Chen Zuwu, male and from the Han ethnic group, was born in October 1943. His ancestors came from Chaling, Hunan Province, while he is a native of Guiyang, Guizhou Province and a member of the Communist Party of China. He graduated from the department of history of Guizhou University. He is director, researcher and PhD student advisor of the Institute of History. He is also the vice-chairman of the China Society of History. His academic expertise is academic history of the Qing Dynasty. Since 1994, he has started to enjoy a special allowance awarded by the State Council.
Blending Conducting and Studies Pursuing into One Harmonious Whole
Way of Learning History, Managing History and Applying History
Lin Cunyang (hereinafter referred to as Lin): Mr. Chen, many young students admire you for your behavior and knowledge very much. In addition, they want to know more about your learning experience. Would you please tell us something at this aspect?
Chen Zuwu (hereinafter referred to as Chen): Thank you for your great kindness! I come from Chaling, Hunan and was born on October 14,
Over the more than 20 years, I have been taken the instruction of studying hard that taught by Mr. Yang Xiangkui. Now matter in the winters or the summers, I will bend over my desk for study in the mornings and the evenings, engaged in the literatures of Confucianism in the Qing Dynasty so as to make up for lack of natural talent by hard work. Therefore, the sentence that diligence is the means by which one makes up for one's dullness has been my faith that I will abide by in my whole life. In addition, I had the fortune to listen to the instruction of Mr. Zheng Tianting, a master historian in the generation so I have had a more profound understanding of the basic academic features and the methodology of pursuing studies of history. Mr. Zheng ever warned that when pursuing the studies of history, one must depend on cultivation and lay emphasis to having basis for each word and origin for each sentence; one shall have sufficient data and go deep into the connotation and explain it in simple language. he shall learn to make relation in an extensive way and try his best to search for the relations between each other in the diverse and complex historical data while mastering the nature of them and revealing their rules. This instruction taught by Mr. Zheng has been my target in my practice day and night in the future and benefited me a lot during my whole life. When I went to Taiwan for pursuing studies in the winter of 1995, I had the fortune to visit the senior master Mr. Wang Shumin from the Institute of Historical Language. Mr. Wang Shumin did not abandon me and gave me his master work Wang Shumin’s Book of Reminiscences as a gift. Mr. Wang conducts himself in an honest way and pursing studies and teaching by means of sincerity, which integrates with the instructions from my family since I was young and has been my clinging pursuit with respect to behavior and study pursuing in the over 10 years approximately.
While engaged in the pursuing of studies, I entered into the leading group in charge of assisting the Director of the Institute with the scientific researches in the winter of 1994 with the trust from the party organization of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Party Committee of the Institute and all the colleagues in the Institute. After the winter of 1998, I shouldered the important responsibility of taking charge of all academic works in the Institute. Changing from a scholar into a public servant as more than 20 years has passed; I am over sixty years old unconsciously, becoming as old as the cycle of sixty years arrived.
Academic Evolution and Features of the Qing Dynasty
I. Three stages and the features of academic evolution in the Qing Dynasty
Lin: Mr. Chen, as is known to all, you have been engaged in the researches of the academic field in the Qing Dynasty and have great attainment. In addition, you have obtained a great number of academic achievements with great significance and influence. Thus, based on what you have learned from the pursuing of studies, what kind of process of evolution is the academic field in the Qing Dynasty as far as you are concerned?
Chen: I am far from “having great attainment”. What I have done is just doing some researches in my power. The academic field in the Qing Dynasty features the sorting out and summary of academics over the several thousand years in China. The philosophy and literature cover a lot of ground. During the over 260 years, the characteristics of stage during its development with the social changes have been shown, in addition, the consistency of the integration of the subsequent academics and the original ones has also shown due to the internal logic during the academic evolution. According to the time sequence, it can be divided into three stages on the whole: the first stage is the academics in the early Qing Dynasty from the first year of the Emperor Shunzhi in the Qing Dynasty to the 61st year of the Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty; the second stage is the academics in the middle period of the Qing Dynasty, from the first year of the Emperor Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasty to the 19th year of the Emperor Daoguan in the Qing Dynasty; the third stage is the academics in the late Qind Dynasty, from the 20th year of the Emperor Daoguan in the Qing Dynasty to the 3rd year of the Emperor Xuantong in the Qing Dynasty.
Lin: What are the respective features of those three stages?
