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.
Historians have described the dramatic intellectual transition of China's eighteenth century in various terms as a turn towards intellectualism, specialization, and professionalization (Elman 1984; Sela 2018; Yü 1975). They thereby build on a narrative constructed by eighteenth-century Qing court bibliographers, who depicted the scholarly culture of their time as a response to the detrimental intellectual, political, and social effects of the preceding two centuries of abstract metaphysical speculation (Guy 1987). This story of the origins of Qing intellectualism remains highly influential in our current understanding of China's intellectual and literary history, but its generation at the hands of eighteenth-century scholars intent on establishing the superiority of their methods has obscured significant developments in the preceding centuries (Chu 1987). The emergence of contemporary communities of scholarship in the sixteenth century was a pivotal moment in the history of knowledge production in China that enabled increasing academic professionalization in the centuries to follow. Knowledge creation shifted from a reliance on the authority of antiquity and the court to the formation of scholarly communities bound by a shared disciplinary identity. Scholars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries read and cited their contemporaries to a significantly higher degree than before, and posited collaboration and communal standards as a necessary basis for validating knowledge.
One of the most striking developments in Chinese intellectual culture leading up to and during the sixteenth century was the transition from what I will term a cumulative scholarly tradition to a contemporary disciplinary community. These terms describe two different modes in which scholars positioned their work in relation to others. In the scholarly tradition model, exemplars from antiquity, as well as from preceding dynasties, were delineated sequentially as predecessors to a particular scholar's work. While scholars composing in this model might make some reference to contemporary discussions, they typically presented their accomplishments as either the culmination of a long tradition of scholarship tracing back to ancient times or the direct inheritor of previously lost methods of antiquity. Court-sponsored scholarship throughout Chinese history also typically embraced this model as a way to position the state as the ultimate authority in knowledge. The disciplinary community model, which became widespread in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, often likewise outlined the pedigree of a particular scholarly endeavor but also added something significant: the relationship of the text to the work of contemporary scholars.
Recent research has shown how developments in print culture and communication infrastructure enabled new literati networks and increased the authority of contemporary scholars and literary figures in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Meyer-Fong 2004; Rowe 2012). In particular, literati engaged with vast peer networks to enhance the prestige of their publications (Carlitz 2005; Son 2018). In this article, I argue that, in addition to these factors, the rejection of the classical past and the retreat of the court from scholarly patronage contributed significantly to the rise of discipline-specific contemporary authority in the sixteenth century. The transition from a generalist “man of letters” in conversation with the ancients to a member of a specialized contemporary community is evident in the rhetoric of prefaces, works cited, and other paratextual materials in scholarly texts. It had further implications for scholarly practice, such as collaborative publication.
The conventional narrative of late imperial intellectual history attributes the rise of specialization in China, usually located in the late eighteenth century, to a renewed commitment to the commentarial tradition of so-called “Han Learning” (Hanxue 漢學) of the first and second centuries alongside court sponsorship of scholars (Elman 1984; Jami 2011). Reassessments of the sixteenth century, which have observed the contribution of thinkers from this period, have tended to isolate “great minds,” separate from the intellectual culture to which they belonged, who foreshadowed the trend toward Han Learning (Ch'ien 1986; Lin 1983). In this article, I illustrate how lesser-known but highly active communities of learning in the Ming engaged in a new set of scholarly practices. These practices reflect dominant intellectual trends rather than isolated great minds. They were ultimately influential on later periods, but their contributions need not be understood in terms of the teleological endpoint of Han Learning. During the sixteenth century, scholarly criticism of antiquity and the court spurred the search for a new basis of authoritative knowledge, premised upon interaction with peers. This network of peers, comprised of scholars specializing in a particular field of learning, became a significant foundation for the production and validation of new knowledge.
These imagined disciplinary communities were not manifested primarily in physical places, such as academies, as they would come to be in the eighteenth century. Instead, they are visible in the citation of and collaboration with experts reflected in extant scholarly texts from the period. The disciplinary orientation of such citation can be inferred from the fact that the scholars cited vary depending on the field of learning. While the “broadly learned gentleman” (boya junzi 博雅君子) remained a discursive ideal, vestiges of actual scholarly practice indicate the specialization characteristic of the period's intellectual inquiry.
Discrete fields of knowledge were not, in and of themselves, new to the sixteenth century. As in the West, these fields had a basis in the texts of antiquity, and in particular the categories of the bibliographical tradition (Blair 2008, 579). By categorizing texts, scholars as early as the first century defined the boundaries of knowledge. Early seventh-century court scholars codified a four-part system that, in broad strokes, would persist into the twentieth century: Classics, Histories, Masters (primarily philosophical texts of the Warring States period), and Literary Collections. Within these four overarching categories existed a largely stable set of fields, including music, philology, medicine, and astronomy. Early bibliographies provided a hierarchy and structure of knowledge, constructed around various fields of knowledge. An important shift occurred in the late imperial period when scholars began to see these structures as the basis for a communal identity. Contemporary expertise within one discipline, as well as occasionally the range of what were perceived as closely related fields, came to be prioritized as a new source of authority in this period.
A statistical analysis of texts in the Siku quanshu, Xuxiu Siku quanshu, and Siku quanshu cunmu congshu compilations, which contain the majority of extant premodern scholarly texts from before the eighteenth century, confirms the hypothesis that a major transition in the scholarly community occurred in the sixteenth century. A comparison of scholarly texts composed between the Tang and early Ming dynasties and those composed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholars invoked works by their contemporaries or near contemporaries to a significantly higher degree (see results of the analysis in figure 1).1
Within the field of philology (xiaoxue 小學), 29 percent of Tang–early Ming texts referenced contemporary works, while 86 percent of late Ming texts did. In medicine (yixue 醫學), 45 percent of Tang–early Ming texts referenced contemporary scholarship, a higher rate than among philological texts, perhaps attributable to the increasing status of medicine in Yuan as an arena of elite scholarship (Hymes 1987, 51–56). In the Ming, however, this spiked to 94 percent; citing contemporary scholarship had become an essential component of writing in this field. The results for other fields, such as music (yue 樂) and astronomy (tianwen 天文), suggest a similar pattern, although insufficient texts from the earlier period make a direct comparison between the two periods impossible. The citations within these texts are field-specific, suggesting the emphasis on specialization among contemporary scholars. In other words, the scholars cited in philology are separate from those cited in medicine. Authority within a given field was dependent on expertise within that field (referred to in the texts as zhuanmen 專門, specialization, or zhuanjia 專家, experts), rather than solely reputation as a man of letters. Authors of the texts included in this analysis did not uniformly achieve a posthumous legacy as prominent “great minds” of their times. In the aggregate, however, their practices shed light on striking, but previously obscured, developments in intellectual community during the late Ming.
