Even as recently as a dozen years ago, one learned basic Sinological methods rather much the way one learned about sex: by osmosis and “from the gutter.” One puzzled over the remarks of his professors, looked up the strange words in the dictionary, and listened to the older boys in the hall. “I got it from the Kanshi taikan,” some graduate student would say, and you made a mental note to ask a friend about the Kanshi taikan the next time you could be alone together. For all the limitations, it was a pleasant and reasonably effective way to learn Sinology. The atmosphere was clubby, the pace was slow, and there was usually time for patient professional attention.

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