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Intellectual developments may occur quickly while changes in scholarship are slower; the content of each has its own character. Because modern Chinese scholarship bore the assault of Western scholarship, traditional Chinese thought underwent numerous disturbances and Chinese scholarship also came to be thoroughly imbued with Western scholarship. The fifty years following the Opium War, and especially after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, quickly led to the emergence of a kind of “solid learning” in scholarship, but one that differed from the so-called “solid learning” of early Qing scholars.
Between 1876 and 1879, high officials in Guangzhou and the Liangguang governor-general planned the establishment of an “office of solid learning” in order to teach Chinese children astronomy, mathematics, physics, electricity, chemistry, and optics. It is thus clear that at this time the scope of “solid learning” was virtually equivalent to that of Western “science.”
By the time of the Sino-Japanese War (1895), Chinese had deeply reflected on the situation. The Hanlin scholar Wang Renjun thus founded the Journal for the Study of Science, and the Hunan school director Jiang Biao founded the New Journal of Hunan Learning to promote “solid learning” or science. The “solid learning” promoted by Wang Renjun included astronomy, geography/geology, humanities, and biology/physics. The “solid learning” promoted by Jiang Biao included mathematics, business, historical stories, geography, and communication. What the two men shared was a complete disdain for classical learning, and so the previous three-thousand-years-old scholarly mainstream was henceforth abandoned. The turn toward a “solid learning” whose content was completely transformed marked the first step of a transition in scholarship at this time.
Any effort to understand the transformation of knowledge in modern China must take into account the changes in traditional scholarship over the past four centuries. There is thus a need for a new examination of Qing scholarship, and this article suggests a new perspective on the transformation of Ming-Qing scholarship and the reintegration of traditional learning—especially in regard to the core of Qing scholarship, the evidential studies movement of the Qianlong and Jiaqing reign periods. This new perspective might be tentatively summed up as “the critique of the ‘orthodox transmission’ of Neo-Confucianism and the re-formation of the Confucian scholarly transmission”—which invoked a more inclusive view of true Confucianism. We need, first, to break out of the narrow view of Qing scholars as limited to evidential studies, and second, to revise the emphasis on Qing statecraft that ignores the pure scholarship of Qing Confucians. More importantly, Qing Confucians enlarged the entire field of knowledge as they developed and reflected on traditional scholarship, and the period saw the start of the autonomy of particular branches of knowledge. This article broaches the topic through an examination of three institutions and their significance for Qing scholarship. First, the reform of the Confucian Temple. How did the academic community starting in the early Qing work to reinstall classical scholars of the earlier tradition into the Temple? The key figure reinstalled in the Temple was Zheng Xuan, while Qing scholars also thoroughly researched specific Confucian followers and the various schools of Confucianism since the Qin-Han in a reworking of scholarly genealogies. Second, the efforts of the Han Learning school in the Qianlong and Jiaqing periods to establish the Duke of Zhou, Fu Sheng, and Zheng Xuan as “Erudites of the Five Classics” (五經博士). These efforts proved to be of great significance to changes in scholarship, including a specialized methodology of the Han Learning school as seen in the rise of the analyses of historical texts, institutions, and the Shuowen dictionary—as opposed to the Neo-Confucian school’s emphasis on “morality and principle.” And third, sacrifices marked a new sense of the “scholarly transmission” in academic circles. The Gujing Academy established a Temple to Xu Shen and Zheng Xuan in the Jiaqing period, not found in other academies at the time, but the idea had spread widely by the Guangxu period, when new genealogies defined the transmission of the classics from the Han to the Qing, and sacrifices to Xu and Zheng followed the form of Confucian Temple sacrifices. Halls for Respecting the Classics were founded in many localities, and the anniversary of Zheng Xuan’s birthday was even celebrated like that of Confucius. The effects of Confucian scholars to rework the scholarly transmission—at a time when the Qing emperors claimed to fill the position of Yao and Shun and to personally manifest the transmission of the Way and of legitimate rulership—demonstrate that scholarly circles were already constructing an autonomous sense of scholarly transmission outside of the traditional ideology that linked politics and learning. “Not the orthodox transmission of the Way but finding the Way in learning” was the key to their understanding. This self-aware academic movement had two further features: first, we can see that Qing Confucians greatly developed the resources of traditional scholarship, thus creating more multifaceted forms of knowledge; and second, they were reevaluating the content and value of traditional scholarship.
Racial knowledge was a kind of “applied knowledge” that enabled late Qing intellectuals to pursue political modernization. The creation of modern Chinese identity depended on the science of biological race. Critical to this process was Liang Qichao 梁啟超 (1873-1929). Liang sought to situate the Chinese in a world of races and make it stronger. Much the same was true of late Qing revolutionaries, whose anti-Manchu nationalism was based on racial knowledge. Liang’s role was two-fold. First, he was pivotal to the introduction of racial knowledge to China. And second, in conversation with the revolutionaries, he was critical in establishing a deeply anti-hegemonic vision of the relationship between the races.
By the late nineteenth century, the concept of race was based on Western science. “Race” formed a building block of imperialism, but Liang and other intellectuals used racial knowledge to challenge the hegemony of Western justifications of imperialism. For the most part, Liang insisted on the mutability of races, while he simultaneously proclaimed the “Yellow” race to be the equal of the “White” race. Liang was hardly immune from racialist attitudes, but his opposition to anti-Manchuism foreshadowed the multi-ethnic state that would emerge from the Revolution of 1911. Liang used racial knowledge to rewrite Chinese history and to position China in the world. Liang was not the only intellectual to do this, nor did he speak for all Chinese intellectuals. Yet by focusing on Liang, we can highlight how late Qing intellectuals could adopt new cultural and symbolic resources that were first wielded by the imperialist powers to their [the late Qing intellectuals’] own purposes.
This article explores the knowledge base that supported the establishment of the modern system of Chinese lawyers. Before 1870, a few Chinese had become acquainted with the role of lawyers in the Western legal system, and even had direct experience of the system from traveling overseas or living in the foreign settlements, but none suggested that China should adopt this foreign legal system. However, Japanese success in abolishing consular jurisdiction by adopting the Western legal system inspired Chinese reformers, although it was still only in the 1890s that reformers began to advocate the Westernization of legal procedures.
The early proponents of Western-style lawyers consistently stressed that lawyers were a very important part of the West’s legal system, and they believed that Western lawyers were fair-minded, because most of the foreign lawyers retained by the Chinese had not proved partial to their own countrymen. Later advocates of legitimizing the role of lawyers in the legal system emphasized the legal education and state credentialing of lawyers. They justified lawyers not only on the traditional grounds of obtaining the “redress of grievances for the foolish people” (代愚申冤), but they also stressed that lawyers were defenders of civil rights. Although a group of provincial governors successfully opposed granting lawyers formal status in the legal system in 1906 by pointing to the difficulties involved in implementing such a major change, they did not refute the reformers’ arguments, and efforts to establish a position for lawyers in the Chinese legal system did not cease. By the eve of the 1911 Revolution, indeed, such views were mainstream among Qing government officials, as well as among the reformers and the revolutionaries.
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