Dissertation
Dissertation > History, geography > History of China > Semi-colonial and semi -feudal society ( 1840 to 1949 ) > Old Democratic Revolution period ( 1840 ~ 1919 ) > The late Qing Dynasty (1840 ~ 1911 )

Ideological Studies of Wang Kai-yun’s "Annotations to Gong-yang’s ’the Spring and Autumn Annals’"

Author LiuPing
Tutor ZhangQiHui
School Hunan University
Course Specialized History
Keywords Wang Kai-yun Gong-yang School of The Spring and Autumn Annals Classical and Modern Schools in late Qing Dynasty canon interpretation Shuci (rhetoric) Shili (annotation) critical interpretation for practical purpose ruling with“li”(ethical codes)
CLC K252
Type PhD thesis
Year 2008
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Social situation underwent great changes during the ruling of Dao-guang and Xian-feng emperors of Qing Dynasty. Addressing social crisis and seeking rejuvenation of the nation, some thinkers began to abandon the hair-splitting textology in canon studies and turn to Gong-yang school, which aimed to clarify the truth and save the world from confusion. Wang Kai-yun devoted all his life to canon annotation, especially the annotation to“The Spring and Autumn Annals”, for which he enjoyed a great reputation in late Qing Dynasty.Without textual research, canon studies would be water with no source or a tree with no root. Therefore, this dissertation will carry out a comprehensive study of Wang Kai-yun representative work“Annotation to Gong-yang’s‘The Spring and Autumn Annals’”and focus on its content and characteristics, following the joint principle of history with logic and facts with value, while adopting a synthesizing methodology of textual criticism, facts enumeration, logical deduction and induction.The dissertation first deals with the relationship between Wang Kai-yun and the Modern School of canon studies in his time and points out that the focus of Wang Kai-yun’s ideology of“The Spring and Autumn Annals”was not the sectarian disputes between Classical and Modern Schools but their compatibility which then developed the comprehensive Gong-yang school of its own and became one of the most important parts in academic ideology development in late Qing Dynasty.Then it explores Wang’s attitude to the three versions of the Annals and reveals what Wang claimed was that the Annals was not“shi”(history), but“jing”(Confucian doctrines) with focus on doctrine instead of historical facts. Among the three only Gong-yang version is closest to the fundamental doctrine of the Annals. Based on the foregoing analysis, the dissertation starts an all-round interpretation of the text of“Annotations to Gong-yang’s‘The Spring and Autumn Annals’”with hermeneutics as theoretic frame and“shuci”(rhetoric) and“shili”(annotation) as its classification. A clear line has been drawn around Wang’s“interpret-to-clarify-truths”annotation style and his inclination to blend versions for truths and go back to the original text. Wang’s“interpret-to-clarify-truth”annotation paid special attention to the interpretation of time noting in the Annals to unearth the universal truth embodied in concise wording and stressed on“li”(codes of ethics) as the core concept of the Annals, just as he puts it,“what the Annals conveys is‘li’; where the‘li’reveals is annotation”. Such is his annotation style of“interpreting to clarify the truth”. In the process of finding truth in the Annals, Wang also transcended the circulated versions and gradually broke away from He Xiu’s ideological system. He put his own understanding into textual criticism. Such is his inclination to blend versions for truths and go back to the original text. Analysis of his style and inclination highlight my research.The last part of the dissertation explores the relationship between ethnics and politics embodied in Wang Kai-yun’s annotation to“The Spring and Autumn Annals”. The argumentation underlying Wang’s annotation is his“three-world”(from a chaotic world to a peaceful world, then to a prosperous world) evolution outlook, his cyclic history outlook, his civilizing conception of foreign nations and his“li”-centered doctrines.Wang Kai-yun was active in the academic stage in late Qing Dynasty, but he immersed himself in classical academic studies. At the time when the east began to confront the west, Wang was much concerned with the situation. However, he did not turn his eyes to the world beyond, but buried himself in canon studies to seek for a remedy for the time. We couldn’t comment that he didn’t do deeper or careful research on canon studies. He stove persistently for self-identity of classical culture. However, as the Chinese proverb goes,“I can’t tell the true shape of Lu Shan because I myself am on the mountain”. He knew himself, but he didn’t know the other side. As for all the latest achievements in western scientific techniques, he always believed that China had already had those since ancient times. As for all the western culture evolution, he always thought that they had betrayed the teachings of the deceased like the former sages and sovereigns. There was a famous saying by Spinoza which was often appreciated and quoted by Hegel,“All determination is negation”. So we can deduce that it was just a lack of comparison and self-reflection that made Wang Kai-yun know nothing about the display of self essence so he couldn’t recognize the limitations of canon studies. Hegel says in The Logic :“The problem or aim of philosophy is often represented as the ascertainment of the essence of things: a phrase which only means that things, instead of being left in their immediacy, must be shown to be mediated by, or based upon, something else.”That is, the essence must be shown by some other mediated things, and it is hard to know the self essence just from the aspect of one’s own. Though, as a result of hard effort, he obtained something inspiring, his real purpose was not to reform the already corrupt social system, but to maintain the old Confucian ideals. He only knew the inherence of“I”, but didn’t know the limitations of “I”. He never cast a glance at the western theories from European countries and America, neither did he study the Chinese classics and western theories comprehensively. He was just obsessed in classics and wanted to find the remedy from the Five Classics. Therefore, he never stepped out of the spell of the traditional canon studies and left behind the age of canon domination. Although his ideology of“The Spring and Autumn Annals”was thought-provoking for late generations because of its peculiar style, yet his impact was far less than that of Gong Zizhen, Wei Yuan, Kang You-wei, and Liang Qichao.

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