Prior to the sixteenth century, Chinese scholars primarily presented their work in relation to the past, rarely giving extensive consideration to recent scholarship. By the twelfth century, such fields could look back on a considerable historical and contemporary textual legacy. However, the locus of authority for scholarly discussion remained in the past. Works of scholarship from this period in a variety of fields regularly listed predecessors from antiquity but interacted little with contemporary scholars. The twelfth-century scholar Zou Huai's 鄒淮 astronomical treatise Xingxiang kao 星象考 (Examination of star configurations), for example, mentioned legendary astronomers of antiquity, as well as even from early Tang (618–907), but none from the several hundred years preceding its composition. Within the study of paleography, most Song dynasty (960–1276) scholars looked no later than the eighth-century calligrapher Li Yangbing 李陽冰 for a precedent in the study of ancient script forms. Even the bibliographic scholar Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 (1104–62), famed for his wide reading, framed his discussion of script forms in dialogue with Xu Shen 許慎 (c. 58–147), while his treatise on music did not explicitly cite figures later than Tang (Zheng 1983, j. 31–50).
It has been argued that the newly flourishing print culture of the Song enabled a more cohesive scholarly community, as reflected in the fact that biji 筆記, or “notebooks,” cited each other's contents (Fu Daiwie 2007, 113–16). Hilde De Weerdt (2015, 293) has further characterized the proliferation of biji as suggesting the desire of Song literati for “up-to-date information.” Her statistical analysis of a set of Song biji demonstrates that by the twelfth century, authors of biji cited predominantly from contemporary works. As the court retreated from a position of central authority with regard to knowledge production, communities of scholars came to place authority on contemporary local scholars, as well as those whose works were circulated widely enough to reach a broader audience.
However, this willingness to cite from contemporary sources remained primarily within the realm of anecdotal literature, such as biji, and largely did not carry over into scholarly texts within discrete fields. I believe this can be explained in terms of both genre characteristics and modes of knowledge categorization. Song and later scholars recognized biji as separate from the formal bodies of knowledge in various fields. Hence, in bibliographies from the Song forward, they came to be categorized as xiaoshuo 小說 (anecdotes) or zajia 雜家 (miscellaneous), among other designations. The titles of biji, too, emphasized the informal nature of their contents, often including such descriptive characteristics as “random jottings” (suibi 隨筆) and “humble opinions” (chuyan 芻言). Biji represented an opportunity to share knowledge in an informal format, culling from sources that may or may not be considered authoritative. The knowledge contained within such texts ranged across numerous fields of learning, but was generally not specialized in any single one. In texts directed at a specific field of learning, Song scholars still drew considerably more authority from the past than the present.
Song dynasty scholarly texts could cite contemporaries, but in such cases, the relationship between the author and the cited work was often social or familial. For example, Wang Anshi's 王安石 (1021–86) dictionary Zishuo 字說 (Explanation of characters), while no longer extant today, can be largely reconstructed on the basis of other texts of Wang's, as well as the citations in two other Song lexicographical works, Piya 埤雅 (Expanded Elegance) and Maoshi mingwu jie 毛詩名物解 (Explanation of names and things in the Mao Odes). However, the authors of both works bore a close relationship to Wang Anshi: Lu Dian 陸佃 (1042–1102), author of Piya, studied the Classics under Wang, while Cai Bian 蔡卞 (1048–1117), author of Maoshi mingwu jie, was Wang's son-in-law. Wang's work is otherwise largely uncited in the active philological literature of the time. Such personal or political relationships also dominate contemporary citations in Song dynasty biji (De Weerdt 2015, 338–39). The widespread citation of contemporaries for whom the only apparent connection is a shared disciplinary goal, characteristic of the sixteenth century onward, is uncommon in earlier texts, with the exception of certain imperial compilations that recorded the discussions of court scholars.
Thinkers in the Song framed their work with reference to the past scholarly tradition, frequently stopping several hundred years short of their own time. This tendency to emphasize the past over the present is highlighted in the influential and contrasting scholarly methods of Wang Anshi and Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019–86). Wang Anshi saw antiquity as a model system, the coherent rules of which could be implemented in the present. Wang did admit that one must “comprehend past and present” (tong gujin 通古今), which would require reading later texts, in order to understand how the system of antiquity could function in a changed world (Bol 1992, 213–28). However, in practice Wang referenced later thinkers primarily to reflect their degradation from antiquity.
Sima Guang saw history as essential to knowledge production. In his view, the patterns of history reflected universal rules. Hence, his historical magnum opus, Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 (Comprehensive mirror to aid in government), extended from remote antiquity to the founding of the Song dynasty in 960. That it did not include the Song may be more a reflection of the fact that the dynasty had not yet ended, and therefore offered no lessons on the fall of a dynasty, than a lack of concern for recent events. Sima Guang, and his fellow court compilers, rarely cited from the considerable discussions of contemporary historians, such as Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007–72), who is only invoked twice in the entire Zizhi tongjian.2 Sima Guang saw the lessons of history across time, rather than solely antiquity, as valuable. Nevertheless, the dust had not settled on the immediate present, relegating the history and scholarship of his times largely irrelevant to his project.
These theoretical views are reflected in the two scholars’ approaches to the technical study of language. Although Sima Guang emphasized understanding how words change over time and obliquely referenced faults in contemporary philology, he still claimed that his contribution was based firmly in the methods of the first-century Shuowen jiezi (Sima Guang 1922, j. 64, 4a–5a). Wang Anshi claimed to reach further back into antiquity in order to restore this culture (siwen 斯文), as reflected in the ancient forms of Chinese characters (Wang Anshi 1959 j. 84, 879–80). In his view, there should be direct communion with antiquity, unmediated through later studies. Although their conceptions of philology differed greatly, neither allowed for the relevance of a contemporary community to their projects.
The divergent attitudes of Wang Anshi and Sima Guang both reflect a reluctance to deal with the contemporary as a source for valid knowledge. Notions of contemporary community and “up-to-date information” became increasingly solidified and desirable from the twelfth century onward. New networks formed on the basis of political, social, and intellectual communities, especially as the imperial court withdrew. Another important factor in the acceptance of contemporary knowledge in this period, which would continue to develop over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, was the Learning of the Way proposition that any literatus could become a sage through learning. Neo-Confucian thinkers therein made a powerful argument for the authority of contemporaries (Bol 2008, 83–90). The resulting sense of intellectual community among fellow Learning of the Way thinkers may have led to the more widespread acceptance of new knowledge in this period. Nevertheless, the proper outlets for this new knowledge remained largely contained in a way that would not be the case during the late imperial period. Informal genres, such as biji and “records of discussion” (yulu 語錄), were accepting of knowledge generated by contemporaries. Scholarly treatises within specific fields were much less so. By the mid-sixteenth century, the authority of contemporary voices achieved new heights, visible in a number of domains.