Chen: On the first stage, namely under the reign of Emperor Shunzhi and the reign of Emperor Kangxi, it was the critical period for laying the foundation of the country. With respect to the development of the academics in the Qing Dynasty, the 80 years in the early Qing Dynasty was an important stage that served as a link between past and future and exploring the path. During this period, large numbers of outstanding people came forward and a good deal of works came out in succession. The broad boldness of vision, the open mind as well as the profound and lasting influence are rare in the history of ancient academics in China. The academics in this period were not only different from the academics in the Song Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty, but also different from the Han school of classical philology under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing. The basic features of the academics are being broad, profound and extensive as well as practical for use in addition to the criticism of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties and the promotion of the study of Confucian classics. In the academic trend of “overcoming the shortcomings of the study of Confucian classics by learning from the strong points of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties”, the academics in the early Qing Dynasty started with the textual research on Confucian classics and opened a new chapter of an overall sorting and summarizing of the traditional academics. On the second stage, the reign of the Emperor Yongzheng did not last for long and it was, as a matter of fact, a transitional period when the academics in the early Qing Dynasty evolved to the academics in the middle period of the Qing Dynasty. The academics in the middle period of the Qing Dynasty were mainly the academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing. Mr. Wang Guowei used to use the word “refined” to sum up the feature of pursuing studies in this period. The academics in this period evolved from the broad ones to the refined ones and the experts and outstanding achievements thrived at the same time. Hui Dong, Dai Zhen and Qian Daxin took the leading positions in the academic circles, adding radiance and beauty to each other in succession. The renewal of ancient academics had grown into a general trend. After the age of these three masters, the scholars who could fully show the academic style of the age and were outstanding form the generation with the exquisite pursuit of profound studies were definitely the father Wang Niansun and his son Wang Yinzhi from Gaoyou. Since the rise of Ruan Yuan who attached great importance to academics though he was a high officer of the frontier. The Huangqingjingjie written in the early reign of the Emperor Daoguang and the Sinological Pedigree of Qing Dynasty and the Discussion of Sinology that were written after the first one were the sign of the academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing had stepped in the stage of summary. On the third stage, the period between the reign of the Emperor Jiaqing and the Emperor Daoguang, the Qing Dynasty was beset with troubles internally and externally. In face of the irreversible declining tendency of Sinology, Fang Dongshu and Tang Jian etc. wanted to take the place of Sinology by the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties with the purpose of creating a situation of the revival of Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song Dynasty. However, as the age steps forward, the Sinology was not the only dominant academics any more. The change was imperative under such a circumstance. In addition, the grand unifying of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song Dynasty had passed for a long time. The plan of revival was nothing more but some people’s own wishful thinking. With respect to the academics in the late Qing Dynasty, it was not the revving of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song Dynasty either. It had the distinctive features of the age and was evolved with the great historical change that had no precedent to go by. During the 70 years, the revival of Present Characters Confucianism integrated with the rising trend of thought of ruling the country at first, which as a result lifted the curtain on the academics in the late Qing Dynasty. After that, the trend of thought of the Westernization Movement rose up and the argument over the application of the new and the old literary forms rolled up the court and the commonalty like a mat at one time; however, at the same time, the trend of integration of the Sinology of the Song Dynasty had become even more violent with reference to the Gongyan of participating in the management of State affairs. Finally, the wild whirlwind of Hundred Days' Reform for modernization had come into being. During the last one to two decades in the late Qing Dynasty, the trend of “taking the place of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties with the manners” had become a common practice. The revival of the hundred schools of thought and philosophy of the pre-Qin period had been the key to the ideological emancipation at that time. Mr. Sun Yat-sen’s theory of the Three People's Principles (Nationalism, Democracy and the People's Livelihood) stood out from the masses. With the flag of the Three People's Principles, the ideological emancipation and the armed struggle supplemented each other and the decayed Qing Dynasty came to an end beyond any help. However, based on the present, we shall sum up experience from the past. We shall integrate the Sinology in the Song Dynasty for the purpose of pursing new academic trend. By means of the integration with the national ethos of learning the advanced academics in the foreign countries for the sake of being used by us, the Chinese academics still persist in pursing academics along the our unique way of development, stepping forward circuitously.
II. The in-depth exploration of academics in the early Qing Dynasty
Lin: We have noticed that your first academic monograph the Intellectual Enquiries on Academics in the Early Qing Dynasty has received great attention and been highly praised all the time. Mr. Yang Xiangkui said, “Chen Zuwu is able to ponder and is good at learning. This masterpiece under the title of Intellectual Enquiries on Academics in the Early Qing Dynasty combines the social realities in the early Qing Dynasty with the discussion of academic thoughts. It is one of the most proper methods. We cannot separate the discussion of academic thoughts from the social realities. “How will the hair attach if the skin does not exist”! The philosophy of the pre-Qin period, the study of Confucian classics in Han Dynasties, the metaphysics in the Wei and Jin Dynasties and the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties are all related to the societies at that time. Subsequent to Liang Rengong and Sizhu Xiansheng from Qianbin, the book written by Zuwu will stand out from the crowd.” There is also a man who has written the a special articles under the title of The Helpful Exploration of the Law of Academic Development in the Early Qing Dynasty to give evaluation. As far as he is concerned, you book has the three major features including the “integration of the social history and the history of academic thought”, the “integration of the macroscopic studies and the microcosmic studies as well as the theoretical analysis and the textual research on historical facts”, and the “integration of the scholars, the trend of academic thoughts and the academic schools”. It is a “masterpiece that promotes the researches on the history of academic thoughts in the Qing Dynasty”. What is your opinion on this book?
Chen: I really don't deserve the praise of the two men. What I did is just inheriting the way of academics opened up by the scholars of the past and the wise men at that time and making noting more but a few researches. Not to speak of the theory and researches of Ruan Yuan, Jiang Fan and Tang Jian etc. who were the scholars in the Qing Dynasty, as far back as the early 20th century, the masters including Zhang Taiyan, Liang Qichao and Liu Shipei etc. had opened up the way of researches on the academics in the Qing Dynasty. They have made outstanding achievements and are leading authorities. After that, Hu Shi, Qian Mu, Hou Wailu, Yang Xiangkui and Zhang Shunhui inherited the unfinished undertakings of Mr. Zhang and Mr. Liang etc. and wrote other works to follow up. Though their methods were different and they adopted different approaches, they treaded different paths that lead to the same destination and all of them made great achievements. None of them did not take the leading position in this filed a master. It is the research results of them that makes the deepened exploration and discussion of the academic history in the Qing Dynasty possible. The scholars of the past and the wise men at that time have carved out a way, so there is no shirking the responsibility of making intensive and meticulous cultivation and being diligent and prudent as the former ones for the later generations. I have the fortune to stand on the shoulder of giants, though being ashamed of my inferiority and making up a number without active work, so I work hard day and night for many years. Finally, certain muddled and immature thoughts have come into being to my surprise. As far as I am concerned, if I sort these fragments out, they may be conducive to the people who are advancing bravely and have promising future. On that account, I sorted out and make recognition of the major academic phenomena under the reign of the Emperor Shunzhi and the Emperor Kangxi in the early Qing Dynasty, namely the middle of the 17th century and the early 18th century from the point of view of the combination of social history and history of academics. With respect to the problems that have not been solved by the predecessors, I was aimed at covering the unsolved ones so as to serve as a modest spur to induce someone to come forward with his valuable contributions; with respect to the problems that are still in dispute so far, I just state my restricted views with the purpose of asking for advice of all experts. I was aimed at exploring the basic law of the academic development in the early Qing Dynasty by means of such efforts. In a word, it means coming down to earth and dealing with concrete matters relating to work.
