Scholarship, Value, Method, and Hermeneutics in Kaozheng: Some Reflections on Cui Shu (1740-1816) and the Confucian Classics

by Michael Quirin
Scholarship, Value, Method, and Hermeneutics in Kaozheng: Some Reflections on Cui Shu (1740-1816) and the Confucian Classics
Michael Quirin
History and Theory
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The first part considers a possible indigenous lineof descent for modern Chinese historical scholarship. It argues that further research on late imperial kaozheng-studies is needed that should concentrate on the question of the relationship between scholarship and Confucian values in kaozheng-discourse. The second part uses the case of the late tradi- tional scholar Cui Shu (1740-1816) to exemplify the hypothesis that in kaozheng-studies scholarship and value were still highly integrated and that this falls into line with the general position of history in the Confucian context. This hypothesis is further elaborated in the third part of the article which contrasts Cui Shu's heuristic approach with some of the basic ideas on method as they were developed within the historicist tradition. The author comes to the conclusion that the dissimilarities prevail. In the fourth part analogies between the heuristic discourse in kaozheng and in the European hermeneutic tradition are briefly discussed. It argues that analogies indeed exist but that these analo- gies are to be sought in the premodern or early modern stages of the development of European hermeneutics rather than in contemporary philosophical hermeneutics.

Wahre Satze, d.h. solche, die einem Sachverhalt entsprechen, konnen durch Intuition, durch schopferische Phantasie, durch genialen Scharfblick gewonnen werden. In dem MaDe jedoch, in welchem gefordert wird, Einsichten mufiten durch Beweise gesichert werden, geht der Wille zur Erkenntnis uber in den Willen zur Wissenschaft. (True sentences, i.e. sentences which correspond to a given state of affairs, can be obtained by intuition, by creative imagination or by ingenious insight. In the same measure, however, as the demand is raised that insights should be corroborated by proof the will to knowledge transforms into the will to ~cience).~

Necessarius est methodus ad veritatem investigandam. . . . Per methodum autem intelligo regulas certas et faciles, quas quicumque exacte servaverit, nihil unquam falsum pro vero supponet, et nu110 mentis conatu inutiliter consumpto, sed gradatim semper augend0 scientiam, perveniet ad veram cognitionem eorum omnium quorum erit capax (Method is indispensable for investigating the truth. By method I mean sure rules which can be followed easily so that whosoever strictly adheres to them willnever take anything

1. I would like to dedicate this article to Professor Trauzettel who has recently retired from his chair at the University of Bonn and whose love of philosophy has helped me to develop my love of history. Ad multos annos!

2. Richard Scheffler, Einfiihrung in die Geschichtsphilosophie, 2nd ed. (Darmstadt, 1980), 63.

false for true and so that, without any useless labour of the mind, step by step constantly augmenting his knowledge, he will achieve true understanding of all he is capable of.)'


Some time in the 1930s, Hong Ye,' then a young man destined to become one of the foremost Chinese historians of our century, published an article in which he attempted to define the place of history in the overall framework of the modern scientific and scholarly disciplines.' This article, as well as the detailed chart Hong Ye drew up in order to facilitate the readers' grasp of his ideas, has probably long been f~rgotten.~

Yet for those interested in the history of Chinese historical thought and historiography one aspect of this article remains of interest even today. Given the tremendous weight attached in China's past to questions of what we today would call philosophy, religion, or metaphysics, the near-total absence of this intellectual sphere in Hong's article is most striking. Hong Ye even felt obliged to add some words of excuse to justify his inclusion of xuanxue or "metaphysics" in a side position of his chart.' Probably better than many pages of analysis could do, this minor detail in the work of an outstanding modern Chinese historian symbolizes the degree of marginalization Confucian and other traditional doctrinal concerns underwent in our century."

The question of how this rupture in the long, continuous texture of Chinese Confucian tradition came about remains with us today. Some reasons for this

Renk Descartes, Regulae ad directionetrl ingenii, ed. Heinrich Springmeyer, Luder Gabe, and Hans Gunter Zekl (Hamburg, 1973), 22 (regula 4).
Hong Ye (1893-1980). Hong's main contributions lay in the field of textual criticism and literary history, with his book on the famous Tang poet Du Fu probably being his most widely known work in the West. First at Yanjing University in Peking, he later went to Harvard.
Hong Ye, "Lishi zai jindai xueshuzhong zhi weizhi" (The place of history in modern scholar- ship), in Hong Ye, Lunxueji (Collected writings) (Beijing, 1981), 193-196. This article was inspired by an article written by one of Hong's colleagues at Yanjing University. Cf. Philippe de Vargas, "The Place of History among Sciences and its Relation to Sociology," in The Chinese Social and Political Science Review 8 (April 1924), 167-1 90.
Though certainly one of the giants of twentieth-century Chinese historical studies, Hong Ye seems not to have received the scholarly attention due to him. Yu Ying-shih has commented on this in his "Gu Jiegang, Hong Ye yu Zhongguo xiandai shixue" (Gu Jiegang, Hong Ye and contemporary Chinese historical studies), in idern, Sl~ixue yu chlranrotlg (History and tradition), 2nd ed. (Taibei, 1991), 263-279.
Hong wrote he had "mixed feelings" about keeping "metaphysics" in his chart because "makingconjectures" (tuice) which heconsidered to be the business of "metaphysics"was fundamen- tally different from the operations of "description" (~niaoxie) and "explanation" (iieshi) which he held to be the tasks of history proper.
It is one of the intriguing questions of modern Chinese history how the marginalization of Confucian doctrinal concerns relates to the development of the modern Chinese intelligentsia which grew out of the traditional intellectual elite. Yu Ying-shih has spoken of the "marginalization of Chinese intellectuals" in our century. See his "Zhongguo zhishifenzi de bianyuanhua" (The marginalization of Chinese intellectuals), in Ershiyi Shiji (Twenty-first Century) 6 (August 1991), 15-25; and Michael Quirin, "Die chinesische lntelligenz und die Macht," Oriens Extret?~us 1/2 (1995), 239-258.
development -for instance, the inability of the ancien rkgime and the traditional Chinese social order to cope adequately with the economic and military chal- lenge posed by the Western powers- are obvious. More complicated but prob- ably also more interesting is the question of which processes in the intellectual sphere were responsible for the demise of Confucian doctrine as the universally accepted organizing matrix of the Chinese humanities. And even more intri- guing is the question of whether there have been indigenous intellectual factors facilitating or even precipitating this development.

One major intellectual factor in the marginalization of Confucian doctrine in the Chinese humanities has always been Qing dynasty kaozheng-scholar~hip.~ Some scholars, most noted among them perhaps Liang Qichao,Io Hu Shi," and Gu Jiegang,I2 saw in Qing13 kaozheng-scholarship a step toward indigenous development of an empirical mode of scholarship, even of modern science.I4

Definitions of kaozheng- or kaoju-scholarship, as it is sometimes also called, tend to be rather vague. Sometimes it is characterized as afield of scholarly enquiry, as for example in the following definition given by Paul S. Ropp: "Kaozheng (literally, "search for evidence") refers to careful textual studies based on minute analysis of the language of various extant Confucian texts. The goal of this textual research was to clarify and strengthen the classical Confucian heritage by sifting out the true from the false and determining the true message of the ancient sages, untainted by interpolations and distortions of later periods." (Paul S. Ropp, Dissent in Early Modern China: J~rlin M'aishih and Ch'ing Social Criticism [Ann Arbor, 19811, 43). Other authors see kaozheng as a specific method of inqitiry and study without, however, being too precise about the particulars of this "method." Gu Jiegang for example once wrote: "Kaoju is a method for the study of old books. It means that one compares books, finds out the discrepancies between them and conducts further enquiries. It is a method for the examination and ordering of old works of history and historical sources. Scholars during the Qing dynasty were very good at the study of old books. As a method of study kaoju has existed at all times. During the Qing period however, especially during the Qianlong reign, kaoju-studies were widely employed in exegetical learning." (Gu Jiegang, Zhongguoshixuerumen (Introduction to the study of Chinese history) [Beijing, 1983],37.) Speaking of kaoz12eng as a "method" seems somewhat premature, since in-depth explorations of the heuristic assumptions and practices of kaozheng-scholars have not yet been undertaken on a large scale. For the time being I would therefore propose to leave open the question of definition. On the question of method see also below.
Liang Qichao (1873-1929). Liberal political activist and writer who has made important contributions to the development of both political and historical thought.
Hu Shi (1891-1962). Liberal intellectual and prolific writer who had a lifelong interest in philosophy (both Western and Chinese), yet also made many contributions to historical studies. Later in life oneof the most important representatives of the academic establishment in the Republic of China.
Gu Jiegang (1893-1980). One of the foremost Chinese historians of our century whose work together with that of a few other histolians revolutionized Chinese historical studies. In his youth inspired by the liberal ideas of Liang Qichao (see note lo), he later absorbed many different influences ranging from the bizarre conservatism of Zhang Binglin to the kind of liberal pragmatism represented by Hu Shi (see note 11).
13. That is, the last dynasty, 1644-1911.