Disciplinary Community: Evidence in Texts and Scholarly Practice
A significant shift occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in terms of how scholars positioned themselves in relation to the past and present. As shown in figure 1 (and explained in greater detail in appendix 1), a vast majority of texts in fields from philology and medicine to astronomy and music made explicit reference to contemporary scholarly texts, in contrast to those from earlier periods, which only sporadically cited contemporaries. This prevalence of contemporary citation indicates a greater accessibility of books in the late Ming than suggested in recent research (McDermott 2006). The emphasis on community emerging in sixteenth-century China appears in new forms of paratext, such as bibliographical indexes and literature reviews, which put a premium on inclusion of up-to-date research. While it is difficult to determine the first occurrence of such paratextual structures, no example of these common elements of late imperial texts is present in a single one of the Tang–early Ming texts surveyed in my analysis.
During the sixteenth century, scholars began to include with increasing frequency lists of “works consulted” (yinyong shumu 引用書目), which catalogued contemporary texts alongside classical exemplars. For example, Lü Weiqi's 呂維祺 (1587–1641) rhyme dictionary Tongwen duo 同文鐸 (Raising the call for a shared script) included a list of cited works (caizheng 採証). This list featured texts by his contemporaries, alongside progenitors of Chinese philology, such as Shuowen jiezi. Similarly, Li Shizhen's 李時珍 (1518–93) highly influential materia medica, the 1578 Bencao gangmu 本草綱目 (Outlines of materia medica), included a “Catalogue of cited medical texts from past and present” (yinju gujin yijia shumu 引據古今醫家書目) containing numerous sixteenth-century texts.3 Literary works, too, came to include such lists. Taohua shan 桃花扇 (Peach blossom fan), the renowned seventeenth-century historical play that records the events of the Manchu conquest of Ming China, included a section entitled “Evidence” (kaoju 考據) that listed contemporary historical records the playwright consulted, while Ding Yaokang's 丁耀亢 (1599–1669) Xu Jinpingmei 續金瓶梅 (Sequel to The plum in the golden vase) contained a “Catalogue of books consulted” (jieyong shumu 借用書目), ranging from religious texts to recent literary and philosophical works (Ling 2013, 127). Editorial Principles (fanli 凡例), too, boasted of inclusion of the most recent works, as for example in the 1624 Bencao huiyan 本草彙言 (Collected discussions from materia medica), the author of which claimed that in addition to classical medical texts, he cited from “no less than forty” medical texts from the Yuan and Ming dynasties (Ni  1995, fanli, 1a; see also Li Shizhen  1983, fanli, 9a–9b).
Certain texts came to include something akin to a literature review, evaluating works within the field, including contemporary discussions. For example, Bencao gangmu contained a section entitled “The materia medica of various masters across time” (lidai zhujia bencao 歷代諸家本草), which provided a brief evaluation of previous medical texts. Of these, nearly one-quarter are works from the Ming dynasty (Li Shizhen  1983, j. 1 shang, 1a–13b).4 This format of evaluation was imitated in other contemporary materia medica (for example, Lu Zhiyi 1983, dayi). Critical bibliographies focusing on the contributions of both historical and recent scholars were evident in other fields as well, such as philology and music (Liu  1997, j. 1, 35b; Shi Kui, n.d., j. 3; Xiong [c. 1662–1722] 1997, j. 10). The authors of these texts framed their reviews as condensing the breadth of information in the world necessary to fully understand the discipline.
Late imperial book catalogues also began to shift pride of place to contemporary works, rather than maintaining the standard chronological model, beginning with the authorities of antiquity. For example, Xu Bo's 1602 catalogue of his private book collection, Xu shi jiacang shumu 徐氏家藏書目, heads his listing of script studies with a mid-sixteenth-century text by Wei Jiao 魏校 (1483–1543), only later followed by Shuowen jiezi (Xu Bo  1995, j. 4, 7a). Cao Yin's 曹寅 (1658–1712) Dongting shumu 棟亭書目 similarly lists the musicological scholar Zhu Zaiyu 朱載堉 (1536–1611) first, ahead of seminal studies of music from antiquity through the Song (Cao 1985, j. 1, yue, 1a).
Bibliographical theory and classification schemes were intensely debated during this period, and the elevation of recent scholarship in such catalogues was the result of a conscious epistemological shift. Hu Yinglin 胡應麟 (1551–1602), a major bibliographical thinker of the sixteenth century, criticized Tang, Song, and Yuan bibliographers for failing to include works from their contemporaries, as well as for the inclusion of ancient texts without indicating whether they were still accessible to contemporary readers (Hu 1958b, j. 1, 2b–3a; j. 2, 21a–b).5 In his view, if one sought full “completeness” (xiangbei 詳備) and “breadth” (boqia 博洽) in bibliography, and scholarship more generally, it was necessary to take into account the contributions of the present (j. 2, 16a). This concern with “breadth” conforms with what we know of Hu Yinglin as a proponent of “broad knowledge” (boshi 博識) and the pursuit of factual learning (Bol 2006, 122). But Hu separated himself from earlier representatives of the “broad knowledge” tradition, such as Ma Duanlin 馬端臨 (1245–1322), who did not include contemporary texts in their bibliographies (Hu 1958b, j. 3, 23a). Hu's vision of completeness was also discriminating. He did not, for instance, see vernacular literature as appropriate for inclusion in a bibliography (L. Wu 1995, 369). Selection of ancient texts was also subject to evaluation, in his opinion, particularly in an age of rampant forgery (Hu 1958b, j. 3, 9b). Hu's inclusion of works of his age reflects a major trend in sixteenth-century bibliographical and scholarly practice and suggests the rising epistemological authority of contemporary knowledge in particular, rather than an indiscriminate quest for breadth.