III. The school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing is a historical evolution process
Lin: Subsequent to the Intellectual Enquiries on Academics in the Early Qing Dynasty, you wrote another book under the tile of Sidelights of Confucianism Academics in the Qing Dynasty, in which there is not only more in-depth exploration and discussion of the academics in the early Qing Dynasty but also the in-depth observation and study of the academic circles under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and even the academics after the late Qing Dynasty. Therein, we have noticed that your realization of the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing is different from the method adopted by the scholars of the past who divided the schools according to the regions to a great extent. Instead, you put forward the new opinion of “the period from Hui School to the Dai School is a historical process”. How did you come up with such a kind of realization?
Chen: As we know, the hard core of the academics in the Qing Dynasty was the study of Confucian classics. Over the two hundred years or so, nothing is better than the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing that was active on the stage of academics during the period when the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing were in power when showing this status of being hard core to the greatest extent. The academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing were extensive and profound and created a system of its own. Masters of the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing came out in succession and each of them make their own outstanding achievements. The in-depth researches on the academic history in this period, especially the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing is subject that is able to develop the scholars’ skill to full. In my early years when I read the books written by Zhang Taiyan and Liang Qichao, I used to believe the theory of dividing line between Wu and Anhui they asserted without a shadow of doubt. However, after that when I read the masterpiece A History of Chinese Scholarship in the Past Three Centuries written by Mr. Qian Mu, I noticed that Mr. Qian’s opinion on this issue is different from that of Mr. Zhang and Mr. Liang. In Mr. Qian’s opinion, “The Hui School and the Dai School that refer to the study are aimed at perfection and both of them root in the Six Classics. There is no major difference between the two”. “at that time the students of Dong Yuan high praised the School of Hui while the scholars learning the School of Hui also respected the School of Dai. There was no antagonism between Wu and Anhui.” Since then, I the doubt of division between the Wu and the Anhui has been kept in my mind. After that, I was inspired by the article under the title of On the School of Thought under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing written by my teacher Mr. Yang Xiangkui. As Mr. Yang stated, “When the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing is referred to, we always say that in this school there is a division of the School of Wu and the School of Anhui. As a matter of fact, rather than such a kind of division according to regions, it is better to refer to its difference between the past and the present from a point of view of development. In this way, its nature can been seen.” With the instruction of Mr. Yang, I started to make a new investigation and study on this issue and wrote articles in succession so as to put forward discussion on the division between the School of Wu and the School of Anhui. As far as I am concerned, in the Chinese academic history, the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing was active on the stage of academics in the 18th and the 19th centuries. Its influence still remained till the 20th century. As an academic school of great vitality and long-lasting influence, it is the same as many academic schools in history and has its own formation, development and declining historical process of strong characteristics. This process is intricate and complicated with ups and downs. It is obvious that the simple classification of the School of Wu and the School of Anhui cannot show it. Therefore, since the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing are a historical process, the sorting of the evolution path in the process the basic aspect that we shall master in the nature of things. However, the assertion of the division of the School of Wu and the School of Anhui has historical basis of one sort or another, it is exactly on this basic point the development path of the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing was covered imperceptibly. There is no doubt that when we do researches of the history of academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing, we shall certainly lay emphasis on the researches on the regional academics. However, the division of schools in accordance with regions shall be under more discussion. In particular, it is not suitable to sum up the whole school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing by the division of the School of Wu and the School of Anhui, or in other words, the School or Hui and the School of Dai. Therefore, in order to go deep into the researches on the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing, we shall restore its true features of being a historical process. That is to say, we shall adopt an advisable train of thought. The train of thought is that we shall base on the historical reality and make detailed researches in practical and realistic way on the academics of each school, of which there are not only the individual explorations and discussions on a great number of scholars in an in-depth way but also the group analysis of academic family and regional academics as well so as to master the origin and development of academy during the hundred years or be able to find the approach to deepen the researches on the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing.
Lin: Does it mean that the significant subject of the Institute “Researches on the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing” that you took the charge and its results the two book s of the Annals of the Academics under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and the Researches on the School of Thought under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing are the practices and the deepen results of this new thought or new approach?
Chen: It can be said in this way. As far back as the end of the 1980s, I started to devote myself to the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and the academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing. In the middle of 1990s, I was accompanies by two or three young scholars who had a common goal with me. We acted as teachers and friends to each other, learning from each other by exchanging views and considering our thoughts. In 2000, supported by several experts from the Academic Board of the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Researches on the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing” was approved to be the significant research subject of the Institute. In the next year, as approved unanimously by the Expert Evaluation Committee of the Division of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, this subject became one of the significant research projects of the whole institute during the tenth Five Year Plan. Over the more than five years, I have taken charge of this subject and gathering my colleagues, starting with the sorting of literatures and seeking truth from facts fastidiously. On the earlier stage, we completed the composing of the Annals of the Academics under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing; after that, the colleagues in the research group make the in-depth monographic study according to their own academic accumulations and composed the Researches on the School of Thought under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing.