14. Cf. Liang Qichao, "Qingdai xueshu gailun," in Liang Qichao, Shixue lunzhu sanzhong (Three treatises on the study of history) (Hong Kong, 1980), 181-278 and the English translation by lmmanuel Hsu, Infellectual Trends in the Ch'ing Period (Cambridge, Mass., 1959). The best short summary in English of Hu Shi's attitude toward Qing scholarship may be found in Hu Shi, "The Scientific Spirit and Method in Chinese Philosophy," in The Chinese Mind, ed. C. A. Moore (Honolulu, 1967), 104-131. Though normally careful not to identify kaozheng with science, Hu many times stressed its "scientific spirit." See for example his remark that the "methods" Cfangfa) introduced by kaozheng-scholars were comparable to the appearance of "steamships" in the still

This "modernistic" interpretation of kaozheng-scholarship did not go unchal- lenged. Basing their own critique both on traditional criticisms of kaozheng- scholarship and on idealistic philosophical ideas learned from the West, modern Confucians like Carsun ChangL5 and Xu FuguanL6 rejected kaozheng-scholarship as intellectually sterile and morally and politically dangerous. Xu Fuguan even detected a causal relationship between the supposed grip of kaozhengscholarship on the minds of Chinese intellectuals and the communist takeover."

Taking sides in this still virulent controversy seems pointle~s.'~

Instead, I would like to start my own reflections with the observation that the representa- tives of both the "modernistic" and the "traditionalistic" school of interpretation tend to see kaozheng-scholarship as characterized by a gap between scholarly pursuits on the one hand and moral and political concerns on the other. This gap or lack of integration has been the starting-point for some of the most stimulating work on kaozheng-scholarship done in recent years.

On one side, in many of his Chinese books and articles Yu Ying-shih has tried to build bridges over this gap by taking a long-term view and turning attention to what he calls "the inner logic" (neizai lilu) of neo-Confucianism. Yu's huge endeavor to reintegrate Qing-dynasty kaozheng-scholarship into a common line of descent of neo-Confucianism which intertwines both its intellec- tualist (zhishizhuyi) and ethical strains of development has not come to an end as yet. From his published work, however, one gets the impression that Yu Ying-shih has made it clear beyond doubt that it would be at least one-sided not to see the ethical and moral concerns present in the historical and philolog- ical work of some of the leading kaozheng-scholars of the Qing period.I9

waters of traditional Chinese scholarship (Hu Shi, Dai Dongyuan de zhexlre [The philosophy of Dai Dongyuan] [Taibei, 19631, 18). Perhaps the most balanced statement of Gu Jiegang's views on the similarities and dissimilarities of kaozheng and modern science and scholarship is the magnificent introduction to his edition of the works of Cui Shu, Citi Dongbi yishit (Posthumous collection of the writings of Cui Dongbi, henceforth: Yishu), 2nd ed. (Shanghai, 1983), separate pagination.

Carsun Chang (1887-1969). Political activist and philosophical writer who was influenced by contemporary German philosophy and who later in life became one of the most eloquent advocates of a modernized version of Confucianism.
Xu Fuguan (1903-1982). Military officer and philosophical writer who was one of the leading voices in intellectual life on Taiwan after the withdrawal of the Nationalist Government from the mainland. Xu has also made important contributions to the study of the history of ancient Chinese philosophy.
Xu Fuguan's views of kaozheng-sholarship are documented in his "Qingdai hanxue henglun" (Reflections on Qing-period Han scholarship), in Dalu Zazhi (The Mainland Magazine) 54 (April 1977), 1-22. On the supposed relationship between kaozheng and communism see his "Zai feichang bianjuxia Zhongguo zhishifenzi de beiju mingyun" (The tragic fate of Chinese intellectuals in times of extraordinary crisis), in Zhishifenziyit Zhonggito (The Intellectuals and China), ed. Zhou Yangshan, 3rd ed. (Taibei, 1982), 84-88. The most easily accessible summary of Carsun Chang's attitude towards kaozheng is his The Development ofNeo-Confucian Thought (New York, 1962), 11.
A short summary of contemporary assessments of kaozhengmay be found in Lin Qingzhang, Mingdai kaozhengxueyanjiu (Studies on kaozheng-scholarship during the Ming-period) (Taibei, 1984).
The programmatic impetus behind Yu Ying-shih's work on kaozheng-scholarship comes out most clearly in his "Some Preliminary Observations on the Rise of Qing Confucian Intellec- tualism," in Qinghita Xitebao (Ts'inghua Journal) 11 (1975), 105-144. See also his "Cong Song Ming ruxue de fazhan lun Qingdai sixiang shi. Song Ming ruxue zhong zhishizhuyi de chuantong" (Looking at the intellectual history of the Qing period from the angle of the development of
On the other side, somewhat more in keeping with the line of interpretation going back to Liang Qichao and others, Benjamin Elman seems even to have widened the supposed gap between scholarly pursuits and moral and political concerns perceived in Qing dynasty kaozheng-scholarship. In his first book and in a number of articles he interpreted kaozheng-scholarship as an empirical revolution in discourse which successfully challenged the supremacy of liwueZO and in the long run had a major role in preparing and facilitating China's turn to modern science and scholarship." In his second book on the Changzhou school2' he tried to push this analysis even further by reconstructing the relation- ship between the development of kaozheng-scholarship and the rise of New Text-Conf~cianism'~

which played a catalytic role in China's passage to intellec- tual modernity.24

Both Yu Ying-shih and Elman have tackled the "gap-problem" and added many new facets to the overall picture of the complicated relationship between "scholarship" and "value" in Qing dynasty historical and philological scholar- ship. This relationship, however, is still far from clear. To mention but one point: if the kaozheng-movement really was an empirically minded "revolution in discourse," comparable in one way or other to the rise of historicism in Europe, it is not clear why during the nineteenth century this movement lost momentum and why theearly stages of the introduction of the modern empirical disciplines in China were characterized by inertia rather than dynamism.25

Confucianism during the Song and Ming dynasties. On the intellectualist tradition in Song and Ming Confucianism), in Yu Ying-shih, Lishi yu sixiang (History and Thought) (Taibei, 1987), 87-1 19.

20. Philosophical school or rather trend developing from the tenth century onward which built on the classical Confucian legacy but tried to reformulate it in a more systematic and "theoret- ical" way.

21. Benjamin Elman, From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectualand Social Aspecis of Change in Late Imperial China (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1984). See also my review in Monurnenta Serica 37 (1986-1987), 355-359.