The prevalence of citation within the body of scholarly texts from this period demonstrates an even further concentrated interaction with contemporary texts. In a world where a limited body of authoritative texts formed the basis of scholarly validity, it would not be necessary to directly acknowledge this assumed body of knowledge. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as authority began to shift toward the much broader body of relevant contemporary work, citation became increasingly standard. Fang Yizhi 方以智 (1611–71), for instance, criticized earlier works that did not cite sources as “of no benefit to later scholars” (Fang Yizhi 1990, fanli, 1b). In Fang's view, only through the clarity of sources would future scholars be able to effectively evaluate his arguments, an attitude paralleled by thinkers in the contemporaneous Republic of Letters (Edelstein, Morrissey, and Roe 2013, 231). By the early eighteenth century, court compilers too came to advocate for citation, even in the case of ancient texts, to provide a basis for corroboration (Zhang Yushu et al. 1716, fanli, 6b–7a). The notion of citing sources was in part a response to the burgeoning of contemporary scholarship. It was also discipline specific. The contemporary authorities cited in philology were separate from those cited in discussions of astronomy or medicine. In this way, expertise in a specific field and awareness of the current state of that field came to be valued over either the generalist knowledge of the broadly learned scholar or a specialized approach that engaged only with the authorities of antiquity.
Communal Norms and Collaboration
Alongside this increased attention to contemporary works, scholars employed a discourse of incompleteness and the necessity of collaboration in order to achieve comprehensive scholarship, something reflected as well in contemporaneous scholarly production in early modern Europe (Blair 2017, 13). A common trope in the prefaces of sixteenth-century and later Chinese texts spoke of “awaiting the broadly learned gentleman” (si boya junzi 俟博雅君子) or “a later gentleman” (hou zhi junzi 後之君子) to revise one's work. While this turn of phrase appears in earlier periods, its usage from the sixteenth century on is both quantitatively and qualitatively different.6 A Song scholar might speak of his completeness (bei 備), which he felt would assist (zi 資) later readers.7 Ming scholars typically presented their efforts in the hopes that contemporary or later scholars would amend (zheng 正) or supplement (bu 補) them.8 Rather than declaring completeness, one might herald omission over reckless inclusion, anticipating “reevaluation” (zaikao 再考) (Mao  1997, fanli, 4b). Many scholars suggested their “tentative” (gu 姑) inclusion of information with the expectation that a later reader would build on their work.9 Fang Yizhi, in his philological magnum opus Tongya, even affirmed that his corrections to the works of recent scholars were “assuredly what these various masters would have wished for” (Fang Yizhi 1990, xu 3a).
The invocation of the later scholar became a staple of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century preface. More importantly, the language surrounding this call to later readers increasingly shifted from a proclamation of the work's value to a request for revision. Among the Tang–early Ming philological texts surveyed for the present study, only a single Yuan text requested correction from others, despite occasional references to “later gentlemen.” Among the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts, 60 percent of texts invoking “later gentlemen” requested supplement. There are instances of scholars from the twelfth through fifteenth centuries hoping for contributions from fellow gentlemen, as well as sixteenth-century scholars asserting their roles as preservers for future generations.10 But broadly speaking, the figure of the gentleman scholar had shifted from a reader of completed past achievements to an active contributor in ongoing research within a particular discipline.
Some aimed to encourage further textual research by remarking on texts thought to have once existed, the survival of which was unknown. Awareness of textual instability gave rise to a widespread search for early versions of texts, as well as occasionally even forgery of ancient documents (Rusk 2006). As book production and collection soared among wealthy elites, the likelihood that rare editions might turn up in a private library prompted hope for their recovery. One seventeenth-century scholar of ancient scripts called on book collectors (cangshujia 藏書家) to send him old texts they might own to serve as corroborative evidence of ancient script forms (Fu [c. 1661–1722] 1997, fanli, 5b). Tan Kai 談愷 (1503–69), in compiling an edition of the famous medieval tales collection Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive records of the Taiping era), similarly asserted: “As there are still missing passages and volumes, I await a book collector within these borders who would generously deign to fill in the complete work” (Li Fang 1566, xu, 3a).11 His call was answered by a contemporary, who proposed supplementing Tan's edition with the aid of a colleague on the basis of a version in his collection (Hu 1983, j. 116, 19b). The invocation of colleagues was not merely a modest turn of phrase; it left clear traces in accounts of scholarly production from the period.
Increasingly over the course of the late imperial period, knowledge was considered authoritative only if it accorded with a communal sense of scholarly validity. The phrase “individualistic interpretation” (yi jia zhi shuo 一家之說), which appears in medieval texts as praise for creative scholarship, began to acquire a negative connotation as early as the eleventh century.12 By the late imperial period, scholars levied the phrase as a common criticism against those who did not meet contemporary disciplinary norms.13 Similarly, “divergence” (yi 異) was invoked as a critique of misguided research, and scholars preemptively proclaimed that they did not seek departure from the norms in their works (Gu 1994, 755; Li Jing  1997, fanli, 1b). As the authority of antiquity and the court declined, a new configuration of scholarly validity arose in the form of a community of specialists. To find no correspondence with the work of others was seen as a sign not of creativity, but rather of unwillingness to engage with the field.
The importance of communal norms and collaborative scholarship is further reflected in the increasingly lengthy lists of contributors and editors included in the paratextual material of scholarly works. Such lists became common over the course of the sixteenth century, causing some scholars to complain that they distracted attention from the primary author (Li Dongyang 1681, j. 14, 9a). The appearance of lists of contributors has been seen as a marketing ploy to demonstrate the vastness of the author's prestigious literary and scholarly network (Chow 2004, 115–20). The effectiveness of such a ploy depended on the heightened sense of the importance of contemporary collaboration as a standard for verifying knowledge. Chai Shaobing 柴紹炳 (1616–70) summarized the significance of collaboration in the Editorial Principles of a phonological study, remarking that “in the completion of this book I have both assembled previous masters and relied on colleagues” (Chai  1997, fanli, 4a). He then proceeded to list the colleagues and students with whom he consulted in its composition, categorizing them in terms of their level of involvement. The colleagues recorded were primarily specialists in linguistic study with a record of publication in the field of philology. Prefaces also came to frequently detail a process of composition that involved the exchange of manuscript drafts with contemporaries for discussion and corroboration, as well as travel in search of the latest research.14 Scholars prior to the sixteenth century occasionally displayed an awareness of recent scholarship.15 However, the central place of consultation with contemporaries, or at least the documentation of such collaboration, heightened significantly in the sixteenth century.