The two books are the collective results of the efforts of everyone that is of the nature of companion volume. They are far from having any significant breakthrough. What we have done is just make some new tries by the joint efforts of everyone and on the basis of the research results of the scholars of the past and the wise men at that time. Our opinion was that we should put the object of study in the detailed historic environment and base on the solid sorting of academic literatures. By means of relatively systemic monographic study, we can thus have a command of the overall situation of the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing and the academics under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing in a practical and realistic way so as to explore the true evolution process of this academic phenomenon. Based on this opinion, we made exploration mainly at the following three aspects: the first one is to demonstrate the new realization that the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing is a historical process; we laid great emphasis to the word “process” striving to break through the limit of classifying schools according to regions; the second one is to pay sufficient attention to the regional academics and academic family in the period when the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing were in power, exploring and discussing the permeation and influence of the regional academics on each other in the period when the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing were in power as well as the historical impacts of different stages of development. In addition, we elucidated the importance of integrating into the overall academic situation at that time as well as maintain the academic family with the tradition of knowledge transmitted from father to son. There is no doubt that the permeation and influence of the regional academics and the academic families on each other contribute to deepening the mastering of the overall situation of the academic evolution under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing; the third one is to demonstrate the main stream academic features of the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing, of which the basic characteristic is the simple examination and verification of history and to make a in-depth explanation of the social and academic background on which this school of thought could come into being.
IV. The aspiration of devoting myself to the academics of the late Qing Dynasty
Lin: Mr. Chen, in addition to composing works for the systemic discussion and analysis on the academics in the early Qing Dynasty and the school of thought under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing, you have certain researches on the academics of the late Qing Dynasty. What is your realization of the academics in the late Qing Dynasty?
Chen: In recent years, I mainly concentrate on the discussion and exploration of the academics in the early Qing Dynasty and the period when the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing were in power. I have not made in-depth investigation and study on the academics in the late Qing Dynasty. However, I used to compose a small article – Three Issues of Academics in the Late Qing Dynasty, which was published on the Issue One of the Academic Journal of Historical Researches of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In this small article, I made an initial investigation and study of the academic evolution in the 70 years of the late Qing Dynasty in general at three aspects including “the rise of the trend of thought of ruling the country”, from “the western application of the Chinese system” to “the Three People's Principles (Nationalism, Democracy, the People's Livelihood)” as well as “the integration of Sinology in the Song Dynasty for the purpose of innovation” in accordance with the trend of academic development. When I referred to the three stages of the academic evolution in Qing Dynasty just now, I made a summary of the features of academics in the late Qing Dynasty in a rough way. Hereby, I want to emphasis on the significance of the academics in the late Qing Dynasty again. As far as I am concerned, the academics in the Qing Dynasty started with the “the study of Confucian classics is Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties” that was advocated by Gu Yanwu in the early Qing Dynasty who initiated the way. Till the late Qing Dynasty, Zeng Guofan, Chen Li and the farther Huang Shisan and his son Yi Zhou integrated the Sinology in the Song Dynasty and revived the School of Manner. They made summary by revealing that “the study of Confucian classics is Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties”. The academic trend of learn from the strong points of the study of Confucian classics to offset the weakness of the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties had lasted for 300 years and had been evolved to the new trend of the integration of Sinology in the Song Dynasty as time went by. The decayed Qing Dynasty came to an end beyond any help, but based on the present, we shall sum up experience from the past. We shall integrate the Sinology in the Song Dynasty for the purpose of pursing new academic trend. By means of the integration with the national ethos of learning the advanced academics in the foreign countries for the sake of being used by us, the Chinese academics still persist in pursing academics along the our unique way of development, stepping forward circuitously. If we run following others, we will never find the way out. Isn’t it the truth that the academics the 70 –year period of the late Qing Dynasty that inspires us?
Lin: Now that you have been engaged in the field of researches of the academics in the Qing Dynasty for more than 20 years sedulously and have made a great number of significant and influential achievements, what do you plan to do in the future?
Chen: as a scholar, though I have made a little achievement in field of researches of the academics in the Qing Dynasty, there are still a lot of issues that I have not involved in or have more made in-depth study on in the field of rich academics in the Qing Dynasty shall be explored and discussed. If the health conditions and the energy permit, I want to concentrate additional efforts on the academics in the late Qing Dynasty. I am looking forward to the further harvest. This is one of the wishes that I have borne for many years and it is also the direction to which I will make great efforts in the future.
The First Masterpiece of Researches on the History of Academic record in China
Lin: Mr. Chen, you also wrote the book under the title of Chinese History of Academic record. As ignorant as we are, in our opinion, it seems that this book written by you is the only one that make a special and systemic exploration and discussion of the history of academic record at present. Why did you choose this subject as your object of study?
Chen: This small book written by me is far from being systemic. It is just a trial. It is nothing but the first step in a relatively new field. My investigation and study of academic records started from the Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty written by Huang Zongxi. Why did Huang Zongxi write this Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty? Why this book was not entitled with other name but named “Academic record”? What is the relation between this book and the Biography of the Confucian School of Idealist Philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties that was published in the early period of the reign of the Emperor Kangxi and the Biography of the Shengxue which was published in the Wanli Period in the Ming Dynasty? Why did Mr. Liang Qichao relate this book with the Record of Yiluo’s Origin written by Zhu Xi? Why did Mr. Chen Yuan relate the historical records of the academic record literary form with the lamp records of the Chan sect? All these questions appealed to me and made me puzzled as well. With the purpose of working out these questions, I went deep into the questions in accordance with the clues in the literature so as to try my best to figure it out. By means of reading the Biography of the Shengxue written by Zhou Rudeng, the Biography of the Confucian School of Idealist Philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties written by Sun Qifeng, and the Collected Works of Mr. Xia Feng in particular, as well as combining with the Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty, the Nanlei Learning Text, the Nanlei Learning Arrangement and the Nanlei Poem History that were written by Huang Zongxi, I managed to figure out the clues of academic evolution from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty from the Biography of the Shengxue, the Biography of the Confucian School of Idealist Philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties to the Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty and gradually had a relatively clear understanding of them. On this basis, I seized and took advantage of the opportunity to trace back the origin of the history of the academic records so that the general research framework came into being on the initial stage.