Exegetical and philosophical school within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Confucianism whose famous proponents came from the eastern Chinese city of Changzhou. Hence the name.
School or rather trend in nineteenth and early twentieth century Confucianism which com- bined, at least in its later stages, reformist political goals (constitutionalism, and so on) with an exegetical preference for specific texts and commentarial trends within the Confucian tradition which for reasons too complicated to explain here carry the name of "new texts" or rather "texts in new script."
Benjamin Elman, Classicism, Politics and Kinship: The Ch'angchou School of New Text Confucianism in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, 1990) and my review article in Monuments Serica 44 (1996) (forthcoming). See also the important contribution by Ng Oncho, "Text in Context: Chin-Wen learning in Ch'ing Thought" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Hawaii, 1986) which contains an overall interpretation of Qing scholarship differing in some respects from that given by Elman.
Benjamin Elman has pointed to the destructive impact of the Taiping Rebellion as a major factor which led to the eventual denouement of the kaozheng-movement. The disastrous effects of the rebellion on the Jiangnan scholarlpcommunity are undeniable, but it seems that the revisionist intellectual developments which had already set in at the turn of the century were more important for this shift of emphasis in Confucian learning than the rebellion. See Elman, Frorn Philosophy to Philology, 232-253. On the difficulties of the modern empirical disciplines in nineteenth-century China see for example Knight Biggerstaff, The Earliest Modern Government Schools in China [I9611 (Port Washington, N.Y. and London, 1972).
One of the reasons why it is so difficult to reach an adequate understanding of the relationship between scholarship and value in Qing dynasty kaozheng- scholarship probably is that most of the initial questions which make people venture into the intimidating storehouses of Qing philology -which indigenous factors contributed to the marginalization of Confucian doctrinal concerns in modern Chinese intellectual life? is there an indigenous line of descent for Chinese modernity? -are so value-ridden themselves. It is hard not to construct teleologies when the judgment on twentieth-century Chinese culture or the rele- vance of modern science to it is at stake.26

The best thing to do in this kind of situation is to reduce the complexity of the problematik. This means that one has to get rid of the problems of the twentieth century and concentrate on the basic problem- the relationship be- tween scholarship and value in Qing dynasty kaozhengxueZ7 -in order to deter- mine a point of departure for further analysis.28 In addition, it seems useful not to tackle the problem in toto but to concentrate on in-depth analyses of the work of individual kaozheng-scholars. The sheer mass of material and the abundance of complexities one has to consider when dealing with authors who stand at the end of the long line of development of traditional Chinese culture make it improbable that one can find new answers to the basic problem of the relationship between scholarship and value without first having reduced these complexities to the limited scope of case studies.29

On the role of "scientism" ("that view which places all reality within a natural order and deems all aspects of this order, be they biological, social, physical or psychological, to be knowable only by the methods of science'? see D. W. Y. Kwok, Scientism in Chinese Thought, 1900-1950 (New Haven, 1965), 21. Though sometimes fervently opposed, the near-religious belief in the omnipotence of knowl- edge, especially of scientific knowledge, remains one of the recurrent features of modern Chinese culture. See for examplethe analysis of the thought of Liu Xiaobo given in Karl-Heinz Pohl, "Dichtung, Philosophie, Politik -Qu Yuan in den 80er Jahren," in Chinesische Intellektuelle im 20. Jahrhundert: Zwischen Tradition und Moderne, ed. Karl-Heinz Pohl, Gudrun Wacker, and Liu Huiru (Hamburg, 1993), 405-426.
27. That is, kaozheng-studies or kaozheng-scholarship. See also note 9.
In his Changzhou book Elman has made some apt commentaries on the dangers of teleology when dealing with the transition from late imperial to modern China. The methodological verdict against teleology is of course sound but this should not lead to the total abandonment of develop- mental perspectives. In a non-teleological manner development can be defined as "structured long- term change in a specific direction" (Norbert Elias, "Sociology of Knowledge: New Perspectives," Sociology 5 [1971], 157). The analysis of the "structured long-term change" leading in China from kaozheng to modern science and scholarship as they actually came into existence in the twentieth century remains an interesting and important problem even if teleology is discarded.
To mention but one of the complexities: as is well known, even today China is far from forming a homogeneous cultural entity; in fact, it is rather a patchwork of highly different cultural regions held together by some more or less potent integrating forces. In the eighteenth century this was even more the case. China then was a dynastic state whose unity even on the cultural level was still somewhat immature and endangered. Some of the recent literature (for example, Susan Naquin and Evelyn Rawski, Chinese Society in the 18th Century [New Haven and London, 19871) brings this out quite clearly. Yet despite the obvious cultural segmentation of China during the eighteenth century we still tend to project our own experience of a high level of cultural (and political) integration of society on the earlier Chinese situation. Benjamin Elman in his work has opened new paths of inquiry by interpreting the kaozheng-movement in regional terms as a Jiangnan development. But what about the other regions? What do we really know about the general intellec- tual climate in, for example, Zhili which seems to have differed in many ways from that in Jiangnan?
In many ways Cui Shu30 is an ideal candidate for this approach. His life span from 1740 to 1816 runs parallel to the period when kaozhengxue reigned supreme in China. Intellectually he was part of the kaozheng-movement, yet personally he stood aloof from the intellectual centers in Jiangnan and Beijing, a constellation which makes it easier to cope with the complex personal relation- ships which-as Yu Ying-shih has shown in his study of the relationship of Dai Zhen3' and Zhang Xuecheng3?-so often play an important role in the formation of the thought of Qing dynasty scholars. And last but not least: Cui Shu is foremost among the kaozheng-scholars who exerted an influence on modern Chinese historians who like Gu Jiegang were instrumental in relegating Confucius and Confucianism to the "museum."33

In the first part of the following analysis I will try to give a rough idea of the relationship between scholarship and Confucian values in the life and works of Cui Shu. Building on the results of this I will proceed to a comparison between the approach to the Confucian classics advocated by Cui Shu and some basic traits of historical method and hermeneutics as they have evolved in the European tradition. The idea behind this is not to attempt a full-fledged cross-cultural comparison, but rather to bring out more clearly some of the specific traits of Cui's scholarly approach and thus to facilitate the design of further empirical research.

As long as the ecology of the kaozheng-movement (was it really a "movement" in the modern sense of the word?) is as unclear as it still is, overall interpretations always run a rather high risk of being strongly biased. On this probletnatik see also the excellent remarks in Helwig Schmidt- Glintzer, "Die Modernisierung des historischen Denkens im China des 16.-18. Jahrhunderts und seine Grenzen," in Geschichtsdiskurs, Vol. 2: Anfinge modernen historischen Denkens, ed. Wolf- gang Kiittler, Jorn Riisen, and Ernst Schulin (Frankfurt am Main 1994), 165.

The most important biographical study of Cui Shu is still Hu Shi, "Kexue de gushijia Cui Shun (The scientific ancient historian Cui Shu), in Yishu, 950-1019. The best short reference in English is to be found in Eminent Chinese of the Cll'ing Period, ed. Arthur Hummel [I9441 (Taibei, 1991), 11, 770-777. On the early years of Cui Shu see also Jean Pierre Dieny, "Les annees d'apprentissage de Cui Shu," in E'tudes Chinoises 13 (1994), 173-199.
Dai Zhen (1723-1777). Confucian scholar and thinker who in his work tried to integrate philology and philosophy into a coherent whole.
Zhang Xuecheng (1738-1801). Historian who made important contributions to the develop- ment of the genre of Chinese regional history. His modem fame, however, rests equally on his monumental Wen Shi Tong Yi (Reflections on literature and history), a work which marks the apex of traditional Chinese historical criticism. Yu Ying-shih, Lun Dai Zhen yu Zhang Xuecheng: Qingdai zhongqixueshu sixiangshiyarzjiu (On Dai Zhen and Zhang Xuecheng: Studies in mid-Qing intellectual history) (Hong Kong, 1976).
On the reception of the work of Cui Shu in the twentieth century see Joshua A. Fogel, "On the Rediscovery of the Chinese Past: Ts'ui Shu and Related Cases," in Perspectives on a Changing China, ed. Joshua A. Fogel, et a/. (Boulder, Colo., 1979), 219-235. The literature on Gu Jiegang (and on the influence of Cui Shu on his thinking) has become quite voluminous in recent years. See for example Peng Minghui, Yigu sixiang yu xiandai Zhongguo shixue de fazhan (Doubts concerning antiquity and the development of modern Chinese historical studies) (Taibei, 1991) and Ursula Richter, Zweifel am Altertum: Gu Jiegang und die Diskussion uber Chinas alte Geschichte als Konsequenz der ''PJeuen Kulturbewegung, "ca. 1915-1923 (Stuttgart, 1992). On Gu Jiegang's view of Confucius see Laurence A. Schneider's translation of Gu's famous article "The Confucius of the Spring and Autumn Era and the Confucius of the Han Era," in Phi Theta Papers 9 (Autumn 1965), 105-147.


