory ", Newton's "Law of Universal Gravitation", and Galieo's "Cosmology", which have, by maintaining that everything in the universe abides by the same law, have helped shake off thousands of years of shackles of religion and created a progressive new era by ushering rational thinking into human society. Whereas in China, thousands of years of feudal agrarian society resulted in backwardness of science and technology and a lack of legal tradition, which kept China from docking the world civilization until modern enlightenment from the west (including Marxism) kicked in and science, democracy and legal concepts were brought in.
Never in any period of history until now has China ever been so close to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in this flow of the historic tide. The profound, conscious and rational development of the objective and subjective world by each and every Chinese will eventually add momentum to the unprecedented materialization of the Chinese Dream in the same way as the Belt and Road Initiative has dawned on an increasingly big number of countries that it is not just China’s one man show but a chorus to be joined in by all nations along the route.