Lin: The Chinese History of Academic records was published in Taiwan (Tianjin Press, the version of 1994). It is not easy for the people in Chinese Mainland to see this book. Please make a brief introduction to the content of this book for us.
Chen: OK. I used to read the history of historiography written by all classes of authors. Every time when I found that the statements of the scholars of the past and the wise men at that time concerning the origin of the evolution of the academic historical records were not quite clear, I will feel sorry. In the early 1980s, I had the fortune to collect and copy the information and data for the volume one of the New Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty written by Yang Xiangkui. Therefore, I expressed my desire to sort out the historical records of the academic record literary form. In the autumn of 1992, a friend of mine invited me with great kindness to write the Chinese History of Academic records. In addition, I must deliver my transcript on time and must not fail to keep the appointment. Therefore, I took this opportunity and regarded as the motive power. I devoted myself to writing this book no matter in the winter and in summer, I had never stopped writing. At last, I managed to join some of my thoughts that used to be segments into a whole one in the book. This book consists of 8 chapters in total. The first chapter is “tracing back the history of academic record literary form”, in which the academics history that the ancient philosophers of the pre-Qin period related and analyzed, the Records of the Grand Historian and the History of the Han Dynasty that recounted the general idea, the stylistic rules and the layout of a book, and the reference provided by the historical record of Buddhism, etc. were included; the second chapter is “Zhu Xi and the Record of Yiluo’s Origin” in which the background of writing this book, the course of completing this book, the main content and the stylistic rules and layout of writing this book and the academic value were discussed; the third chapter is “from the Biography of the Shengxue to the Biography of the Confucian School of Idealist Philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties”, in which the rise of Yangming School, the relation between the crisis and the development of academics in the late Ming Dynasty as well as the reason of completing the books including the Biography of the Shengxue written by Zhou Rudeng and the Biography of the Confucian School of Idealist Philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties written by Su Qifeng in addition to the academic orientations were analyzed; in the fourth chapter is the “Huang Zongxi and the Academic record of the Confucianism in the Ming Dynasty”, in which the significance in the history of academics of this book written by Huang Zongxi was revealed; in the fifth chapter is “the composition and modification of the Academic record in the Song and Yuan Dynasties”, in which the typical significance of this book in the history development of academic record literary form in the middle of the Qing Dynasty was expounded; the sixth chapter is “the academic competitions of the Han school of classical philology in the Song Dynasty and the Brief Instruction the Academic record in Qing Dynasty”, in which the relation between this book written by Tang Chien and the reducing of competitions of Han school of classical philology in the Song Dynasty in academic circles was expounded; the seventh chapter is “Xu Shichang and the Academic record of the Confucianism in the Qing Dynasty”, in which the significance that this book was not only the summary of the academics in the more than 260 years in the Qing Dynasty but also a summary of the historical records of academic record literary form in ancient China was explored and discussed; the eighth chapter is “from the academic records to the history of academics”, in which the general rules and the influence of the transformation from the “academic record” to the “history of academics” literary forms.
Lin: Mr. Chen, now that you have made so may efforts in the history of academic record, how shall we define the “academic record” in an accurate and exact way in your opinion?
Chen: What on earth the “academic record” is? What definition shall be give to it? So far, there has been no final conclusion. However, Mr. Liang Qichao and Mr. Chen Yuan have made initial explorations and studies. The first one is to regard the Record of Yiluo’s Origin written by Zhu Xi as the origin of the historical records of academic record literary form. The other one is to mention it in the same breath with the history of the Chan sect and lamp records. There is no doubt that these are the judicious judgments of the two masters. However, it is a pity that the two masters have not developed what they stated while the successors were rare to make a further sorting. Till the middle of the 1980s, Mr. Chen Jinsheng selected to proofread the Academic record of the Song and Yuan Dynasties (with joint efforts of Mr. Liang Yunhua) and wrote articles to define the “academic record”. As far as Mr. Chen is concerned, “What is academic record? There is still no one who has come to the final conclusion. In my opinion, it may probably be the introduction to the academics of all schools and putting them on records respectively. In addition, the meanings of them are judged by the meaning of each record (according to is referred to as records). Judgment of meanings according to the records means to examine, check and come into a final conclusion. Therefore, the academic record has the meaning of academics as what we say at present date.” This interpretation is proper and suitable, but the only shortcoming is that it seems to be in lack of rigor. Taking advantage of the advanced approach of Mr. Chen and with my great efforts, I gradually developed the following cognition that the historical records of academic record literary form is a special form of compiling in the ancient time of China for recording the development history of academics. The rudiment can date from the early Southern Song Dynasty. Its improvement and completion was in the early Qing Dynasty under the reign of the Emperor Kangxi several hundred years later. It is rooted in the traditional historical records presented in a series of biographies. It is an adoption and transformation of the Scholars' Circle Biography (the Confucianism Biography) and the History of Arts and Literature (the History of Classics and Books) and it learn from the strong points of both the lamp records of Buddhism and the historical records of Chan sect. It comes into being after the incubation and evolution for a long time. The so-called academic record is referred to academic judgment that is universally acknowledged with respect to its literal meaning. “The judgment that is universally acknowledged” is originally the word in the Chan sect of Buddhism. The deceased master of the Buddhism Mr. Lv Che explained the word as “archives” and “data”. So far, such explanation is proper and suitable. After the middle of the Ming Dynasty, the scholars engaged in the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties write the articles under the title of “academic record”. As a matter of fact, they accepted the concept of Mr. Lv. Just as its name implies, the historical records of academic records literary form mainly consist of the data that the scholars explaining the academics. The scholar’s life experience and biography as well as the overall summary of his academics will be included in the academic records as a whole. By means of this academic record, a scholar, a school or even the academic style in an age can be shown. In this way, the meaning of the so-called history of academics comes into being during the past few years.” It is necessary for the colleagues in the academic circles to give advice of comments to judge whether this point of view is proper or not.