The assumptions that object and subject are separate entities and that descrip- tion and value judgment can be held apart are two of the basic tenets of modern science and scholarship. It would be naive not to see that in the course of modern history these tenets have been constantly reinterpreted and modified, even to the point of being flatly rejected, but on the other hand it would also be naive not to concede that for most of those engaged in actual scientific or scholarly inquiry this kind of "naive realism" is today the generally accepted working hypothesis.

In European history "secularization" is probably the major culprit responsible for the rift between object and subject and between description and value judg- ment which started to develop relatively early34 and which in the course of modern European intellectual history has widened into a huge and seemingly unbridgeable gulf. The secularization thesis has also been applied to Chinese history. Thus Elman has claimed that

By 1750 . . . the Qing heirs of the Neo-Confucian legacy had become members of a secular [sic!] academic community, which encouraged and rewarded with livelihoods, original and rigorous critical scholarship. In contrast to their predecessors, Qing literati stressed exacting research, rigorous analysis, and the collection of impartial evidence drawn from ancient artifacts and historical documents and texts. Abstract ideas and emphasis on moral values gave way as the primary objects of discussion among Confu- cian scholars to concrete facts, documented institutions, and historical events. Personal achievement of sagehood, by now an unrealistic aim for serious Confucians, was no longer their goal."

"Secularization" should be interpreted in very broad terms because already in the Middle Ages when a "secularn view of the world still lay far ahead in the future, new, non-contemplative approaches to knowledge started to develop. On this see for example Joachim Ehlers, "Monastische Theologie, historischer Sinn und Dialektik. Tradition und Neuerung in der Wissenschaft des 12. Jahrhunderts," in Antiqui und Modern;: TraditionsbewuJtsein und FortschrittsbewuJtsein im spaten Mitfelalter (Mis- cellanea Medievalia 91, ed. A. Zimmermann (Berlin, 1974), 58-79. In the late Middle Ages initial steps toward the development of critical approaches of the historians to their sources were taken. On this see Bernard Guenee, Hkfoire ef culture historique dam l'occident medieval. Rev. ed. (Paris, 1991), 129-147 and Gert Melville, "Kompilation, Fiktion und Diskurs: Aspekte zur heuristischen Methode der mittelalterlichen Geschichtsschreiber," in Historische Mefhode (Beitrage zur Historik S), ed. Chris- tian Meier and Jorn Riisen (Munich, 1988), 133-153. On the structure of the social dynamic supporting this development see Norbert Elias, "Engagement und Distanzierung," in idem, Engagement und Dlsfanzierung: Arbeiten zur WissenssoziologieI (Frankfurt am Main, 1987), 7-71.
Elman, From Philosophy to Philology, 6. It may be noted in passing that Yu Ying-shih in recent years has argued against the possibility of interpreting the Chinese development in terms of a trend towards "secularization." See for example his "Cong jiazhi xitong kan Zhongguo wenhua de xiandai yiyi" (Looking at the modern relevance of Chinese culture from the angle of the value system), in Yu Ying-shih, Zhongguo sixiang chuantong de xiandai quanshi (Modern interpretations of the intellectual tradition of China) (Taibei, 1987), 1-51 and the introduction to his Shi yu Zhongguo wenhua (The traditional Chinese elite and Chinese culture) (Shanghai, 1987). Doubts concerning the validity of the secularization pattern of interpretation even in the case of the Western development have been raised by Peter L. Berger; see his Rumour of Angels. 2nd ed. (New York, 1990).
Is it true that Qing kaozheng-scholars based their work on the assumption that they were critically dealing with objects independent of themselves and their own value judgments? A glance at Cui Shu may help to find a tentative answer.

It is certainly true that Cui Shu was convinced that the ancient affairs he dealt with in his studies were something which existed independently of himself in the form of texts which had to be critically evaluated and interpreted. Both his "anatomical" rhetoric (he sometimes spoke of the necessity of taking a "dissecting view" [fen bie guan] of the different layers and components of the textual tradition) and his many warnings against the dangers of prejudices (chengjian) and projections of one's own experience into the past @i ji duo gu ren) point to an acute awareness on his side of the autonomy of his objects of study from his own personal concerns.36 In addition, it is also quite obvious that Cui Shu stressed the relative autonomy of what we might call the realm of affairs (shi) and the realm of principie (li). Although this claim is not fully justified he proudly declared that he had never spoken about abstract neo- Confucian topics like "human nature" and "principle." Instead- and this state- ment is more or less true if one counts the pages he devoted to critical textual and historical studies on the one hand and to exegetical commentaries on the other- he insisted that during all of his lifetime he only dealt with affairs (shi) and with the texts (wen) which documented these affair^.^'

However, it would be quite superficial to take an isolated view of these and other indicators which point to the conclusion that Cui conceived of his objects of study as independent of his own value judgments.

From the rather substantial amount of personal and autobiographical writ- ings he left we learn that Cui Shu was brought up in an austere atmosphere of constant neo-Confucian indoctrination. His father, who had several times failed the examinations himself, took great pains to make sure that his sons received an orthodox education and got good results in the examinations. This experience of a strict Confucian education provided the context for all of Cui Shu's later work and there is no sign that he ever tried to break through the confines of Confucian ethical and moral teachings.38 Instead, his critical scholar- ship must be seen as an outgrowth of his ethical and moral convictions. Like

On the necessity of taking a "dissecting" view of the textual tradition see for example "Kao xin lu tiyao," in Yishu, separate pagination, 16a. On the dangers of prejudices and preconceived ideas see ibid., 16b where he declares that he cherished a lifelong dislike of prejudices @u shengping bu hao you chengjian). On the theme of yi ji duo gu ren see for example ibid., 4ab. The critical disposition toward the textual tradition manifested in these notions was combined with an emphatic stress on detailed and accurate scholarly argument even at the expense of inviting criticisms for being punctilious. On this see for example Cui's captatio benevolentiae in ibid., 23b. It would probably constitute a fascinating line of inquiry to compare Cui's "anatomical" rhetoric with contemporary diagnostic techniques in traditional Chinese medicine.
"Kao xin lu tiyao," 16a. Despite his diatribes against empty talk about xin (heart, mind) and xing (human nature) Cui did not totally abstain from commenting on these high-flown topics. See for example his "Mengzi shishi lu," in Yishu, 435a-436b.
Cf. my "Kein Weg aufierhalbder Sechs Klassiker- oder doch? Bemerkungenzum Verhaltnis von gelehrter Tatigkeit und personlicher Wertpraxis bei Cui Shu (1740-1816)," in Monurnenta Serica 42 (1994), 361-395 which discusses the problems involved in more empirical detail.
his father who stood in the Cheng-Zhu tradition,39 Cui Shu was possessed by the notion that the pure stream of normative experiences and teachings ema- nating from a hoary past and documented in the classics had been spoiled by the dissenting traditions which sprang up in the Zhan G~o-period~~

and which by the time of his own life had already crept into the Confucian tradition it~elf.~'

Quite in keeping with the classic example of Mencius who made it his task to defend the ancient tradition as reformulated by Confucius against any detractor through the polernic use of critical argument (bian),42 Cui Shu tried to purify the stream of Confucian tradition by removing the sediments of false attribu- tions and distortions which had accumulated in the course of time and hindered the free flow of truth originally enshrined in the classics.