Disciplinary Community: Changes in Attitude about Antiquity
One of the defining shifts in sixteenth-century scholarly attitudes, which fueled attention toward contemporary scholarship, was an increasing skepticism toward the authority of antiquity. As Robert Hymes (1987, 37) observes in the case of medical scholarship, the basis of authority for Song dynasty texts was their belonging “to a line that began by recording the learning and practice of … the Chou founders [of antiquity].” This basis in antiquity is representative of Song justifications of scholarship in many fields. The very legitimacy of antiquity came to be questioned in new ways in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fang Yizhi, for example, opined:
The investigation of antiquity is that whereby we explain the present. However, one cannot get mired in antiquity. There are cases where the ancients yield to those later. [For example,] how could [ancient methods of] writing on bamboo strips compare to [present-day] woodblock printing? (Fang Yizhi 1990, juanshou 1, 11a)16
The notion of “being mired in antiquity” (nigu 泥古) had existed as a criticism in ritual theory for those who held unswervingly to ancient ritual prescriptions since at least the Song. In the late imperial period, this sentiment came to be applied more broadly as a criticism of blind acceptance of the ancient in scholarly research. The new assumed an uneasy place in relation to the authority of the past for late imperial scholars. On the one hand, flaunting novelty (xin 新) could be raised as a criticism of scholarship that did not conform to disciplinary norms.17 One of the most significant literary trends of the sixteenth century called for a “restoration of antiquity” (fugu 復古), while many eighteenth-century scholars heralded themselves as recovering the methods of the Han dynasty. Similarly, a common rhetorical position criticized scholars of recent ages for their superficiality and bemoaned the lack of focused study in a particular field since antiquity, something paralleled in the Renaissance scholarly trope of “ancient greatness, medieval decline, and modern restoration” (Ogilvie 2006, 9).18 Despite this rhetoric, an emphasis on the particular validity of the contemporary and the shortcomings of antiquity shaped the discourse and production of scholarship throughout this period.
Scholarly discourse in various fields in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came to question the inherent legitimacy of the past. Sheng Duanming 盛端明 (fl. 1498–1543), for instance, upheld the progenitor of paleography, Xu Shen, for his formative influence, but criticized the subsequent tradition as inferior to the contributions of a recent scholar of his own dynasty (Zhao 1519, xu, 1b). Later scholars came to dispute even the progenitors of the tradition. One seventeenth-century scholar claimed that “Xu Shen was unable to fully understand written characters” (Dong c. 1645–1690, j. 10, 4a), while another argued that Xu's Shuowen jiezi was impractical as a reference work in comparison to the most recent advances in lexicography (Fu [c. 1661–1722] 1997, fanli, 1a). Others criticized Cang Jie, the legendary creator of Chinese writing (Wang Kentang  1997, j. 4, 39a–40b; Wu Jishi [c. 1572–1620] 1997, xu, 2b; Wu Yuanman  1997, zixu, 1a). As the authority of tradition declined, the value of contemporary discussion increased. Conceptual and methodological advances, such as the application of phonological principles to paleography, assumed a higher status than proximity to the golden age of Chinese civilization.19 An earlier scholarly model that could be characterized by one's communion with ancient authorities had shifted to contemporary discussion and debate.
An increasing skepticism toward antiquity even manifested in hostility toward the past in certain arenas of late Ming scholarship. Zhang Xuan 張萱 (fl. 1582–1611), for instance, claimed that he hoped to “stuff a ball of mud in the mouths of the various Han and Song scholars” with the composition of his treatise on the Six Classics (Zhang Xuan [c. 1572–1620] 1997, tici, 6a). Zhang associated with Li Zhi 李贄 (1527–1602), an advocate of a particularly iconoclastic branch of Wang Yangming's Learning of the Mind (xinxue 心學). Li's “Tongxin shuo” 童心說 (On the childlike mind) argued against assuming that the textual legacy of antiquity had inherent value for the present (Handler-Spitz 2017, 150). This attitude that the past was not intrinsically venerable was extreme for the time. Nevertheless, that it had adherents among influential late Ming scholars may have contributed to the increasing attention paid toward contemporary scholarship.
The past and present operated on two different levels of authority for late imperial scholars. Claims about an origin at the hands of ancient sages and legendary figures served to justify scholarship by linking it to foundational aspects of Chinese civilization. Early imperial scholars too, such as Xu Shen, could be argued to derive their authority from relative proximity to antiquity (Rusk 2012, 165). From where then did contemporary scholars draw their authority? One factor was the notion of gujin 古今, past and present, often invoked as an indicator of comprehensiveness, as well as a method for understanding historical change (shibian 時變).20 Descriptions of gujin as something that could be “thoroughly understood” (tong 通) were not new to the Ming. A conception of their equivalent worth, however, only became widespread during this period. Fang Yizhi, for instance, in discussing the arrangement of his encyclopedia Tongya, described the scholars of his time as having different priorities from those of antiquity: “the ancients did not resemble those of later periods who pursue detail and completeness” (Fang Yizhi 1990, fanli, 1a). This was not intended, I believe, as a criticism of antiquity, but allowed him to justify his methods of categorization, which bore no source in antiquity. Similarly, literary anthologists of the late seventeenth century could justify compilations of contemporary poets by appealing to their survival through the Ming-Qing dynastic transition, an experience that was not accessible to the ancients and that imbued their poetry with a uniquely tragic affect (Meyer-Fong 2004, 24). Antiquity was a source of values, but there was room for contemporary scholars to innovate.
Whether or not antiquity was more valuable than the present, the absence of many texts remaining from the past also led scholars to emphasize the present. Chen Wenzhu 陳文燭 (1536–95), for instance, bemoaned the fragmentary textual legacy of the past (Hu 1983, xu, 1b). He went on to praise his contemporary Hu Yinglin, whose comprehensiveness (bo 博) was sufficient to overcome the lack of textual inheritance. Hu Yinglin himself attributed the greater presence of recent works in book catalogues in part to technological factors. He claimed that his contemporaries continued to venerate antiquity, but the technological possibilities of printing allowed for greater production and preservation of texts (yicheng nanhui 易成難毀), which were more economical to produce and efficient to store (jiefei biancang 節費便藏) (Hu 1958b, j. 4, 12b). And while printing in the Song “flourished” (sheng 盛), its use in his own time “reached the highest extremes” (ji 極) (j. 4, 11a). In his view, the expansion of printing compounded the seeming emphasis on the recent in book catalogues. Concern with the sparse and inconsistent textual record of antiquity can be found throughout late imperial texts.21 Some remained convinced that the past was recoverable through the careful study and comparison of ancient texts (Elman 1990, 118–44). Others who might have otherwise arrogated authority to the ancients felt unable to do so, as they simply did not have sufficient access to antiquity.