Lin: Would you please tell us young scholars about your experience and what you have learned from the study of the history of academic records?
Chen: It is far from being an experience, but I have learned something from my search in this field of research that I am engaged in to certain extent. What I have learned can be summed up into three sentences: if one wants to do research on the history of academic records, he shall start with reading the literature carefully over and over again. At this aspect, you must not settle a case in a muddling manner. When you enter into the gate to the history of academics, you shall choose a representative work written by one master and read it through, read it carefully over and over again as well as read it in an intensive way. Days accumulate and months increase. It will be possible for you to proceed from the one to the other, draw inferences about other cases from one instance and comprehend by analogy. This is the first sentence. If you come up against problems, you shall solve the problems one after another. There is no a shortcut. The only thing you can do is to work hard at reading. You shall not be afraid of difficulties and stay in a circle. You should not be satisfied with a smattering of knowledge. What you shall do is to advance despite difficulties, make a determined effort success. Even though you may be hard to avoid feeling puzzled or at a loss, you will finally succeed. This is the second sentence. The third sentence I want to say is that the reason why the academic research can continue with the past and open up the future is that the researchers constantly solve the problems that the predecessors left behind. Otherwise, if we follow the herd and stay in the same old groove, the undertakings of academics will lose its value to exist. I hope that everyone can make mutual encouragement by means of these three sentences.
Establishment of Style of Study and the Quality of Historical Science Scholars
Yang Yanqiu (hereinafter referred to as Yang): You have mentioned for many times that the historical science scholars shall shoulder their own responsibility of the time. Would you please talk about his issue in detail?
Chen: In any age, all the historians will face the issue of responsibility of the time. As far as I am concerned, the historical science scholars must do researches for the purse of the lasting political stability of a country. It is the responsibility of the time for the historical science scholars and also the standpoint that we shall have. Paying close attention to the future of the country and the destiny of the nation is the valuable spirit of the Chinese historical science that has a everlasting value. Regarding the whole country as our own duty and “a country can be defeated but the history must not be destroyed” is the realm of the life that the ancient historians in China pursued after. For this purpose, the unknown official historians wrote the truth without fear or favor and finally lost their life. Sima Qian was maltreated but neglected his personal humiliation. Wan Sitong became a common people and endure silently in the historical situation. Gu Yangu expressed the powerful voice in the age that everybody is responsible for the fate of his country. After China entered the door of the modern times, she faced the arduous historic tasks to fight against imperialism and feudalism. The pursuit in the life of historians in our country were integrated in the trend of the age – the patriotism, and thus the awareness of community responsibility came into being which remains unshakable and becomes even firmer as time goes by.
It has been nearly 30 years since our country implemented the policy of reform and opening up. Our country has made great process and it is unprecedented in the history of China. However, if we calm down and judge the situation we will find that there are still many problems now. Why did Mr. Deng Xiaoping say that we should hide our capacities and bide our time. Why did Mr. Jiang Zemin and Mr. Hu Jintao say that we should be prepared for danger in times of safety and that we shall have the awareness of unexpected development? It is the reason exactly. We shall face up to the problems that exist. Though it has been 58 years since the establishment of new China and we have made great achievements as well, there are still many goals that we have not realized yet. Though the Soviet Union had been founded for more than 70 years, it still broke up. It is a lesson for us. Therefore, we are faced with the task how to make sure that the socialist system will remain unchanged and the system of people's democratic dictatorship will never be changed as well as how to maintain the lasting political stability of the country. It is a big issue that the central leading body of the Party is paying attention to during the several recent years and it is a large subject the central leading body of the Party put forward to us – the scholars in the philosophy and the social science. At the present, no matter what subject we are researching on, we shall keep in mind that we must not forget this fundamental subject.
The age is going forward and the society is developing. Nowadays, our country has entered into the new development stage of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects. In this new historical period, the central leading body of the Party puts forward the topics including the Scientific Outlook on Development, building a harmonious socialist society, building a new socialist countryside and the people oriented concept etc. All of these are put forward on the basis of the actual conditions after the reform and opening up, inheriting and promoting the fine tradition of Chinese nation in addition to using the experience and lessons of the communism worldwide. They are the key issues that we scholars of philosophy and social science, especially the scholars of historical science shall go into as well. At the end of spring and the beginning of summer in 2005, two colleagues from the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences went to Zhongnanhai to learn with the people from the Political Bureau of the Central Committee. At that time, Mr. Hu Jintao put forward the task of doing researches on the social establishment of ancient China. Now, the national social science fund also invites tenders for the significant theoretical subjects including the issue of harmonious society, the issue of social establishment of ancient China and the issue of agriculture, farmer and rural area, among others. How to give full play to the scholars of historical science in building a harmonious socialist society is the issue that shall be paid great attention to in the researches of historical science at present.
In face of the new historical task at present, the social responsibility for the scholars of historical science has not only be reduced to any degree, but also become heavier than ever before. The historical science is an organic part of the great undertakings of building the socialism with Chinese characteristics. The academic mission and the social responsibility require us to be established in the reality and serve the society. In addition, we are supposed to insist on the standpoint, the viewpoint and the method of Marxism, guide us with the historical materialism of Marxism when doing academic practices and create the spiritual products that live up to the age.
