Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. -

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Preface

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pp. vii-ix

It has been more than a decade since I was introduced to Chinese practices of collecting and studying ancient artifacts. As a graduate student in Taiwan, I was lucky to be hired as a part-time translator for the antiquities department at the National Palace Museum. For the better part of a year, I rendered into English the captions and catalog texts for ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

The great eighteenth-century novel A Dream of Red Mansions begins with a curious episode. A monk discovers a stone dropped from heaven and, instead of feeling satisfied with its unadorned beauty, wants to “engrave some characters” on it so “people can see at a glance that you’re something special.”1 This preference animated many forms of Chinese connoisseurship...

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Chapter 1 Antiquarianism and Its Genealogies

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pp. 13-32

Since the Qing Dynasty, scholars have insisted that jinshi began with Northern Song historians, who are praised for integrating inscriptions into historical research and establishing a tradition of empiricist scholarship. Yet since its inception, the pastime incorporated many other important elements, particularly ritual studies and calligraphy. ...

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Chapter 2 Antiquarianism in an Age of Reform

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pp. 33-50

In the nineteenth century, jinshi entered a period of remarkable growth, with some nine hundred works produced before the end of the dynasty.1 This burst of enthusiasm was animatedly chronicled by the political reformer Kang Youwei (1858–1927)...

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Chapter 3 A Passion for Antiquity, in Two Dimensions and in Three

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pp. 51-72

What was it like to be a jinshi expert in the late Qing? On a daily basis, the pastime entailed three activities—shopping for artifacts and rubbings, appraising them, and publishing catalogs of their inscriptions and images—all of which gave moments of extreme, if elusive, pleasure. The greatest luxury for any specialist was time. As Liu E recounted,...

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Chapter 4 Wu Dacheng’s Paleography and Artifact Studies

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pp. 73-86

The daily activities of late-Qing antiquarianism focused on collection practices and the production and appreciation of visual culture, but one more ingredient was essential to the pastime—the methodologies used to interpret inscriptions. As jinshi techniques in general evolved in the late nineteenth century, so too did paleography. We see ...

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Chapter 5 The Discovery of the Oracle Bone Inscriptions

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pp. 87-102

Oracle bone inscriptions are among the oldest Chinese historical sources.1 Up to some four millennia old, they predate the earliest bronze texts by centuries. Carved onto a variety of surfaces—the bottom shells (plastrons) of tortoises, the scapulae of cows or sheep, and occasionally human skulls—they record the results of divination ceremonies conducted at the behest of the Shang kings...

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Chapter 6 Luo Zhenyu and the Dilemmas of the Private Scholar

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pp. 103-120

After the abdication of the last Qing emperor Puyi (1906–1967) in 1912, many talented scholar-officials lost their professional identities. For every former bureaucrat who made a fortune in banking or was admitted into bureaucratic service of the new Republic, scores more found work as editors, in the trades, or even as managers of rickshaw ...

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Chapter 7 Wang Guowei—From Antiquarianism to History

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pp. 121-140

When Wang Guowei returned from Kyoto, he entered a contentious intellectual world. On May 4, 1919, students took to the streets to protest the pro-Japan provisions of the Treaty of Versailles and to demand political liberalization. They also called for a critical reexamination of the country’s philosophical, historical, and artistic traditions, and this ...

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Epilogue The Future of a Pastime

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pp. 141-144

On October 13, 1928—a little over a year after Wang Guowei’s suicide— Dong Zuobin and other members of the Academia Sinica began to excavate a site northwest of Xiaotun village, hoping to find any oracle bones that might have eluded decades of peasant excavators. They were unsuccessful. But after Li Ji took over the digs the following year...

Glossary

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pp. 145-150

Notes

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pp. 151-178

Bibliography

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pp. 179-210

Index

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pp. 211-219