This article examines the emergence of a new emphasis on contemporary specialized knowledge in sixteenth-century China. During this period, sources of authority such as antiquity and the court came to lose their elevated status. As a result, scholars increasingly saw the expertise of a contemporary disciplinary community as a superior standard for validating knowledge. This trend appeared in scholarly collaboration and the citation of contemporaries, as well as new kinds of paratextual materials such as lists of works cited and literature reviews. These findings on new intellectual communities in the sixteenth century call for a reassessment of the better-documented shifts in East Asian intellectual culture from the mid-eighteenth century to the present.

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