Scholarship in this context was an activity of paramount importance, yet in the last resort it was always directed towards moral action: Cui conceived of his critical textual and historical studies as a preparatory step towards the real- ization of the pious life in accordance with Confucian norms which he recom- mended in his study of the Lun Yu (Confucian Analects) and which according to him had to be based on an accurate understanding of ancient "affairs."43 Learning did not count as an activity with a value in itself. Time and again Cui stressed that less knowledge with a higher degree of ethical and moral correctness was better than more knowledge with potentially disruptive conse- quences on ethical and moral practice. Quite typical of this attitude is one of his letters to his trusted disciple Chen Liihe in which he castigated learning which leads to the neglect of one's person and body as a mere vice.j4

Thus, the impression formed at first sight that Cui Shu conceived of his objects of study as independent of his own value judgments has to be thoroughly modified. Cui certainly had a sense for the relative autonomy of the objects of his studies and he was more interested in concrete affairs than in neo-Confucian

See Cui's texts on his father in Yishu, 469b-471a and 715b-718a. Cheng-Zhu is a common short designation for one of the major trends in neo-Confucian thought. The eleventh and twelfth century thinkers Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi and Zh~iXi rank among its most important founders and representatives, hence the name.
40. The period of the Warring Kingdoms, 475-221 B.C.
On Cui's view of the impact of the intellectual and political strife during the Zhan Guo period on the Confucian tradition, see for example his "Kaogu xu shuo," in Yirhu, 444b-445a where he criticizes the Han scholars for being misled by Zhan Guo authors.
See the locus classicus in Mengzi, chapter Teng Wen Gong, Xia: The Chinese Classics: The Works of Mencius, transl. James Legge. 3rd ed. (Taibei, 1969), 278-283) and Cui's appraisal of the merits of Mengzi in his "Mengzi shishi lu," in Yishu, 430b-431a.
43. Cui Shu, "Lun Yu yu shuo," in Yishu, 609ab.

44. It is true that Cui (as many Confucian scholars before him) was severely critical of the kind of rote learning required for passing the examinations and that he instead upheld the ancient ideal of "learning for one's own sake" (wei ji zhi me, on this see for example "Kao xin lu tiyao," 14b), but this emphasis on the autonomy of learning from career considerations should not mislead one to overlook the fact that this "autonomy" was bought at the price of a deepened commitment of both learning and the learned to the Confucian creed. Cui's letter to his disciple Chen Luhe is contained in "Cui Dongbi Shou Tian Sheng Bi Zhi Can Gao" (Fragments of Cui Shu's anthology Shou Tian Sheng Bi), ed. Hong Ye, in idetn, Lunmeji, 117. Cui's distrust of mere erudition is one of the recurrent themes in his writings.

theory; yet all of his studies of ancient history and of the classics were informed by an apologetic impetus derived from strong Confucian convictions. The inter- dependence of scholarship and value resulting from this apologetic impetus manifested itself in many facets of Cui's work. His general view of the relation- ship between reality (historical or otherwise) and representations of reality (tex- tual or otherwise) which can be reconstructed from his writings is a case in point.

Both his linguistic discrimination between "affairs" or "events" (shl), utterances about these (yu,yan) and texts (wen), and his constant stress on the necessity of having recourse to the shi seem to point to the conclusion that Cui was an "empiricist" who made a clear distinction between reality and its representations and who separated statements of fact from statements of value. The many instances where he adduces concrete proof in order to refute erroneous views or textual traditions lend a certain amount of plausibility to this conclusion.

However, it should not be overlooked that Cui employed his central term shi always in an ambivalent way: it could mean both the affairdevents themselves or their representations which could be either true or false. One consequence of Cui's stress on shi was that he gave concrete evidence supporting his own and controverting rival views, but due to his undifferentiated understanding of shi a consequence of even greater importance was that the doctrinal status of a given text always tended to become the decisive factor in Cui's critical assessment of the credibility of the historical statements contained therein. In general, it can be shown that for Cui "affairs" or "events" reported in texts of higher doctrinal status tended to be more credible than those reported in texts with a lesser doctrinal standing. Owing to his strong commitment to the Confucian classics and to Confucian values, the full critical force of "empirical" arguments could thus only become apparent in the case of the latter sort of text. In the case of the classics, that is, texts with high doctrinal status, Cui's "empiricism" tended to be restricted to a rationalizing tendency.

Given the overall intellectual framework in which Cui Shu operated, these findings pointing to a strong interdependence of scholarship and value in his work do not come as a surprise. As already indicated, a number of authors hold the opinion that Qing dynasty kaozheng-scholarship represented a breakthrough of secularism comparable to the rise of historicism in eighteenth- and nine- teenth-century Europe. Du Weiyun was probably the first to have put forward this hypothesis; in recent years, in addition to Elman, John Henderson has also argued in a similar way.j5 In this context Zhang Xuecheng's famous dictum liu jing jie shi (the Six Classics are all works of history) is often quoted as proof that in the eighteenth century the classics were "demoted" to the rank of "mere" history.j6

See Du Weiyun, Qing Qianjia shidaizhi shixue yu shijia (Historical studies and historians in the Qin-Jia period of the Qing dynasty), 2nd ed. (Taibei, 1965); John B. Henderson, Scripture, Crtnon and Commentary (Princeton, N.J., 1991) and my review in Monumenfa Serica 41 (1993), 359-366.
Zhang Xuecheng, Wen Shi Tong Yi Jiaozhu (Reflections on literature and history), ed. Ye Ying (Beijing, 1985), esp. I, 1 (Yi Jiao) and 93-117 (Jing Jie). In fact, Cui Shu also believed in the original identity of jing and shi. See "Kao xin lu tiyao," 20ab.
I think that the comparison between kaozheng and historicism" is misleading for a number of reasons. Apart from the fact that the role played by narrative in the development of historicism does not find a parallel in the history of kaozhengx~e,~~

identifications of historicism and kaozhengxue do not take into account the fact that the place of history in the Christian and in the Confucian tradition is fundamentally different.

Despite the many attempts to integrate these two realms," in the Christian tradition there has always been a rather strict separation between the supra- historical realm of god and the historical realm of humans. History was consid- ered inferior to theology. In the long run, however, the distance between the world of humans and the world of god also meant that within the Christian tradition historical inquiry could develop a degree of autonomy and a critical potential unrivaled in other religious traditions. If historical inquiry is consid- ered an activity of only secondary importance not leading to a deeper under- standing of the world, then to "go historical" and forsake the pursuit of the

I use the term "historicism" to denote a specific Wissenschaftskonzeptio~l(scientific concep- tion). Cf. Jorn Riisen, Konfigurationendes Historismus: Studien zurdeutschen Wissenschaftsk~rltur (Frankfurt am Main, 1993), 20. Riisen's definition of historicism as Wissetachaftskonzeplion both includes and surpasses Meinecke's classic short definition: "Der Kern des Historismus besteht in der Ersetzung einer generalisie-renden Betrachtung geschichtlich-menschlicher Krafte durch eine individualisierende Betrachtung" (The core of historicism consists in the replacement of a general- izing view of historical and human forces by an individualizing view), in Friedrich Meinecke, Die Entstehung des Historismus (Munich, 1965), 2, which is still valid but does not cover all important strands in the historicist tradition. On this see Riisen, Konfigurationen, 331-356 (DieKrise des Historismus in unzeitgemaJ3er Betrachtung: Friedrich Meineckes "Entstehung des Historismus'?.
Still serving well as an introduction to the problematik of narrative in history is Theorie undErzahlung in der Geschichte (BeitragezurHistorik3/, ed. JiirgenKocka and Thomas Nipperdey (Munich, 1979). In traditional times (and sometimes even today) history-writing in China tended to be agroupement of separate items of historical knowledge according to socially accepted taxonomic categories rather than an attempt made by individual historians to establish and organize the data according to conceptual strategies which are first and foremost their own and which aim at the construction of a view of the past which is also aesthetically satisfying. Some late traditional historians, for instance Zhao Yi, to a certain extent were exceptions to the general rule that in traditional China relatively little weight was attached to the individual historian as the organizing center of historical discourse, but their work still retained many characteristics of classificatory historical writing. Building on the tradition of shiping (historical criticism), they commented on the historiographical tradition and by doing so enriched historical discourse with a reflexive element which in the future was destined to become one of the points of departure for narrative history, but they did not yet write narrative history in the sense of, for example, Ranke. It goes without saying that comparative statements regarding narrativity tend to become much less clear when one turns to comparing traditional Chinese historiography with medieval European historiography.
Traces of these attempts are not only to be found in historiography (on this see for example Guenee, Histoire et culture historique, 29-33), but perhaps even more so in the philosophy of history (see Karl Lowith, "Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen: Die theologischen Voraussetzungen der Geschichtsphilosophie" in idem, Samtliche Schriften [Stuttgart, 19831, 11, 7-279). It is quite significant for the place of history that as a relatively autonomous field of discourse a philosophy of history (in the sense of a "systematische Ausdeutung der Weltgeschichte am Leitfaden eines Prinzips, durch welches historische Geschehnisse und Folgen in Zusammenhang gebracht und auf einen letzten Sinn bezogen werden" [systematic interpretation of secular history according to a guiding principle by which historical events and consequences are related both to each other and to an ultimate meaning] [Lowith, Weltgeschichte, 111) did not develop on a large scale in the Confucian tradition.
realm of true being in the name of a better understanding of the workings of humans becomes a revolutionary act.

