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  • Re-Collecting the Glorious Age:Yang Fuji and the Disciplining of Zhaodai Congshu, 1772–1844*
  • He Bian (bio)

Generations of sinologists worldwide have relied on congshu—texts published in print as collections—for their training and research, yet the term has resisted straightforward translation.1 Arthur W. Hummel Sr. (1884–1975) in 1931 endorsed the Latinate term collectanea, defining it as "a collection of reprints on several subjects by several authors." Hummel also noted the continued popularity of these "miniature libraries" in modern times, including their instrumental role in building the great sinological collections in the United States.2 In our present age of electronic catalogs and full-text databases, a few clicks allow the scholar access to individual titles without going through the intermediate steps of locating the congshu in which the text was printed. Libraries have begun to pull the great boxes of congshu off the shelves. Ironically, the [End Page 1] centrality of historical congshu in sinological research may have led to the rapid digitization of their content—and the obliteration of their physical existence.

This article brings our attention back to the historical conditions that fostered the rise of congshu as a scholarly medium in mid-Qing China by highlighting the figure of the collection editor. I focus on a case study of the serialized collection Zhaodai congshu (Collectanea of the Glorious Age), which previous analysis has mostly associated with the editorship of Zhang Chao (1650–c. 1707).3 Yet Zhang was only responsible for three series (150 titles) out of ten series in the entire collection. More than half a century after Zhang's death, a scholar named Yang Fuji (1747–1820) took up the discontinued series and steadily added five more series (250 titles) over the course of forty-five years, maintaining Zhang's choice to focus entirely on Qing authors. Still later, a third editor, named Shen Maode, acquired Yang's unpublished collection in 1833, added another two series (one hundred titles), and in 1844 funded the first print edition of the entire set, with numerous editorial changes to Zhang Chao's and Yang Fuji's texts.4 Here I highlight the three editors' different intellectual and editorial approaches that resulted in the Zhaodai congshu's unusually long editorial history—one that encompasses the first two centuries of Qing rule. In particular, I argue that the middle editor—Yang Fuji—stood apart from his better-known peers, and represented a distinct approach to scholarship and elite culture in high Qing China. This article situates Yang's editorial work in high Qing scholarly culture while analyzing the creative tension that rendered his collection interestingly unique.

Historians have long noted that the publication of congshu became much more widespread and respected during the Qing Dynasty. Qing scholars devoted great efforts to the recovery and research of ancient texts by means of rigorous philological and bibliographical investigation. The format of collected reprints contributed to an unprecedented circulation of texts that in turn facilitated the rise of evidential learning (kaozheng). The culture of book collection and connoisseurship characterized [End Page 2] scholarship in the Qianlong-Jiaqing era, and this substantive research by Qing scholars lies precisely in the reconstruction, collection, and publication of texts in congshu.5

The narrative of congshu as an instrument for evidential learning is inevitably entwined with the question of the Qing state's appropriation and censorship of elite culture. The Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns (1662–1735), a period when the Qing court consistently enlisted the service of scholars on its own terms, witnessed the consolidation of imperial control over Confucian classical learning and the ruthless quelling of subversive writings.6 Multiple cultural campaigns during the Qianlong reign (1736–96) culminated in the making of a congshu—one that was intended to supersede all other collections—the Siku quanshu (Complete Library of Four Sections).7 R. Kent Guy suggests that although the compilation of the Siku quanshu resulted in the confiscation and destruction of a large number of "inappropriate" (wei'ai) texts, censorship did not necessarily constrain intellectual creativity on the part of literati editors who collaborated with and benefited from the imperial project.8 By the early nineteenth century, literati activism returned...


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