Zhu Dawei, male, Han nationality, born in February, 1931, is a native of
History Deals with the Pursuit of and the Perfect Integration of Morality, Ability, Knowledge and Learning
Seven years ago, I was only a college student who showed respect to the studies of history and took a train from far-away
Dai Weihong (hereafter referred to as Dai): Mr Zhu, it has already been 50 years since you graduated from college. Could you talk about the person who has affected you the most while you studied history?
Zhu Dawei (hereafter referred to as Zhu): Recalling the historical studies of 50 years, three respected teachers – Xu Zhongshu, Meng Wentong and Miu Yue affected me the most while I was studying in
Dai: Mr Zhu, how did you accumulate materials while studying the history of the Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties? During our studies, what materials should we search for and collect? Nowadays, our research conditions are much better than that of the older generation. For example, we could utilize the electronic version of ‘The Histories of Twenty-Five Dynasties’ and ‘Four Branches of Literature’ when we search and collect materials. What do you think of our methods for searching and collecting historical materials?
Zhu: After we confirm the research objectives, the most important step is to collect all the related materials, which is the basic step in research. More sufficient the materials we collect, the more reliable the result is. Yan Zhitui, of the Northern Qi Dynasty once mentioned in ‘Yan Family Instructions - Diligence’: “If you haven’t read all the books, you are not qualified to state your views”. Yan Gengwang drew 4 circles, A, B, C and D, in which one layer enclosed another in his book – ‘Experiences of Studying History’. The 4 circles represent all the objective histories, histories recorded, inherited histories and histories seen by individuals respectively. It shows that no matter how detailed the historical materials are they only reflect a part of history. Therefore, we should enlarge the materials as much as possible so that we can approach the real history during our studies.
I have read lots of historical materials about the Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties word by word and sentence by sentence more than twice because they are very important, including the 13 dynastical histories from the ‘History of Eastern Han Dynasty’ to the ‘History of Sui Dynasty’.
Then, I have some books, like parts of ‘Three Generations and Six Dynasties of the Ancient Kingdoms – Qin and Han Dynasties’, ‘Poems of Pre-Qin & Han Dynasties and Wei & Jin Southern & Northern Dynasties’, ‘Anthology’ and ‘The Cream of Literary World’; other works at that time, such as, ‘Records of Huayang Kingdom’, ‘A New Account of the World Tales’, ‘Yan Family Instructions’, ‘A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Luo-Yang’, ‘Shui Jing Zhu’, ‘Chi Min Yao Shu’, ‘Pao-Pu-Tzu’, ‘Legend of the Demigods’, ‘Biographies of Eminent Monks’, etc. as well as some anthologies. Although these materials don’t focus on the real histories, they contain some historical materials excluded in the real history. Hence, these books have quoted plenty of works of some writers at that time, which possess many valuable materials. Take ‘A New Account of the World Tales’ for example. It has quoted from more than 400 books, so it supplemented history. For instance, ‘Literary of Jin Dynasty – Tao-Kan’, which has more words than ‘Wang-Dao’, and sets down more details. However, if we look over ‘Language’, ‘Politics’ and ‘Elegance’ of ‘A New Account of the World Tales’, we can learn about Tao Kan’s family background, farming situations, opposition to the corruption of powerful families, his last words, etc. from the quotes in ‘Jin Yang Qiu’, ‘Jin Ji’ (Xu Guang), ‘History of Jin Dynasty’ (Wang Yin), ‘Book of Zhong-Xing’, ‘An Account of Farewell’, ‘Records of Tao Family’, etc., which could justify and supplement ‘History of Jin Dynasty’.
In addition, I also paid lots of attention on Epigraphy. For instance, ‘History of
Finally, although the cultural relics recovered in archeological digs are not as abundant and important as those of the Qin, Han and Tang Dynasties, we should not ignore them. When I saw the drawings of cattle ploughing, tomb frescos of faming and models of farm lands, I got a basic and vivid understanding of farming and women’s seeding as well as farming tools such as the plough, harrow, etc. at that time. ‘Wu Jian’ in the Three Kingdoms recently recovered in archeological digs is very detailed and sorted out and has been adopted by many scholars. The above-mentioned are first-hand materials which are more reliable than second hand ones, so they are more valuable. The scholars who attempt to study history and read books should not ignore first-hand materials besides the real history.