The sharp dichotomy of the world of god and the world of humans so charac- teristic of the Christian tradition is quite alien to the Confucian tradition. Although a clear separation between an ideal sphere and a sphere of current human practice has also been made, this separation was more a distinction between two phases of history -sacred and profane- than aseparation between two realms of being.50 And although after the Han dynastys1 a hierarchy between jingxue (exegesis of the Confucian classics) and shixue (historical studies) devel- oped, it would be inappropriate to confuse this hierarchy with the hierarchy between theology and history in the medieval Christian context.

Being the study of sacred history which encompassed the lives of the sages who through their world-ordering activities laid the basis for civilized human existence, jingxue was superior to shixue; their relationship can therefore be characterized as a kind of hierarchical cognitive complementarity .s2 But whereas the medieval hierarchical complementarity of theology and history was based on the opposition and dissimilarity of the supra-historical sphere of god and the historical sphere of humans, the complementarity of jingxue and shixue was based on the similarity of the sacred and the profane sphere. Both dealt with humans and their workings, and even if humans of later ages did not measure up to the high standards set by the sages of antiquity and documented in the classics, they still participated in the same basic qualities of humanity the sages make manifest in such an exemplary way. In the Confucian context, then, profanity was as firmly rooted in the sacred sphere as the sacred sphere

In recent years Weber's ex cathedra characterization of Confucianism as "diejenige (der Absicht nach) rationale Ethik, welche die Spannung gegen die Welt, sowohl ihre religiose Entwer- tung wie ihre praktische Ablehnung, auf ein absolutes Minimum reduzierte" (that rational ethic [according to its intentions] which reduces the tension vis-a-vis the world to an absolute minimum, both as far as its religious depreciation and as its practical rejection are concerned . . . ) has come under attack from many sides. Even if none of the revisionist studies published has actually succeeded in "refuting" Weber's interpretation of the Confucian tradition, one probably has to concede that the view of the relationship between the ideal sphere and the sphere of current human practice expressed in Weber's characterization above has been considerably modified and balanced by empirical historical argument. The research done on neo-Confucianism has especially worked in this way. Still serving well as an introduction to revisionist interpretations of the Confucian tradition is Thomas Metzger, Escapefrom Predicament: Neo-Confucianism and China's Evolving Political Culture (New York, 1977). See also the two studies by Yu Ying-shih mentioned in footnote 23 and the Weberian critique in Philip Clart, "The Protestant Ethic Analogy in the Study of Chinese History: On Yu Yingshi's Zhongguo jinshi zongjiao lunli yu shangrenjingshen," in British Columbia Asian Review (1992), 6-31.
51. That is, the period from 206 B.C.-220 A.D.
Cf. for example the theories about the relationship between the Chun Qiu (Spring and Autumn Annals) and the Zuo Zhuan (Zuo Tradition) (see myLiu Zhijiund das Chun Qiu [Frankfurt am Main, 19871). On the notion of "cognitive complementarity" see Gert Melville, "Kompilation, Fiktion und Diskurs: Aspekte zur heuristischen Methode der mittelalterlichen Geschichtsschreiber," in Historische Methode, ed. Meier and Rusen, 133. Cf. also Gert Melville, "Wozu Geschichte schreiben? Stellung und Funktion der Historie im Mittelalter," in Formen der Geschichtsschreibung (Beitrage zur Historik 4/, ed. Reinhart Koselleck, Heinrich Lutz, and Jorn Riisen (Munich, 1982), 86-146.
participated in the realm of profanity. Rather than trying to "demote" the classics from their alleged position of absolute supremacy, Zhang Xuecheng probably wanted to remind his Confucian audience of this shared ground of the sacred and profane spheres when he made his famous statement about the classics all being "history."

The quasi-religious role of history and historical knowledge in the Confucian tradition provided for the high status historical studies have always enjoyed in China. Yet, whereas in the Christian tradition the historical quest was poten- tially disruptive of the claims of religion,j3 it tended to work the other way around in the Confucian tradition. As long as one consented-and this was one of the basic articles of the Confucian creed-that the sacred history of Confucianism was real and full of meaning, "going historical" was more a pious than a revolutionary act. The basic assumption was never shaken that there was more to history than just history, and instead of undermining the Confucian creed, historical studies tended to stabilize and confirm it by constantly re- working the tradition and freeing it from internal inconsistencies and interpola- tions from the outside.j4

Seen from this angle it becomes quite clear why Cui Shu's quest for truth took the direction of historical studies and why -perhaps surprisingly for the Western observer -he could still maintain a strong link between scholarship and value in his work. Cui Shu was indeed a historically-minded scholar who freed himself from the usual constraints laid upon the exegete to concentrate his commentarial efforts on individual holy books as they were handed down by tradition. Instead, in his critical studies he brought the historical data con- tained in the different classics into a unified chronological order and classified them according to their reliability and trustworthiness. Yet, both the aim and the result of this was not profane history but rather a more coherent and critically reassured version of Confucian sacred history. It falls into line with this quite naturally that the chronological order followed in his magnum opus Kao Xin Luj5 was based on the daotong-conception with its scheme of graded perfection of successive periods of history.j6

The intellectual proponents of the German romantic school were among the first who recog- nized the subversive effects of modern historical scholarship and philology on the claims of religion. See for exampleNovalis's passionate rejectionof Protestant biblical philology in his Die Christenheit oder Europa (Gesammelte Werke), ed. Hildburg and Werner Kohlschmidt (Gutersloh, 1967), 321-322.
In connection with the "crisis of historicism" Riisen has spoken of a "Sinnverzehr durch Tatsachenforschung" (consumption of meaning by the search for facts) as a consequence of the dissociation of the productionof precise historical knowledge from current problems of orientation (see his "Historische Methode und religioser Sinn: Voriiberlegungen zueiner Dialektik der Rationali- sierung des historischen Denkens in der Moderne," in Anfange, ed. Kuttler, et a/., 368). This dissociation did not occur in China during the traditional period and even today it may be questioned how far it has actually gone. On this see for example my "Yu Yingshi, das Politische und die Politik," in Minima Sinica (1994) 2749.
55. Cui Shu, Kao xin lu, in Yishu, 1-488.

56. This comes out most clearly in the second chapter of the introduction to the Kao Xin Llr where Cui gives an overview over the contents of the different parts of his mork; see Kao xin 11r tiyao, 15-23. A clear indication of the overriding influence of the daotong-paradigm on Cui's


Even if the hypothesis can be established that for kaozheng-scholars like Cui Shu there existed a basic unity between scholarship and value, there still remains the problem of how Cui Shu discharged his pious duty. Did he have a "method" and what was it like?

From the foregoing it should be clear that kaozheng cannot be considered to be a Chinese version of historicism. Speaking about method, however, a comparison between kaozheng and some aspects of the tradition of historicism is useful as a way to highlight some of the characteristic features of kaozheng.

