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Chinese Philosophy - Qian-Jia xuepai 乾嘉學派 or Hanxue 漢學

The Qian-Jia School (Qian-Jia xuepai 乾嘉學派), also called School of Han Studies (Hanxue 漢學) is a philosophical tradition that interpreted the Confucian texts mainly with philological methods (xungu 訓詁) and relied exclusively on the originals of the transmitted Confucian Classics that were created during the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) . The name Qian-Jia School was given because this school flourished during the Qianlong 乾隆 (1736-1796) and Jiaqing 嘉慶 (1796-1820) reigns of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). Some Chinese historians are of the opinion that the intensified studies of ancient texts were the result of the Qianlong Emperor's strict policy of censorship of literary products. In order to avoid problems scholars therefore concentrated on the neutral content of Confucian Classics.
The forerunners of the philological school were the early Qing philosophers Gu Yanwu 顧炎武, Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲, Yan Ruoqu 閻若璩, Hu Wei 胡渭, Mao Qiling 毛奇齡, and the brothers Wan Sida 萬斯大 and Wan Sitong 萬斯同. Gu Yanwu was the first philosopher who harshly criticized the Neo-Confucians' "vain talks" of the human character and its connection to the "universal principle" (the "Teachings of the Song period" Songxue 宋學, called so because Neo-Confucianism was founded during the Song period). He suggested that it was necessary to analyse the original texts in order to find this principle, and not to undergo abstract metaphysical speculations: Jingxue ji lixue 經學即理學 "The study of the Classics is the study of the principle." A kind of "plain learning" (puxue 樸學) was in his eyes the most helpful method to to this. Huang Zongxi stressed that it was necessary to undertake text-critical studies of the Classics. During the late 17th century, Yan Ruoqu discussed the Old-Text "Book of Documents" Guwen Shangshu 古文尚書, and Hu Wei argued for the expulsion of superstitional texts from philosophical discussions, like the Hetu 河圖 "River Chart" and Luoshu 洛書 "Scripture of the River Luo".
The school was divided into two branches, the Jiangsu Branch (Wupai 吳派) and the Anhui Branch (Wanpai 皖派). The founder of the former was Hui Dong 惠棟, who came from Wuxian 吳縣 (modern Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu), and his studies were continued by Jiang Sheng 江聲, Sun Yuanru 孫淵如, Yu Xiaorong 余肖容, Wang Mingsheng 王鳴盛, Qian Daxin 錢大昕, Wang Zhong 汪中, Liu Taigong 劉臺拱 and Jiang Fan 江藩. They concentrated on the Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" and operated with the methods of Han period Confucians and their "house methods" (jiafa 家法), including the concept of XXX (jingshi 經師). In their eyes, each word had an orginary meaning, to which one was strictly to adhere to, because it was "only the Han period texts that were trustfully" (wei Han shi xin 唯漢是信).
The Anhui School was founded by Dai Zhen 戴震 and focused on the interpretation of the book Mengzi 孟子 and the three ritual books (Sanli 三禮, i.e. Zhouli 周禮, Yili 儀禮 and Liji 禮記) by philological methods. Yet Dai Zhen also served himself of specialized disciplines like arithmetics, astronomy, geopraphy and hydrology. His most important disciples were Duan Yucai 段玉裁, Wang Niansun 王念孫, Wang Yinzhi 王引之, Ren Dachun 任大椿, Lu Wenchao 盧文弨, Kong Guangsen 孔廣森, Jin Bang 金榜, Cheng Yaotian 程瑤田, Ling Yankan 凌廷堪 and Hu Peihui 胡培翬. The representatives of the Anhui School were much more critical towards Han period texts and the persons that had created and commented on them (like Jia Kui 賈逵, Ma Rong 馬融, Xu Shen 許慎 or Zheng Xuan 鄭玄), and tried to break up the cage in which the early Confucians had been caught. With the help of textual criticism (kaojuxue 考據學), philology (wenzixue 文字學), phonology (yinyunxue 音韻學) the collection of fragments (jiyi 輯佚), and additional sources for comparison (like histories, stone inscriptions or bibliographies), they tried to find out the original meaning of the Classics. Duan Yucai wrote his important commentary to the Han period character dictionary Shuowen jiezi 說文解字, Wang Niansun the notes Dushu zazhi 讀書雜志 and a commentary to the gloss book Guangya 廣雅. These texts represented important research tools for the study of Han period texts, and were therefore called "lesser studies" (xiaoxue 小學). The new methods applied by the Qian-Jia school refreshed the interpretation of the Confucian Canon and can be seen as that type of philosophy that replaced the antiquated philosophy of Neo-Confucianism.

Sources: Li Yinghua 李英華 (1997), "Hanxue 漢學", in Pang Pu 龐樸 (ed.), Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 4, p. 35. ● Xu Xinghai 徐興海 (1988), "Qian-Jia xuepai 乾嘉學派", in Zhao Jihui 趙吉惠, Guo Hou'an 郭厚安 (ed.), Zhongguo ruxue cidian 中國儒學辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), p. 521. ● Xu Xinghai 徐興海 (1988), "Hanxue 漢學", in Zhano Jihui 趙吉惠, Guo Hou'an 郭厚安 (ed.), Zhongguo ruxue cidian 中國儒學辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), p. 518. ● Xu Xinghai 徐興海, Liu Jianli 劉建麗 (ed. 2000), Rujia wenhua cidian 儒家文化辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), p. 146. ● Zhao Shulian 趙書廉 (ed. 1986), Zhongguo zhexue shi xiao cidian 中國哲學史小辭典 (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe), p. 436.

February 3, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail