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CH'ING DYNASTY "SCHOOLS" OF SCHOLARSHIP* Benjamin Elman Colby College In a pioneering essay written in 1924, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao attempted to delineate the geographical distribution of the major schools of scholarship that existed during the Ch'ing dynasty. These schools had long been embedded as discrete entities in the literature of and about the period. School divisions were taken for granted as evidence of the filiation of scholars, who through personal or geographical association, philosophic or literary agreement, or master-disciple relations could be linked together into specific groups. Liang added needed precision to earlier descriptions of the generally accepted schools of learning that had flourished in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. The usefulness of these school divisions lies in two areas of concern. First, they provide us with a preliminary framework from which to sort out the complicated intellectual developments that appeared during the Ch'ing dynasty. Second, an understanding of these traditional schools allows us to evaluate the organizational principles that underlay the divisions themselves. * The author wishes to express his gratitude to the editors of Ch' ing-shih wen-t' i for their thoughtful criticism of an earlier draft of this article. Their suggestions for improvement have been incorporated into the present version. In the discussion below, we will summarize the traditionally acknowledged school divisions in Ch'ing scholarship. In addition to relying on Liang Ch'i-ch'ao' s analysis, our account will be based on the schematic diagrams of schools of learning in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries drawn by Naitö Konan and Nakamura Kyüshirö earlier this century. These diagrams offer easy, if preliminary, access to the intellectual complexities of Ch'ing dynasty k' ao-cheng Vj %5JJ [evidential research] scholarship — the dominant trend in intellectual life in late imperial China. Taken together, Liang's, Naitô' s , and Nakamura 's accounts provide us with an antidote to the generally accepted but inaccurate twentieth-century view (particularly prominent among western historians) that k ' ao-cheng scholars were simply members of a minor faction or a single school. We will not attempt to explicate in detail the organizational principles that underlay the school divisions. Here we will simply provide an introductory geographical framework, which others have found useful in their research, for those scholars who have been interested in but perplexed by the vibrant intellectual life in late imperial China. In final remarks, we will suggest ways in which the organizational strategies used by Ch'ing scholars to evaluate their intellectual pedigrees can be better placed within a framework of analysis that allows us to see the unified aspects of academic life, particularly in the Lower Yangtze provinces, which superseded local and regional differences. We should begin, however, by voicing a few needed qualifications and caveats. It is important, for the reasons outlined above, to recognize that the diversity of ideas current during the Ch'ing dynasty usually was viewed through the traditional prism of "schools." Although the reality behind this approach is worth exploring, it has often been applied in a vague manner. In the history of Chinese painting, for instance, James Cahill has explained that the Che ~/?? (Hangchow) and Wu -?- (Soochow) schools served as the basis for historical and theoretical discussions during the Ming dynasty. He has questioned whether the distinction between the two schools in art history is "clear and useful." Confessing himself a "splitter," as opposed to a "lumper," however, Cahill concluded that, in painting, correlations between regional and stylistic criteria were observable and real. Similar problems arise in any effort to make sense out of the many so-called "schools of scholarship" in China during the Ch'ing dynasty. The traditional notions of p'ai /^R. [faction], chia ']U [school] , or chia-hsueh S J§7 [learning of a school] are less precise than traditional scholars tended to assume. Chang Hsueh-ch'eng ¦% rtn f^i(1738-1801), for example, is normally associated with the Che-tung ¿|h· | [Eastern Chekiang, lit., "East of the Che (Ch' ien-t'ang) River"] school of history and statecraft, and he himself claimed to be a member. Yet, as YU Ying-shih has pointed out, as late as 1797, four years...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3257
Print ISSN
0884-3236
Pages
pp. 1-44
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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