Nowadays the idea that there should exist something like a unified and all- encompassing canon of rules guiding the work of the historical profession has become somewhat problematic. At least it takes a sustained theoretical effort to reconstruct an ideal type of a unified historical method from out of the plethora of approaches and research techniques currently in practice." In the early days of modern historical studies, however, many historians held the optimistic belief that historical method with a capital H was possible-or at least they tended to give weight to the opinions of those who said so. Most of the classic formulations of this methodological ideal date from the nineteenth century, with Droysen and his Historik and Bernheim with his Lehrbuch der historischen Methode probably being the most influential representative^.'^

The methodological ideal as it developed in the tradition of historicism had many aspects; three are f~ndamental:~~

thinking may also be seen in the fact that he introduced his review of earlier critical authors in his "Kao Gu Xu Shuo" (Yishu, 439-445) with several lengthy quotations from Han Yu's works, among them Han's Yuan Dao or "Finding the Source for the Duo" as Peter Bol has aptly translated the title of this famous essay. The term daotong has been interpreted in many ways. Howard Wechsler, for example, has translatedit as "line of transmission of theTruth or Orthodox Teaching"

(idem, Offerings of Jade and Silk: Ritlral and Syrnbol in the Legitimation of the Tang Dynasty

[New Haven, 19851, 15). Though this translation certainly catches some of the implications of the daotong-concept, Peter Bol's translation ("line of continuity of the Dao") in his This Cultlrre of Ours: Intellect~ral Transitions in T'ang and Sung China (Stanford, 1992), 28 seems more appro- priate.

The best overvievrs of contemporary thinking about historical method is probably Meier and Rusen, eds., Hisrorische ~Methode, which also contains Rusen's attempt to reconstruct a new systematic conception of historical method (ibid., 62-80).
Johann Gustav Droysen, Historik: Vorlesungen iiber Enzyklopadie und Methodologie der Geschichte,ed. Rudolf Hubner. 5th ed. (Munich, 1965); Ernst Bernheim, Lehrbuch der historischen ~Methode und der Geschichtsphilosophie. 4th ed. (Leipzig, 1903). See also the chapter "Theorien im Historismus" in Rusen, Konfigurationen,which gives an overvievrs of the development of method- ological thought in the historicist tradition.
What follows is of course a gross simplification. Method in historicism is a much more complicated phenomenon than can be outlined in this context. The understanding of the developrnent of the historicist method, for example, has been considerably deepened in recent years. Apart from the the mork cursorily referred to in footnote 22, see for example Ulrich Muhlack, "Von der philologischen zur historischen Methode," in Meier and Rusen, eds., Historrsche~Methode,154180.Muhlack both questions and confirms the role allotted to historicism in earlier interpretations of the development of historical method. On the one hand he demonstrates that elements of the historical-critical method already developed on a large scale in humanist philology; on the other hand he stresses that it was only at the turn of the nineteenth century that in neo-humanism the earlier "dualist" restrictions were overcome which geared the use of historical method to the
New historical knowledge can be produced in a systematic way, in a se- quence of steps leading from the first encounter with the source-material to the presentation of the findings in a scholarly article, a monograph, or a narrative history. Research (or, in Droysen's words, forschendes Verstehen [investigative understanding]), is the basic activity which not only opens doors to the secrets of the past but which also increasingly influences the ways historians present their findings.60
The steps which have to be taken in order to glean new historical knowledge from the sources can and should be the object of an autonomous discourse about the production of historical knowledge, which should be oriented toward finding and defining general rules to guide the actual work of individual his- torians.
This discourse on method should aim at reconstructing a complete tableau of the steps leading to new historical knowledge. Every aspect of the different phases in the work of the historian should be made the object of detailed analysis weighing the specific difficulties regularly incurred and proposing solutions which can be applied to as many cases as possible. The end result of this should be a systematic overview of the production of historical knowledge, again with a heavy bias toward the problems of research.
Turning to kaozheng and in particular to the work of Cui Shu, the first observation one can make is that not unlike the discourse on method in the tradition of historicism there also exists a kind of "epistemic space" in Cui's works. There were many other authors before Cui Shu who also gave some consideration to heuristic questions and Cui certainly was not unique among kaozheng-scholars in this respect. Yet the scope and depth of his heuristic reflections are truly remarkable in the late imperial Chinese context.

In quite a number of texts -most important among them Cui's introduction to the Kao Xin Lu, the Kao Xin Lu Tiyao-Cui formulated numerous heuristic insights which at least to a certain degree find a parallel in the tradition of historicism. I have already mentioned Cui's reflections on the role of prejudice as an obstacle to historical understanding. Another of his heuristic insights concerns the rules governing the development of historical knowledge over time: Cui had a keen awareness of the fact that historical "knowledge" tends to "increase" over time, that interpolations and the interaction of different strands of tradition more often than not result in a picture of the past which is quite remote from the original happenings, and that it is one of the most urgent and yet most difficult tasks of the historian to achieve a critical understanding of the numerous later interpretations and distortions of the original historical data.6' As is well known, these insights exerted a tremendous influence on Gu

"reconstruction of the documents of an epoch which due to its normative function stood outside history" (ibid., 167).

60. Cf. Droysen, Historik, 278 on the kind of presentation of the historian's findings he calls "untersuchende Darstellung."

61. Kao xin lu tiyao, 4-5; 13-14.

Jiegang when he composed his own theory of the "layer structure" of Chinese historical traditi~n.~~

In spite of this, for a number of reasons it seems inappropriate to identify the heuristic reflections of kaozheng-scholars like Cui with the discourse on method as it can be observed in the works of Droysen or Bernheim:

1. Cui's heuristic reflections did not aim at the production of new historical knowledge. Although he sometimes arrived at his heuristic conclusions by de- ducing from some well attested fact in the field of profane history, the scope of these reflections in general remained restricted to the field of sacred history. Cui did not want to find historical truths in the plural but tried to recapture what he considered to be yi shi, or the one and only truth about the practice of the duo contained in the classics.

Time and again he warned against the dangers of simply repeating the chen shuo, or "outworn theories" of former scholars, thus demanding a certain degree of novelty from the work of the scholar. Yet, this new knowledge or zi de, as he sometimes termed it in neo-Confucian language,63 amounted only to a new and deeper understanding of a truth already known: liu jingyiwai wu suoweidao (or "There is no way outside of the Six Classics,"as Cui said in his introduction to the Kao Xin Lu).~~

Cui already knew the world of the ancients before he started his studies because he was convinced that at least as far as the fundamental rules were concerned the world had not changed since the days of Yao and Shun. True, there had been many historical changes and distortions of the Confucian tradi- tion, but these distortions were only aberrations from the right path whose timeless uniformity and validity were beyond doubt. Scholarship in this context was an attempt to recapture something which was already there and near at hand; it was a return to the sources in a fundamental way. Historical study in the context of this basic attitude turned out to be a kind of scholarly inquisition destined to clear the record of the profane history that did not fit into sa- cred history.

2. Though Cui's heuristic arguments in a number of cases are quite elaborate, he did not organize his insights in a systematic way but restricted himself to stringing them together in a rather loose fashion. The "critique of sources," to name but one of the standard divisions of historicist method as an example, does not appear as a distinct field in his heuristic disc~urse.~~

Although it would

See the literature referred to in footnote 22.
Cf. for example Kao xin lu tiyao, 2b-3a.
ibid., 2a.
65. The relatively lo\\ degree of methodological sophistication demonstrated by this feature of Cui's heuristic reflections stands in marked contrast to the development of the critique of sources into a distinct and systematically structured field of discourse in historicist methodology. On this see for example S. Timpanarao, Die Entstehung der Lachmannschen Methode (Hamburg, 1971) and Paul Maas, Textkritik. 3rd ed. (Leipzig, 1957). It is quite typical of the unsystematic manner in which Cui approached the methodological problems of the critique of sources that he used metaphorical language to elucidate his ideas about inauthenticity. On this see his "Yu wei" (Eluci- dating inauthenticity), in Yishu, 692-693. On the other hand, it should be noted that on the level of scholarly practice a relatively high degree of differentiation of specific fields of discourse can

be wrong to reduce Cui's heuristic statements to the status of mere obiter dictu or bricoluge, the fact cannot be denied that his heuristic reflections did not achieve the high level of differentiation and systematic integration which is so characteristic of Bernheim's famous textbook. Cui's reflections remain dispersed over different texts and to a large extent they still bear the character of more or less empirical generalizations of personal working experien~es.~~

3. In many fields of Chinese culture the difference between "immediatist" and 66gradualist" approaches plays an important role." Standing in the tradition of the Zhu Xi" brand of neo-Confucianism, Cui was of course a gradualist. In his texts on heuristic questions one finds many warnings against the dangers of rashness. Yet this gradualism was quite unlike the gradualism inherent in the historicist conception of method.