Although the books compiled in the Tang & Song Dynasties (like ‘Actual Records of Jiankang Emperor’, ‘Annals of Yuanhe County’, ‘General Allusions’, ‘General Yearbooks’, ‘Journals’, ‘General Inspections’, ‘Descriptions of Taiping’, ‘The Records of Scenic Spots Across the County’, ‘Miscellanea’, ‘Beginning’, ‘Bei Tang Shu Chao’, ‘Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau’, ‘Imperial Readings of Taiping’, ‘Records of Taiping Period’, etc.) have been adapted and are secondary materials, we should not underestimate their historical value because most of the writers have utilized first-hand materials to compile them. There were more first-hand materials in the Tang & Song Dynasties compared to those at present. For instance, the ‘History of Jin Dynasty’ was also present in the Tang Dynasty, but it has gone now. I have read most of the above-mentioned books carefully and adopted them in combination with first-hand materials.
We should insist on one principle while reading books to search and collect materials, namely, the more books we read, the more abundant and better the materials collected are. The method to adopt and compose these materials differs from person to person. We should be adept in referencing others’ experience and base them on the practices. Generally speaking, we should read books according to our major. When I began to read books, I had studied more than 20 subjects, including, economic development of each district, stock raising, political system, struggle and integration of nations, city construction, besides class system, peasant uprisings, culture consciousness, etc. I adopted three methods to supplement each other, which are to copy on to cards, to write reading reflections and to record indexes of materials. Set down some important and typical materials as a whole on the card, make some brief notes and then classify the card according to the topic. Write down thoughts about some topics while reading together with the correlation and differences among historical materials in loose-leaf notebooks and then also classify the card according to the topic. It is not necessary to copy a large quantity of some ordinary materials on specific topics, but write down the pages under the topic and mark the book in red for the convenience of searching and copying. After reading all the necessary books, we could find the topic that possesses abundant materials and then propose new views. Then, we can write the passage according to the indexes in the combination of cards and learning thoughts. Certainly, it is impossible to dig out all the necessary materials regardless of how detailed we are; in addition, some materials are only fragments or do not reflect nature. So, it is quite common to read the books or some parts again which are closely related to the topic. In the meantime, along with the enlargement of my research, it is much more necessary to go on reading and collecting materials. However, whenever I read the books again, I can find the differences and profoundness from the first reading.
The learning conditions of young scholars in modern times are much better compared with those of ours in the past. For instance, it is very convenient to find specific sentences or events from the electronic version of ‘The Histories of Twenty-Five Dynasties’ and ‘Four Branches of Literature’. But we must pay attention to some questions. For example, we might ignore some related materials which are not directly related to the indexes. Generally speaking, if we don’t read the passage, we are inclined to quote out of context and can’t interpret the materials entirely and correctly, which is taboo in studying. It is another question we want to mention. In case of studying histories, both collecting and interpreting materials correctly are very important. Chen Yinke warned: “A scholar should not discuss or write the passage after looing at basic materials because his conclusion is not very reliable.” In particular, young scholars shall watch out for it. In my opinion, there is no doubt that the materials collected together with the ability to identify, analyze and utilize materials determine the level of historical academic works from the perspective of materials.
Dai: Could you introduce some of your creative views? For example, the old nations in
Zhu: Academic thoughts or views are related to many materials and data, so they are very complicated. Hence, I will only talk about some major conclusions here briefly. During the 300 years of 16 countries & Northern Dynasty, 6 major nations (Han and ‘Five Hu’) in the northern part of
As for the theory of national integration, people are quite familiar with the famous inference of Marx and Engels: “The Arab, Turk, Tartar and Mughal people who conquered
Basically speaking, most of the minorities in the Southern Dynasty (mainly Man, Liao and Li) merged with the Han Nationality during this period. There were many minorities in the Southern Dynasty, including, Man, Liao, Li, Ba, Shu, Yue, etc., among which Man, Liao and Li had the largest area and population. In addition, lots of refugees in the north moved to the south at that time, which made the exploration of the south and development of the social economy into a new stage since the Sui-Tang Dynasties. Hence, the great integration of nations in the south left millions of labors in the system of the feudal economy and developed large population of minorities, so these minorities were governed by the Han government. There were three elements for the development of ancient Chinese history, that is, great the integration of the Han & Hu nationalities, cultural exchange between China & the world and the exchange among Confucianism, Buddhism & Taoism, northern migration & economic centers moving south after the middle Tang Dynasty. The first was the central element because it caused the other two elements. Therefore, the great integration of 6 dynasties was of great significance.