Disciplinary Community: Absence of Court Authority
By the late eighteenth century, a particular narrative of intellectual history had taken hold that drew a stark division between the world of eighteenth-century evidential learning (kaozheng 考證) and what came before. Searching for an answer to the question of why scholarship had changed in this period, Qing literati pointed to the contribution of the court. Jiang Fan 江藩 (1761–1831), for instance, in his genealogy of Qing evidential learning, Guochao hanxue shicheng ji 國朝漢學師承記 (A record of the transmission of Han Learning in our dynasty), traced the rigorous scholarly practices of his time back to the court-sponsored projects of the Shunzhi and Kangxi emperors (Jiang  1995, j. 1, 2b–3a). Present-day research has largely inherited this narrative. It would be fair to say that the Qing court placed value on scholarship and that new communities of scholars formed within the court. Recent studies have shown how the institutionalization of scholarship in the eighteenth century was instrumental in the period's flourishing intellectual activity (Sela 2018). However, an emphasis on contemporary disciplinary knowledge was already present in the sixteenth century, and in fact arose in part from court inactivity in, rather than patronage of, scholarship. Similarly to the case of citation of contemporaries in twelfth-century biji composition, sixteenth-century attitudes toward scholarship were shaped and even facilitated by the absence of imperial regulation. A lack of serious court involvement in scholarly matters represented the loss of an important earlier source of authority, resulting in the search for a new, contemporary basis for validating knowledge.
The first Ming emperor, following the model of new dynasties throughout Chinese history, did engage scholars in a host of projects, as did the third Ming emperor, Yongle. By the mid-fifteenth century, however, the court had once again largely retreated from scholarly matters. A violent moment in the early sixteenth century further generated distrust between court and scholars. The Jiajing emperor (1507–67), an agnatic successor to the throne, desired to sacrifice to his birth father rather than his imperial predecessor. The subsequent years of prolonged court debate, which came to be known as the Great Rites Controversy (Daliyi 大禮議), resulted in over 200 court officials being exiled, demoted, or beaten, some to death. Following this event, important contemporary scholars were unwilling to or prohibited from serving the court. Most notably, Yang Shen 楊慎 (1488–1559), formerly a court compiler in the Hanlin Academy, was exiled to the far southwest of China, where he devoted his life to the composition of numerous scholarly texts. These works included new genres of specialized scholarship, such as dedicated treatises on ancient pronunciations. This kind of specialized text, which inspired a number of direct imitators, came to coexist with earlier, more diffuse discussions of language present in classical commentaries and dictionaries.22 Alongside the composition of these texts, Yang engaged with a broad body of scholars through epistolary networks, producing letters that were anthologized, were cited, and would serve as a model of scholarly communication for later generations.23
Other prominent scholars were removed from their official positions during or in the aftermath of the Great Rites Controversy, such as Tang Shu 唐樞 (1497–1574), who went on to become a prominent lecturer and scholar after his demotion to the status of “commoner” (min 民). Lu Can 陸粲 (1494–1551), a major Ming classicist-in-exile, was demoted to the southwest, like Yang Shen, after his criticism of the emperor's supporters. Similarly, Tang Shunzhi 唐順之 (1507–60), later one of the leading intellectual and literary figures of his age, was forced out of office as a result of his refusal to cooperate with former supporters of the emperor during the Great Rites Controversy (Dardess 2013, 15). It would be inaccurate to characterize all supporters of the Jiajing emperor as anti-intellectual, but the gulf created between emperor and scholars, as well as the highly factionalized nature of the court in this period, had repercussions for centuries to come.24 Seventeenth-century scholars looked back at this period as one of scholarly dispersal and fracture (xueshu fenlie 學術分裂) (Lu Longqi, 1983, j. 4, 30b). By the late Ming, preservation of the dynasty in the face of economic and military challenges, rather than the commission of scholarship, occupied imperial resources. The civil service examinations and imperial institutions remained meeting places of great literati minds, but the court itself was no longer a center of scholarship.
While court conflict with scholar-officials, as well as lack of interest and inability to promote scholarship, jeopardized the status of the court as an intellectual center, lack of imperial patronage may have aided the flourishing of scholarship in the period. Within the well-documented intellectual communities of the Republic of Letters, early modern European scholars viewed state sponsorship as a threat to their autonomy (Goldgar 1995, 232–33). Some late imperial Chinese scholars similarly perceived imperial scholarly projects as having a stifling effect. The early Ming scholar Zhao Huiqian 趙撝謙 (1351–95), for instance, recounted his reluctance to discuss with others his work on a rhyme dictionary due to court activity on a similar project (Zhao 1983, j. 1, 51b). Court patronage and control of scholarship were frequently motivated by political and ideological concerns (Brook 1988; Elman 1997). The purpose of court-sponsored efforts was to set a standard and, in a sense, to eradicate the need for continued discussion or debate. The envisioned scholarly community was thus limited to a subset of officials active in court institutions, such as the Hanlin Academy. Concerns about violating imperial standards were well placed, particularly in the Qing period when the court was highly involved in overseeing scholarly production. By contrast, when the court withdrew from scholarly production in the sixteenth century, it was less risky for a broader community of literati to engage in scholarship. The absence of institutional support has been identified as a cause for the lack of scholarly rigor and community in the Ming (Elman 1984, 95–96; McDermott 2006, 144–49; Yamanoi 1960). I would argue that a reduced court presence in intellectual culture could be beneficial for the spread of scholarship and the increasing role of contemporary communities in scholarly research during this period. The eighteenth-century Qing court was heavily involved in scholarly activity. While this resulted in the production of major works of scholarship, it also created new obstacles to textual production.
The effects of court regulation of scholarship and its lack in sixteenth- and eighteenth-century China are illustrated well by the treatment of the imperial dictionary commissioned at the outset of each dynasty. Completed in 1375, the rhyme dictionary Hongwu zhengyun 洪武正韻 was compiled by the major court scholars of the Hongwu emperor's reign. Later Ming literati recognized its intended purpose as a dynastic standard, but subjected the work to criticism predicating their further phonological investigations on the perceived absence of its efficacy as an official standard (Fang Yizhi 1990, xu, 2b; Jiao 1983, xu, 1a).25 As one scholar put it, “among the phonological distinctions [in Hongwu zhengyun], there remain debatable aspects” (Wang Kentang  1997, j. 4, 37b). In addition, numerous texts expanding on Hongwu zhengyun with the stated purpose of supplementing and improving the official commission appeared over the course of the Ming.26 These texts did not enjoy imperial sanction, but lack of court regulation allowed them to avoid condemnation. Freedom to debate the imperial standard underlay the flourishing of phonological scholarship in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Eighteenth-century Qing scholars, on the other hand, had to consider the relationship of their scholarship to the activity of the court more carefully. Wang Xihou 王錫侯 (1713–77), for instance, compiled a dictionary that challenged the authority of the 1716 court-sponsored Kangxi zidian 康熙字典, claiming that despite its contributions, its impractical indexing method left scholars to “toil their way through the entire work, only to remain in the dark” (Wang Xihou  1997, xu, 3b). This challenge to the imperial standard was quickly reported to the Qianlong emperor and stifled.27 No further explicit attempts to improve on the dictionary occurred during the dynasty, with the exception of a nineteenth-century court-commissioned project to institute some corrections. Similar cases abound in the records of Qing literary inquisition, which reflect a tendency for the court to eradicate scholarly challenges to an imperial standard (see Qingdai wenziyu dang 1969, 9–11, 535–40, 727–29, 877–904). In this way, discourse within a field of study could be affected by court intervention in the scholarly realm.