Yang: The historical researches of our Institute of History mainly consist of the researches on the ancient history. They are totally different from the reality. Some young colleagues feel very puzzled. As far as they are concerned, such kind of historical researches have no meaning for the present day. How can we put the social responsibility you mentioned into practice?
Chen: To govern and benefit the people is a fine tradition of the history science in China. in any time, the historians shall carry out the responsibilities at that time. The Chinese historical science commenced an undertaking since the pre-Qin period. The ancient Book of Change advocated that “a gentleman shall know more about the opinions and behaviors of the forefathers so as to cultivate his own knowledge and virtue”. The reason why Confucius wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals is to leave his political ideals by means of recording the faithful historical account. After that, the historical science of China is enriched and developing with the evolution of Chinese society. The Shi Ji written by Sima Qian included the historical concept that “exploring and studying the relation between natural phenomena and human society and having a command of the changes from ancient times to the present”. This concept was elucidated by Liu Zhiji who wrote the Shi Tong. Zhang Xuecheng who initiated that “the six Confucian classics are all history”, “history science is that one shall depend on to govern and benefit the people”. From Sima Qian, to Liu Zhiji and Zhang Xuecheng, the “pursuing the study of history and governing and benefiting the people and the contributing to politics and fostering people has been a principle line that runs through the several thousand year long history science of China.
Established in the social practices and keeping a foothold the needs of the age is the origin of life and path of development of historical science. Whether we can master the pulse of the age and do research on the significant issues are the important conditions for whether the researches of historical science can make innovation. As a matter of fact, it seems that a great number of specific researches have nothing to do with the political, economic and cultural development at present day. However, if we make these issues quite clear, we can provide assistance and clues for the solving of other more relevant issues in a direct or indirect way. At last, we will be able to contribute to the fulfillment of the task in the age for our researches on historical science. Therefore, only if we keep the concept of the age as well as the concept of overall situation in mind and if we have the sense of responsibility and the awareness to provide services, we must be able to do the specific researches well and based on this, we will be able to combine our researches tightly with the main stream of the development in the age so that we can write the good articles the same as the work or writing of a great author or calligrapher and make contribution to the society by means of the research achievements of value in the age.
The Chinese nation has a history of civilization for five thousand years. It is also the obligatory duty of the scholars of historical science to pass down the good tradition. There are several ancient civilizations all over the world, but why there is only China that passes down its Chinese civilization uninterruptedly? One of the important reasons is that Chinese civilization has its historical records that have their own system. Besides, there is the tradition of historical science like one principle that runs through it all. The historical records are an important carrier for the Chinese civilization to pass down therefore the scholars in historical science, as it were, are the important persons who pass down the Chinese civilization. We are supposed to do our works well and pass down the excellent tradition of Chinese civilization by means of composing the historical records.
Yang: In recent years, you have ever mentioned the establishment of style of study in the academic circles for many times. It seems that you are worried about this very much. As far as you are concerned, is it an important issue in our historical science circle currently?
Chen: Yes. In recent years, the establishment of style of study has always been the important issue that the academic circles pay much attention to in our country. The large number of scholars of historical science constantly appeal to strengthen the establishment of style of study, put an end to being anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits and insist on the rigorous style of study of being practical and realistic and doting our i's and crossing our t's. We have sorted out more than one hundred kinds of literature and I also made great efforts to read through all the memoirs before the reign of the Emperor Daoguang. We found out the data relating to the history of academics and create the Annals of the Academics under the Reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing. A very important part is that we shall advocate a style of doing research, namely being based on the literature, seeking truth from facts and being rigorous and dealing with concrete matters relating to work in the academic circles.
When I was a student, Mr. Zheng Tianting from Nankai University ever told me to bear the characteristics of historical science in mind and have basis for each word and origin for each sentence. In addition, Mr. Zheng also told me that the development of history is diverse and complex. We cannot simplify it. Instead, we shall relate it to the four directions of the past, the future and the left and the right in an extensive way. These words benefit me a lot for my whole life.
It is true that historical science is a subject that requires truth seeking and pioneering spirit. We shall give priority to having basis for each word and origin for each sentence. Every word shall base on its foundation and one will not be convinced without any reference. The features of this subject provide that the historical researches shall be based on the historical materials. We shall depend on the solid academic accumulation and come down to earth. We shall be committed to innovation and avoid any falsity and tendency toward boasting and exaggeration. The accumulation I have mentioned here not only refers to the personal accumulation of the scholars in historical science for several years, several decades or even their accumulation for the whole life, but also consists of the collective fruit of labor from generation to generation in the circles of historical science. Therefore, in the academic practices, we advocate doing the arduous creative works and do not agree on the low-level repeat that follows the herd. We are supposed to respect the pioneering spirit of others. This kind of result and spirit consist of not only the achievements of the masters of the last generation, but also every little bit of efforts of the great number of scholars of historical science. This is the academic standard that the academic circles are calling on at present. The sound establishment of style of study shall depend on the guarantee of rigor academic standard. However, while establishing the rigor and scientific academic standard, we shall also attach great importance to another issue, that is the improvement of the quality of scholars of historical science their own, in particular the moral quality. As a matter of fact, conducting oneself is tightly connected with learning knowledge. Confucius taught his students to asset that “having extensive learning that is beneficial for us” and “not doing the things that one regard to be degrading”. What the sentences say is the same principle.
Yang: You have ever mentioned “having extensive learning that is beneficial for us” and “not doing the things that one regard to be degrading”. In addition, you said that it is the pursuit throughout your life. You mentioned it again today. Would you please talk something about it by combining with our researches on historical science?