Dai: The Southern Dynasty changed continuously and the national relationship in the north was very complicated due to the long-term break between the south and the north during the Jin Dynasty and Southern & Northern Dynasties. Another major feature in this period was upheavals and wars as a result of long-term problems of domestic affairs. Mr Zhu, you have written a lot about the examinations and discussions of military histories. ‘Military History of Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties’ won the 4th Chinese Books Nomination, so could you talk about military problems at that time?
Zhu: There were lots of military activities during the Jin Dynasty and Southern & Northern Dynasties. According to the rough statistics, there were more than 400 large-scale wars of tens of thousands of people in AD 324. We could divide the wars into 3 types according to their nature, namely, integration wars among the regimes, civil wars among the dominating parties of each regime together with wars between peasants or the feudal government. Factors like politics, economy, military, diplomacy, talents, etc. determined the victory or defeat in wars. When we wrote ‘Military History of Jin Dynasty and Southern & Northern Dynasties’, we tried to stand at the height of times rather than talk about the military only. In other words, we tried to imply the profound connotation and features in military histories from the perspective of objective history conditions from the Jin to the Sui Dynasty and then held the overall status and regulations of military history during this period in order to reflect the special trace of military development during this period in
Dai: In 2001,
Zhu: Li Ji, a famous scholar in Taiwan, proposed a ‘need-to-be-prove’ hypothesis about the change of sitting position from kneeling to upright sitting and came to the conclusion at the end of the passage: “Probably, the use of the Hu bed and the coming of Eastern monks affects the abandoning of kneel sitting in our daily lives.” I was thinking that kneel sitting to upright sitting in ancient times was a great change in etiquette, so it was necessary to probe it. Meanwhile, do the hypothesis and conclusion proposed by Li Ji conform to history? How did the ancient Chinese change from kneeling to upright sitting? So, holding these questions in mind, I collected a lot of literature and cultural relics & archeology and demonstrated the change from kneel sitting to upright sitting of the ancient Han nationality. During the analysis and demonstration, we would understand this change was of epoch-making significance on the changes of things like life etiquette, bed in the room, furniture custom, etc. in old
Dai: You have written lots of papers about the scientific technologies of the middle ages, so could you talk about problems with them?
Zhu: Inventions of scientific technologies in the middle ages were quite prosperous. ‘Biography of Hua Tuo’ (Volume 82) in ‘History of the Latter-Han Dynasty’ stated the exquisite medical skills of Hua Tuo, like internal medicine, external medicine, gynaecology, paediatrics and acupuncture & moxibustion. Also, there were more than 370 medical works in ‘Classics in Sui Dynasty’. From the medical books that are left and some other books, we could see that powder for anesthesia was a very important invention, the theories of traditional Chinese medical science or medicine has developed gradually and anatomy came into being, so people recognized more about the physiological knowledge of human bodies, which set up a base for surgery in traditional Chinese medicine. What’s more, I sorted out 12 examples of traditional surgery and then analyzed or demonstrated them. Surprisingly, I found that there have already been large-scale viscera surgery, which was stated in the ‘Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties’. I collected a lot of literature and materials and archaeological relics concerning the Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties at that time. Then, I found that there were 37 sets of cities which were inspected gradually. As a result, there were 34 newly built or expanded cities taking over 92% of the total with 90% the north of
What’s more, when I read all kinds of historical materials, I collected 91 kinds of materials of mechanical and wooden people. Hence, I proved that ancient mechanical people were created toward the end of the Han Dynasty and the Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties. The principles of mechanical people relied on labor power, water power and animal power as well as elasticity, inertia, gravity, friction, etc. Then, with the help of chains, hooks, horizontal gear, cams, bearings, cranks, connecting rods, etc., the generating power was transmitted to mechanical people by which it could imitate all the movements of human beings. Referring to the reports on modern robots and the studies of ancient robots, I wrote ‘Initiation Times of Ancient Chinese Robots and Its Principles’. In a word, surgery technology, city construction, scientific technology, etc. of six dynasties had been developed greatly. Moreover, scientists at that time had made epoch-making contributions to geography, medical chemistry, math, agricultural science, metal chemistry, biography, astronomy & calendar, etc.
