So I was reading a history book. Here is the paragraph that confused me.

Regarding the speed and measures of reforms, the opinions of the progressive factions were divided into two groups. While discussing their position toward Qing and Japan and addressing the issue of lack of finance, the ones who advocated a gradual change, the so-called 'Moderate,' believed that modernization should not proceed at the cost of the cultural values of the Orient that had been upheld by both Joseon and Qing for many years. They thought that a certain level of protection from a stronger country like Qing would be inevitable, in the midst of all those international competitions

For clarification, 'Joseon' and 'Qing' are two different dinasties. 'Orient' was the name of something that I wasn't sure. To me, it seems a little contradict between these two sentences: The first sentences said "...modernization should not proceed at the cost of the cultural values ...that was upheld by Qing and..." And then second sentence said "..protection from a strong country like Qing would be inevitable..."

I was trying to guess the meaning from the context, but I had completely no idea.

  • So are you asking what "at the cost of" means or how two sentences tie together?
    – Kreiri
    Nov 7, 2016 at 9:33
  • I can choose to date this man at the cost of hurting my best friend, his ex-girlfriend. It will harm my friendship with my friend if I decide to date her ex. You can't have one thing without it costing something.
    – WRX
    Apr 12, 2017 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


If you get or do something "at the cost" of something it means that if you get or do something you will have to lose something else.

In the sentence it is said that modernization will only happen if you lose cultural values which is not acceptable and was held up by Qing. You cannot have both. You will have to lose something and get the other.

Hope it helps.


You might be overanalyzing.

The core of the sentence is "modernization ... at the cost of the cultural values of the Orient". The assertion here is that modernization and those cultural values are at odds; there are problems to have both.

The position of the Moderates is that where modernization and cultural values clash, modernization should not happen because it would come at a cost to those cultural values.

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