Chen: “having extensive learning that is beneficial for us” and “not doing the things that one regard to be degrading” is what the scholar of the past Confucius said. Gu Yanwu, a master of academics in the early Qing Dynasty used to make an utmost effort to call on it. During the more than ten years, I feel something about the atmosphere in the academic circles and the society, so I express this pursuit in public with the purpose of advocating the integration of conducting oneself and the study pursuing for the mutual encouragement of everyone.
The “learning” in “having extensive learning that is beneficial for us”, as far as I am concerned, is not simply the knowledge in the books but also refers to all culture and humanity, the academic quality for our scholars. We scholars of the historical science shall give greatest priority to fostering quality, because the historical science is a subject where emphasis is laid on the accumulation. If we do not have the accumulation to a certain degree, we will not be able to have the right to speak. “Not doing the things that one regard to be degrading” means that we shall know what the disgrace is. We are supposed to have a clear judgment in our mind of what we shall do and what we shall not do. Now, there are some people who receive money from the foreign people and abuse their own ancestors openly on the platform in foreign countries and slander the fine tradition of Chinese nation. There are many reasons for this but it must have something to do with the some scholars who do not pay attention to their personal quality and forget the ancient instructions of “not doing the things that one regard to be degrading”. In the opinion of some people, it seems that a person will not be a person and will fail to complete anything if he does not have money. In the past, we did not have the expense for subject, but we managed to learn knowledge and pursue studies. At present, the more money some subjects have, the more unreliable they will be. Therefore, we shall not only “have extensive learning that is beneficial for us” but also “not do the things that one regards to be degrading”. The scholars shall set strict demands on ourselves and are supposed to set a principle of conducting ourselves. The principle is that we will do anything that is beneficial for the country and the nation and not do the things that are harmful to the country and the nation. Mr. Jiang Zemin made an inspective visit to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2002 and put forward that we shall integrate the conducting, the study pursuing and the affairs settlement into a whole. This assertion is what I agree with most.
Yang: In the work in the Institute of History, you always pay much attention to the growing and development of the young. Please give us some specific suggestions and requirements while combining your experience of pursuing the studies of history for some many years.
Chen: For the question how to become a qualified scholar of historical science or to become an outstanding historian, there are many statements since the ancient times to the present. For example, Li Zhiji, the famous historian in the Tang Dynasty made a theoretical summary of the historian’s quality. He put forward three words including “talent, learning and knowledge”. Under the reign of the Emperor Qianlong and the Emperor Jiaqing in the Qing Dynasty, Zhang Xuecheng, the master of historical science added the word “virtue” after the former three words including “talent, learning and knowledge”. As far as I am concerned, if we interpret the four words by combining our tasks in the new age, it means we shall have a correct standpoint, point of view and good academic quality. For the young people, I will say three points with respect to this topic.
The first one is still the “having extensive learning that is beneficial for us” and “not doing the things that one regard to be degrading”. You should integrate conducting oneself with pursuing studies as a whole. At present, there are some scholars who are anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits when pursing studies. They do not insist on the truth when doing researches and they do not keep their feet on the ground. It is not only harmful to the sound development of the historical science subject but also to the disadvantage of their own future development. We shall set the basic principle of conducting ourselves and pursing studies. With respect to learning knowledge, we shall be diligent and work hard, achieving mastery through a comprehensive study of the subject. With respect to conducting ourselves, we shall set strict demands on ourselves.
The second one is to improve the professional quality. What do the scholars of historical science depend on when serving the people and the society? We depend on our knowledge of historical science and the academic achievements. We advocate the spirit of “staying at an indifferent post for ten years”. It means that we are supposed to willing to suffer from loneliness and lay a solid foundation, accumulation knowledge as well as improving our professional level from different aspects. On the academic path, we shall constantly make innovation and develop constantly. There are some young people who are very blundering. They are satisfied with a smattering of knowledge and eager to publish articles. In addition, due to the more advanced means of scientific researches, everything can be found through the Internet. One can download articles from the Internet and put all sorts of articles together to write his own article. It is easy for them to manage to complete a copious and fluent article of several thousand words or even more than ten thousand words. As far as I am concerned, it is not a good method to pursue studies in this way. The historical science is a subject where the accumulation is given priority to. We still need to read more books and form a habit of being uncomfortable if we do not read for one day. I hope everyone can go to the library more often since the library is not only a teacher but also a friend for me. Since I was in the middle school when I was a teenager, I was tightly bound to the library. At that time, as soon as the class was over, the first thing I would do is to go to the library. For several decades, it has been my habit. Now, I see that in our library there are only a small number of readers in the large reading room. I have an unutterable feeling in my heart. The library provides us with such a good reading environment, so we shall make full use of it, or we shall be sorry for these resources in the library.
The third one is to pay attention to the overall situation. As the scholars of historical science in the new age, we shall not only study assiduously and make progress in the specific research of historical issues one after another, but also pay attention to the social development as well. Today, we research on the history with the guidance of the historical materialism of Marxism. We shall not only be aware of the history in an accurate way and master the law of history, but also promote the development of theory of historical science as well as the historical materialism of Marxism by means of our specific researches, further driving the historical process of sinicization of Marxism and making contribution to making the social science prosperous, building the harmonious socialist society and building harmonious culture.
Lin Cunyang male, was born on March 1970. He is from Rencheng, Shandong Province. He is a doctor of historical science now he is the associate researcher in the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He is mainly engaged in the researches on the history of academics and ideas in the Qing Dynasty. The three schools of manners in the Qing Dynasty in particular are what he is mainly engaged in.
Yang Yanqiu female, was born in 1971. She comes from Pengxian County, Sichuan. She is a doctor of historical science now she is the associate researcher in the Institute of History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She is mainly engaged in the researches on the history of historical studies as well as the historical theories. The historical studies in the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty are what she is mainly engaged in.
(Translated by Xu Jin)
Editor: Wang Daohang