As Suyoung Son (2018, 130) has persuasively argued, the Qing state engaged in censorship practices “to regain the position of authority” in a diversified book market. It similarly tried to reclaim authority in the domain of scholarship. In both cases, Qing court patronage opened new possibilities for the preservation and transmission of textual knowledge, while at the same time creating new limitations. Court activity in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has often been considered a prerequisite for the formation of scholarly communities in this period, but state attention could just as well hinder intellectual inquiry. The Ming court made few significant scholarly contributions after the initial reigns. Literary schools and associations manifested themselves on unprecedented levels during the Ming. Classics discussion associations and academies flourished at the end of the dynasty, in part as a response to a perceived lack of government control of these fields (Guo Shaoyu 1983, 518–610; Wang Fansen 2013, 89–104). Court neglect is similarly reflected in the flourishing of commercial examination essay anthologies from the late sixteenth century onward (Chow 2004, 207–11). Here, too, a lack of government involvement created a space for greater literati activity than in the mid-eighteenth century, when the central court was active in promoting examination essay models. Similarly, schools of contemporary disciplinary thought referenced each other and maintained a level of communication in pursuit of generating new knowledge that was rare in earlier periods.
As a result of the lapse in imperial sponsorship during the sixteenth century, scholars also argued that they were taking up the mantle of a government that was neglecting its responsibilities (Hu 1958b, j. 4, 21a; Lü Weiqi  1997, fanli, 11a).28 As in the twelfth century, when court inactivity prompted an “imperial mission” among literati (De Weerdt 2015, 17), some sixteenth-century scholars saw their work as accomplishing the task of government, even when the state had no involvement in their work. Feng Congwu (c. 1557–1627), for instance, even claimed that local scholarly communities were more effective than the official system at “correcting a malfunctioning society” (Ong 2009, 169). Academies, formed as a conscious alternative to court institutions, and privately produced compilations even became the primary locus for late Ming statecraft discussion (Chow 2004, 124; Jun 2012).
The absence of court activity in scholarship provided another potential reason for the formation of contemporary communities of learning. Court-sponsored projects tended to embrace the scholarly tradition model, arguing that they were inheritors of an authoritative chain of predominantly imperial texts reaching back to antiquity.29 In this discourse, there should be no comparable contemporary scholarship; the imperial standard was intended to replace recent works produced outside of the court. The lack of court attention in the Ming raised a question for scholars—if one could no longer take the authority of antiquity for granted, and one did not have the support of the court, how could one assert the validity of one's work? It was advantageous for independent scholars to associate their studies with a contemporary community, both to affirm the relevance of their work and to align themselves with an alternative source of legitimacy.
By the sixteenth century, the most influential scholarly texts were produced without direct court patronage. Some continued to rely on the resources and sponsorship of the court to a certain degree. Access to imperial family libraries was essential in the production of certain texts (Kerlouégan 2012, 110–13). In addition, some scholars still sought the court imprimatur as a symbol of authority. For example, Li Shizhen's son appealed to the Wanli emperor in a memorial asking that the court print the Bencao gangmu (Nappi 2009, 19). However, as opposed to significant moments in the eleventh and eighteenth centuries, for instance, the court did not serve as a major intellectual center during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As contemporary thinkers made clear, this absence of court activity served as a call to action and a freeing force in the production of scholarship.
The authority of contemporary voices rose to new heights in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The flourishing publishing culture of the period suggests one reason for the greater visibility of contemporary voices: there were simply more contemporary texts to reference than from any earlier period. But when compared against the active scholarly environment of the Song dynasty, there is a significantly increased tendency in the later period to frame scholarship within a community of contemporary disciplinary activity. The even greater production of scholarship in the sixteenth century was molded by an increasing skepticism toward the inherent authority of antiquity, as well as a retreat of the court from scholarly patronage. Rather than inhibiting scholarship, this lacuna in fact hastened the spread of disciplinary communities as scholars searched for a basis of validity outside of the court and antiquity. This new basis was dependent on expertise within a specific field of learning, validated by its interaction with and recognition by contemporary scholarship.
Earlier precedent can be found for certain features of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholarship documented here. Twelfth-century scholars made an effort to gather various kinds of contemporary information, while even first-century Han dynasty thinkers attempted to delineate the borders of various fields, resulting in a notion of field-specific knowledge (Lloyd 2009). Nevertheless, in both the scope and the quality of these efforts, the sixteenth century reflected a vastly new scholarly environment.
The court would reassert its role in scholarship in the late seventeenth century under its new Manchu rulers. Qing dynasty court sponsorship both facilitated the work of scholars and inhibited certain modes of inquiry. While claiming a return to the methods of the Han dynasty, later scholars were deeply indebted to the notion of disciplinary community as the collaborative nature of sixteenth-century scholarship documented here heightened over the following centuries (Sela 2018). Methods and priorities shifted considerably over time, but the notion that a contemporary community can validate knowledge has persisted to the present.
For a detailed explanation of the methodology of analysis, see appendix 1.
However, Ouyang Xiu does come to be more frequently cited in a major thirteenth-century commentary on Zizhi tongjian.
Other examples can be found in Guo Wei (c. 1621–1644), Huang Ming baifang jia wenda; Zhang Zilie ( 1997), Zhengzi tong; and Zhang Huang (1983), Tushu bian, for instance.
Other examples can be found in Zhu Zaiyu (1998), Lülü jingyi, waipian, j. 3; and Jia Suoxue ([c. 1661–1722] 1995), Yaopin huayi, bencao lun, 1a–6b.
Some Song catalogues, as Hu Yinglin acknowledges, do contain contemporary works.
For the origins of this phrase in Gongyang zhuan and Shiji, see Du (2018, 446–51).
