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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

Although Chu became the symbol of conservatism


It

should be remarked that Neo-Confucianism accepts an inequality of men, as early Confucianism did; and that _jen_, love, in its practical application has to be channelled by _li_, the system of rules of behaviour. The _li_, however, always started from the idea of a stratified class society. Chu Hsi (1130-1200), the famous scholar and systematizer of Neo-Confucian thoughts, brought out rules of behaviour for those burghers who did not belong to the gentry and could not, therefore, be expected to perform all _li_; his "simplified _li_" exercised a great influence not only upon contemporary China, but also upon Korea and Annam and there strengthened a hitherto looser patriarchal, patrilinear family system.

The Neo-Confucianists also compiled great analytical works of history and encyclopaedias whose authority continued for many centuries. They interpreted in these works all history in accordance with their outlook; they issued new commentaries on all the classics in order to spread interpretations that served their purposes. In the field of commentary this school of thought was given perfect expression by Chu Hsi, who also wrote one of the chief historical works. Chu Hsi's commentaries became standard works for centuries, until the beginning of the twentieth century. Yet, although Chu became the symbol of conservatism, he was quite interested in science, and in this field he had an open eye for changes.

The Sung

period is so important, because it is also the time of the greatest development of Chinese science and technology. Many new theories, but also many practical, new inventions were made. Medicine made substantial progress. About 1145 the first autopsy was made, on the body of a South Chinese captive. In the field of agriculture, new varieties of rice were developed, new techniques applied, new plants introduced.

The Wang An-shih school of political philosophy had opponents also in the field of literary style, the so-called Shu Group (Shu means the present province of Szechwan), whose leaders were the famous Three Sus. The greatest of the three was Su Tung-p'o (1036-1101); the others were his father, Su Shih, and his brother, Su Che. It is characteristic of these Shu poets, and also of the Kiangsi school associated with them, that they made as much use as they could of the vernacular. It had not been usual to introduce the phrases of everyday life into poetry, but Su Tung-p'o made use of the most everyday expressions, without diminishing his artistic effectiveness by so doing; on the contrary, the result was to give his poems much more genuine feeling than those of other poets. These poets were in harmony with the writings of the T'ang period poet Po Chue-i (772-846) and were supported, like Neo-Confucianism, by representatives of trade capitalism. Politically, in their conservatism they were sharply opposed to the Wang An-shih group. Midway between the two stood the so-called Loyang-School, whose greatest leaders were the historian and poet Ss[)u]-ma Kuang (1019-1086) and the philosopher-poet Shao Yung (1011-1077).

In addition to its poems, the Sung literature was famous for the so-called _pi-chi_ or miscellaneous notes. These consist of short notes of the most various sort, notes on literature, art, politics, archaeology, all mixed together. The _pi-chi_ are a treasure-house for the history of the culture of the time; they contain many details, often of importance, about China's neighbouring peoples. They were intended to serve as suggestions for learned conversation when scholars came together; they aimed at showing how wide was a scholar's knowledge. To this group we must add the accounts of travel, of which some of great value dating from the Sung period are still extant; they contain information of the greatest importance about the early Mongols and also about Turkestan and South China.


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