Rather than being a linear progression of clearly defined steps resulting in the gradual build-up of new historical knowledge, research as it appears in Cui's texts on method seems to be a circular movement with the scholar again and again returning to the texts and asking the same basic questions: were there any distortions of the message of the classics? How did they come about and what can be done in order to get rid of them?


The interpenetration of scholarship and value in the life and works of Cui Shu points to yet another possible field of comparison: how do Cui's heuristic reflections on the study of the classics and Confucian sacred history compare to the European hermeneutical tradition?

In recent years a number of attempts have been made to understand Chinese intellectual history in terms of the theory of hermeneutics. Obviously the ideas about the definition and content of hermeneutics vary to a considerable extent.

be observed in Cui's works. Thus for example, he used different textual formats to deal with (1) the critique of the received text of the Shang Shu (Book of Documents) (see his "Gu Wen Shang Shu bian wei" [Critical exposition of the inauthenticity of the Shang Shu in old script], in Yishu, 579a-608a); (2) the historical events touched upon in the Shang Shu (see the relevant parts of his "Kao xin lu," in Yishu, 51-128); and (3) exegetical problems in connection with this Confucian classic (cf. his "Hong Fan bu shuo" [Additional explanations to the Great Plan chapter of the Shang Shu], in Yishrr, 356a-362b).

Reconstructions of the structure of the "epistemic space" in Cui's work must also take into account his views on the similarities between critical historical inquiries and judicial procedures which cannot be treated in more detail in this context. On this see Kao xin lu tiyao, 15a and 22b. See also his "Song lun" (On litigation), in Yishu, 700b-702. Just as comparative research in the field of contemporary Chinese medicine would add to our understanding of kaozheng (cf. footnote 24), so probably would comparisons between kaozheng-techniques and contemporary judicial procedures. On this see for example Alison Wayne Conner, "The Law of Evidence during the Ch'ing Dynasty" (Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1979).
Cf. for example Luis Gomez, "The Direct and Gradual Approaches of Zen Master Ma- hayana: Fragments of the Teachings of Mo-ho-yen," in Studies in Ch'an and Hua-yen, ed. Robert
M. Gi~nello and Peter M. Gregory (Honolulu, 1983), 69-167.

68. Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Major exponent and synthesizer of neo-Confucianism. Parts of his work later became one of the foundations of state orthodoxy.

Some authors simply equate hermeneutics with exegesis" and others, notably Steven van Zoeren in his brilliant book on the history of Shi Jing-exegesis, seem to draw a direct line of comparison between Song dynasty views on the correct exegesis of the Songs and Gadamer's philosophical hermene~tics.'~ I have the impression that -unlike the case of the historicist method- there exist quite a number of parallels between the views held by kaozheng-scholars and the European hermeneutical tradition. In order to make comparisons mean- ingful and to ensure that they can contribute to the better design of further empirical research it seems quite important to find the appropriate points of reference in the European tradition."

In my opinion Gadamer's approach is not an appropriate point of reference. In Gadamer's work hermeneutics has achieved a degree of universalization which was completely out of the question for traditional scholars like Cui Shu; even neo-Confucian luminaries like Zhu Xi would certainly have been rather surprised by the idea that there should exist something like philosophical herme- neutics. The text, which to Gadamer is just one of the points of reference of his theory, was the only point of reference for kaozheng-scholars and neo- Confucian exegetes alike. And whereas all Confucian exegetes down to the nineteenth century were at least in name if not in reality haunted by the fear that their own preconceived ideas might impair their understanding of the eternal truths contained in the classi~s,'~ an author like Gadamer who comes as an heir to the rich and varied tradition of European historicism attempts to build his hermeneutical theory on the inevitability and positive functions of prejudices .73

Even if one goes back one step further and takes a comparative look at Schleiermacher or Dilthey, that is, the authors whose work has functioned as

69. Cf. Henderson, Scripture, Canon and Comnzentary, 168.

Steven van Zoeren, Poetry and Personality: Reading, Exegesis, and Hermeneutics in Tradi- tional China (Stanford, 1991), 188. Despite the detailed discussion of the different layers of meaning of the term "hermeneutics" in the introduction to his study (1-7), van Zoeren's concept of hermeneu- tics remains somevrshat vague. See for example page 6 where he defines "the peculiarly intense and careful reading" of authoritative texts as "hermeneutical."
Short sketches of the history of the European hermeneutical tradition may be found in Wilhelm Dilthey, "Die Entstehung der Hermeneutik," in idem, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 5: Abhandlungen zur Grundlegung der Geisteswissenschaften, 2nd. ed. (Stuttgart and Gottingen, 1957), 317-338 and in Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Klassische und Philosophische Hermeneutik," in idem, Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzuge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik (Tiibingen, 1990), 11, 92-1 17. The medieval tradition has been treated in great detail in H. Brinkmann, Mittelalterliche Hermeneutik (Tubingen, 1980).
To a certain extent, this seems to have changed in nineteenth-century New Text exegesis of the classics. Cf. Elman, Classicism, Politics and Kinship and my forthcoming review article in ~Monurnenta Serica 44 (1996).
On the inescapability of prejudices see for example Gadamer, Wahrheit und ~Methode, I, 274, 281. Gadamer's debate mith Betti (cf. Emilio Betti, Allgemeine Auslegungslehre als Methodik der Geisteswissenschaften [Tiibingen, 19671) is particularly instructive in this context. See for example Gadamer's "Hermeneutik und Historismus," in Wahrheit und Methode, 11, 387-424, esp. 394 where he elucidates his own position by a long quote from a private letter to Betti.
a sort of negative starting point for the making of Gadamer's theory,74 the differences outweigh the similarities. Although Schleiermacher developed a Kunstlehre des Verstehens (a set of rules guiding understanding) which retained a direct relationship with the text and spoken dialogue as the primary points of reference, he nevertheless wanted to free hermeneutics from the fixation on the exegesis of the Bible and took a stand severely critical of every kind of Spezialhermeneutik which limits its scope of inquiry to just one class of texts." Yet for Cui Shu and other traditional Chinese scholars like him this was exactly what it was all about: to bring together a body of heuristic rules and insights supposed to facilitate the exegetical access to the truths contained in the classics.


Rather than reaching an endpoint, the characterization of Cui9s heuristic reflec- tions on the study of the classics as a case of Spezialhermeneutik in the sense Schleiermacher used the word gives rise to new questions. How can the special hermeneutics Cui Shu developed be compared with European examples of spe- cial hermeneutics? Are there specific parameters of development to be ab- stracted from the better studied European tradition (such as the explicitness and degree of systematization of hermeneutical discourse) which can be used as guidelines for the further examination of Chinese historiography? What is the relationship between earlier neo-Confucian hermeneutical thought and the ideas on scholarly procedures formulated by Qing dynasty scholars?

I do not have ready-made answers to these questions, but I am convinced that it would be useful to continue along the lines suggested by the questions just formulated. I am quite sure that a closer inspection of the evidence will show that Qing kaozheng-scholarship did not constitute a quasi-scientific "revo- lution in discourse" but rather a further elaboration of the critical aspects of the special hermeneutics of the classics which became more and more elaborate from the Tang and Song dynasties onward.76

Bonn, Germany

On Gadamer's view of Schleiermacher and Dilthey see for example Wahrheit und ~Methode, I, 177-246.
Cf. F. D. E. Schleiermacher, "~ber den Begriff der Hermeneutik mit Bezug auf F.A. Wolfs Andeutungen und Asts Lehrbuch," in Hertneneutik und Kritik: ~Mit einetn Anhang sprachphilo- sophischer TexteSchleierrnachers, ed. Manfred Frank (Frankfurt am Main, 1977), 3 14. On Schleier- macher's definition of hermeneutics see also 75-100.
Some of the recent literature on kaozheng actually seems to point in this direction. See for example Chow Kaiwing, The Rise of Confucian Ritualism in Late Imperial China: Ethics, Classics and Lineage Discourse (Stanford, 1994). Chow's interpretation which lays particular stress on the interdependence of socially conservative, "purist" Confucian value orientations and critical scholarship of the classics in the work of kaozheng-scholars in many ways seems to constitute a counterpoint to the work of Elman.

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