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Day 1 10:30 Panel 3

Tracing Back to Imperial China

Upper Hall

Ye Ziwei, Huang Heqing, Wang Ziqi, Hu Sijie

Ye Ziwei

Wuhan University, Year 2 Master's in Chinese Classics Studies

Hermeneutics and Philology in Late Imperial China: A Critical Study of Interpretative History on Classical Phrase "guangbei sibiao光被四表"

When translating the Chinese classic Yaodian, Book of Documents《尚書·堯典》, James Legge (1815-1897) paraphrased “guangbei sibiao光被四表” into “the display of these qualities reached to the four extremities of the empire”. He further adopted the philological interpretation prevalent among Qing scholars that guang光 was originally written as heng橫 and should be comprehended as chong充 in his annotation. Legge’s translation shed light on the diachronic controversy over the proper understanding of this phrase from Han to Tang, based on which scholars since Song Dynasty diverged from each other on choosing which preceding opinions to advocate and develop. My paper addresses this divergence. I argue that Song scholars embodied their insights into Neo-Confucianism in the explanation of ancient canons, while Qing scholars attached more importance to textual criticism. Interpreting guang光 as chong充, heng橫, and guang廣, eminent Qing scholars including Dai Zhen戴震 (1724-1777), Duan Yucai段玉裁 (1735-1815) and Wang Yinzhi 王引之(1766-1834) proceeded and witnessed the epoch of the “linguistic turn” of Confucian classical studies in the Qing period. They questioned the rationality of School of Mind-heart in the Ming period, further doubted scholarships in Song, and, most essentially, buttressed textual research in the nucleus of Confucian classical studies. The ultimate concentration of Qing scholars on evidential studies promoted the foundational transformation of the paradigm of illustrating Chinese classics. However, it inevitably diminished the illustrating process’s capacity for creating critical thinking, which would eventually lead Confucian classical studies to its decline.

Huang Heqing

University of Cambridge, MPhil graduate in Health, Medicine and Society and PhD offer holder in Sociology

Integrating Tradition into the Pursuit of Modernity: Sanitary Science and Chinese Weisheng in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth- Century Newspapers

In the period of 1880 to 1930 in the West, sanitary science rose after the establishment of germ theory, followed by the rise of sanitary services and public health intervention in epidemic containment and personal hygiene. During the same period in China, the usage of the word weisheng, which had evolved into a modern concept equivalent to Western 'hygiene', became increasingly popular as a symbol of Western culture and modern civilisation. It was deployed as a discourse of Chinese deficiency: a gauge that measured the distance that lay between China and a foreign-defined modernity.

However, building upon findings in my investigation into newspaper drug advertisements in late nineteenth- and early twentieth- century China, I argue that the desire for Western modernity was not the only aspect that people attached to weisheng in an effort to comprehend sanitary science, but also concepts from Chinese culture. Ideals of both Western modernity and Chinese tradition were added to weisheng—in contrast to sanitary science, which only referred to the scientific principles relating to hygiene and health. The reason of such a method should be ascribed to the persistence of traditional beliefs which prevented Chinese nationals from fully accepting Western values and practices.

In this essay, I will present how drug advertisements integrated traditional Chinese culture with modern Western medicine in the promotion of weisheng products, how critics and thinkers publicise weisheng using Chinese culture, and examine why such an integration was necessary. The findings from the primary sources I have been reading could contribute to the understanding for the relationship between sanitary science and Chinese weisheng based on Rogaski and other scholars’ articulation for weisheng and the desire for modernity in treaty-port China.

Wang Ziqi

Assistant Professor, College of Culture and Communication, Capital University of Economics and Business

Rong Bao Zhai was established in 1672 as a provider for the paper used in imperial
examinations and memorials to the throne. 345 years of business experience has transformed Rong Bao Zhai from a high-class stationary store into a comprehensive cultural enterprise across the sectors of art trading, art education, publishing, etc. The period between 1911 and 1937 witnessed the making of the modern Chinese art society order; it was also the critical period of Rong Bao Zhai’s transition into an art intermediary, when its activities were closely linked with the brightest stars of the modern Chinese painting circle. Therefore, this thesis chooses Rong Bao Zhai in the early Republican period as its case study. Under the Sociology of Arts paradigm which emphasizes the interactive network of actors in the art world, this thesis explores the field of cultural production in which Rong Bao Zhai was situated, the actors’ means to accumulate and transform capital, and the habitus rooted in Chinese culture. Art intermediaries are positioned in the center of the rhombus, with the society, creators, consumers and arts at four vertices, respectively, to illustrate the relationship among the actors. This thesis deepens the understanding of the intermediary mechanism in the order making of the early Republican art society through analysis of Rong Bao Zhai’s art intermediary role. This thesis follows the single case study approach, investigates various sources, including correspondences, diaries, newspaper and magazine articles, archives and oral history materials, and applies thick description to achieve face validity. It analyses the century-old Rong Bao Zhai Wanjin account books, which is the first academic attempt to use this source and provides precious primary data for the study on Rong Bao Zhai’s management.

Hu Sijie

London School of Economics, Year 3 PhD in Economic History Department

Survival of the Confucians: Marital fertility by status in China, 1400-1900.


This paper is an interdisciplinary study of both economics and history that studies the relationship between male marital fertility and social status in the Ming and Qing dynasties in China. By using detailed genealogical records of 35,992 males in six lineages located in Southeast China, the paper provides evidence for the ‘survival of the richest’ hypothesis. The empirical results show a robust positive status-fertility relationship in the six lineages. Based on the unique social stratification in imperial China, the gentry scholars, in other words, the Confucians enjoyed higher surviving chance than the non-gentry males, and higher status would increase reproductive success. Moreover, the common lineages and elite lineages followed two similar but not identical fertility patterns. In both types of lineage, climbing up the social ladder would significantly increase the number of male descendants these males could have, and they achieved to have more sons primarily by having more marriages. However, this wife effect is stronger in the elite lineages than in the common lineages.

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