Dai: The Wei & Jin and Southern & Northern Dynasties were regarded as the second period of contention of a hundred schools of thought, which has been discussed in your paper. Could you talk about that?
Zhu: Due to war chaos and splits of nearly 400 years (Integration of Western Jin Dynasty was only 11 years, after which there was Eight Years of Chaos.), great merging of nations, frequent cultural communications between China and the western and long-term war chaos, the old government of two Han Dynasties was totally broken. People were liberated from
Dai: Mr Zhu, what else can you mention besides the statements written in ‘Collected Thesis’ that was published or will be published?
Zhu: I can only talk about several key points briefly in one interview. I’ve proposed some new suggestions about several issue, such as, the secret of registered permanent residence of the six dynasties and Southern & Northern Dynasties, features of hierarchical structure of the six dynasties, age structure of all talents of the six dynasties, decline of the army-man system in Northern Wei, stock raising economy of Northern Wei, salary and retirement of officials of six dynasties, the rising of local bullies of the Southern & Northern Dynasties turned the history into a new period, political or military thinking and achievements of Zhu Geliang, Xie’an, etc., construction of the Great Wall of the Northern Dynasty and its strategic significance, reform by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei, some feature of traditional Chinese culture reflected in a combination of human being and God (Guan Yu), etc. I have discussed some uncertainties in the papers carefully and proposed three thoughts to consult with other scholars on.
Dai: Scholars at home and aboard have thought highly of the ‘History of Six Dynasties’. Professor Mu Fasong from
Zhu: First of all, I was terrified about the comments of scholars at home and aboard. As for me, nothing is perfect, including books. Hence, I don’t know the studies of history that well, so I don’t have to be so academic. In my opinion, the reviews have been praising me too much. Since the reform and opening up, scholars have become fickle and don’t study carefully. Other scholars might learn careful scholarship and innovation from me. What’s more, Mr Mu and Mr Nakamura criticized that I neither adopted the achievements of Japanese scholars nor focus a lot on nobles. There advice is very pertinent and conforms to the practice, so I should pay more attention to them.
Dai: Theories are fundamental for studying history, but historians at present are not very interested in them. So, what do you think about such phenomenon?
Zhu: Any historians who have favorable achievements rely on historical theories a lot, so historical theories are the soul of historical works. It seems that historical theories at present are not so interesting, but the struggle of theories at home and aboard is quite vigorous. There are Marxist historical materialism, post-modern historical view, humanities view, enlightenment view, textual criticism instead of historical view, etc. Although post-modern historical views are of great influence in
Dai: Mr Zhu, as a famous scholar of the older generation, what expectations do you have for the scholars of the younger generation?
Zhu: I have three expectations of young scholars. First of all, politics, economy, society and culture in
Secondly, under the severe tendency of fickle study and corrupt academic morality, you should insist strictly on the style of study and academic morality and the pursuit of pure, peaceful and honest characteristics as well as persistent, rigorous, true and innovative spirit, which are important conditions and necessary tendency for the historical group and study at present.
Finally, young scholars shall admit that Chinese historical literature and archeological relics are so abundant that only if you devote all the energy to struggles, shall you achieve your goal of scientific studies. I don’t think a lot about talents, but I think highly of diligence because the historians who have achieved a lot differ in talent, but they are all diligent. You should read the part on studying in ‘Zhu Zi Yu Lei’ carefully, in which Zhu Zi emphasized ‘diligence’ 9 times and achievements in case of thinking after reading. You should also read and think about the 3 realms of studying in ‘Words in the World’ written by Wang Guowei, a master of Chinese culture. I also prefer the sayings of Zhu Xi and Qi Gong: “Question others’ conclusions and study the new field carefully” and “Think over the word and its meaning again and again”. These sayings are here for you!
Translated by Feng Weijiang.
Editor: Wang Daohang