For instance, Zhu Xi (1983), Tongjian gangmu, j. 9a, 25b; Tang Xuandu (1983), Jiujing ziyang, xu, 1b; Jin Lüxiang (1983), Zizhi tongjian qianbian, xu, 2a; Tang Zhongyou ( 1995), Yuezhai wenchao, j. 8, 11b.
For instance, Cheng Mingshan ( 1995), Xiaoyu pu, fanli, 2b; Feng Dingdiao ([c. 1661–1722] 1997), Liushu zhun, 4a.
For instance, Lü Kun ([c. 1572–1620] 1997), Jiaotai yun, fanli 12a; Chen Di (1983), Maoshi guyin kao, xu, 3a; Wang Huazhen ( 1997), Pumen yipin, fanli, 10b.
For instance, Shi Zhengzhi (1983), Shi shi jupu, 2a; Zhen Dexiu (1983), Xishan wenji, j. 42, 7a; Gui Youguang (1675), Zhenchuan xiansheng ji, j. 2, 5b.
For a similar call to book collectors, see Lu Rong (n.d.), Shuyuan zaji, j. 9, [n.p., 11a].
For a representative positive medieval usage, see the phrase zhuoran cheng yi jia zhi shuo 倬然勒成一家之說 (marvelously established an individualistic interpretation) in Lü Wen (1983), Lü Hengzhou ji, j. 3, 11b.
For instance, Wei Xiaohu (2012), Siku quanshu zongmu huiding, 236; Yang Shouchen ( 1997), Yang Wenyi gong wenji, j. 3, 5b; Zhou Zhongfu ( 1995), Zheng tang dushu ji, j. 10, 16b; Yang Qiyuan ( 1997), Zhengxue bian, j. 1, 19b; Tian Yiheng ( 1997), Da Ming tongwen ji juyao, j. 1, 2a; Sun Yikui (1983), Chishui yuanzhu, fanli, 1b. There also remain occasions when this phrase was used to praise a particular scholar who had framed his work within the proper intellectual lineage (see Nivison 1966, 171–74).
For instance, Lü Weiqi ( 1997), Tongwen duo, yili, 11b; Qiao Zhonghe ( 1997), Yuanyun pu, xu, 7a–7b; Fang Risheng ( 1997); Gujin yunhui juyao xiaobu, xu, 2b–3b; Fu Shiyao ([c. 1661–1722] 1997), Liushu fenlei, fanli, 8b–9a; Xiong Shibo ([c. 1661–1722] 1997), Dengqie yuansheng, xu, 1b–2a.
For instance, see Lu Dian's (1042–1102) acknowledgment of Sun Fu's (992–1057) Chunqiu scholarship in Taoshan ji, j. 12, 11a (Lu Dian 1983).
A similar passage appears in Hu Yinglin (1958b), Jingji huitong, j. 4, 12b.
For instance, Wei Xiaohu (2012), Siku quanshu zongmu huiding, 296, 401; Zou Shu ( 1995), Benjing shuzheng, xu, 1a.
For instance, Xu Guangqi ( 1995), Jihe yuanben, xu, 1a.
For more on the methodological advances of scholars in this period, see Wang Songmu (2011). For a discussion of a striking parallel in attitudes toward antiquity in early modern Europe, see Ogilvie (2006, 122–33).
The linkage of these two concepts appears as early as the first century BCE in the Shiji. See Sima Qian (1983), Shiji, j. 27, 52a.
For instance, Hu Yinglin (1958b), Jingji huitong, j. 3, 1a–1b; Long Weilin ( 1997), Benyun yide, j. 7, 20b.
For examples of direct imitations (and responses to) Yang Shen's work, see Chen Yaowen (1983a, b), Tianzhong ji and Zheng Yang, and Hu Yinglin (1958a), Danqian xinlu.
For instance, see citations of Yang Shen's letter on ancient phonology in Fang Yizhi (1990), Tongya, j. 10, 2a.
For more on the effects of factionalism in this period, see Dardess (2013). For examples of how scholars maintained a relationship with the central court in the direct wake of the Great Rites Controversy, see Ong (2006) and Koh (2011, 156–65).
Titles include Zhengyun leichao 正韻類鈔, Zhengyun yi 正韻翼, Zhengyun jian 正韻箋, and Hongwu zhengyun yintan bianlan 洪武正韻吟壇便覽.
On initial review, the Qianlong emperor deemed this offense worthy of punishment. Wang Xihou was in fact ultimately executed upon the emperor's discovery of Wang's failure to observe imperial naming taboos.
For instance, Hu Yinglin (1958b), Jingji huitong, j. 4, 21a; Lü Weiqi ( 1997), Tongwen duo, fanli, 11a.
For instance, Zhang Yushu et al. (1716), Kangxi zidian, xu, 4b–5a; Yunlu et al. (1983), Yuzhi lixiang kaocheng, xu.
List of References
The corpus of texts for this analysis comprises those contained in the relevant sections of the Siku quanshu, Xuxiu Siku quanshu, and Siku quanshu cunmu congshu collections. These compilations contain the majority of extant texts within these fields and can be considered the most representative corpus possible. Philology (xiaoxue 小學) and medicine (yixue 醫學) have been selected because both fields contain the most substantial number of extant texts, as well as a comparable number of texts written during the two time periods under consideration. Other fields yield similar results, but the imbalance in number of texts between the two periods makes the results only suggestive. For instance, in astronomy (tianwen 天文), included as an example in figure 1, 69 percent of texts written between 1500 and 1700 cite contemporaries, while only 20 percent of those written between 600 and 1500 do. However, the former category contains fifteen texts, while the latter only five. Music (yue 樂) follows a similar pattern (not included in the figure). To avoid any single prolific author from dominating the results, if an author has written multiple texts, the results are determined by the majority result for that particular author. For instance, all five philological texts by Mao Xianshu preserved in these collections refer to contemporary scholarship, but are here recorded as one positive result. In the one instance where a multi-text author of an even number of texts yielded an equal number of positive and negative results, it is counted as 0.5 positive and 0.5 negative.
The textual basis for this analysis includes both paratextual material (such as prefaces and Principles of Use fanli sections) and the main text, noting any reference to contemporary scholarship. “Contemporary” here is defined broadly as within 150 years of the composition of the text. Although the scope of the earlier period ranges between the years 600 and 1500, the vast majority of texts are from the Song period (960–1279). The purpose of including Tang and Yuan (into Ming) was to see if a pattern of gradually increasing citation of contemporaries could be traced. No clear trend was evident, further suggesting the significance of the sixteenth-century transition.