An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Quan Zuwang 全祖望

Jul 4, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Quan Zuwang 全祖望 (1705-1755), courtesy name Shaoyi 紹衣, style Xieshan 謝山, was a Qing period 清 (1644-1911) historian and writer. He hailed from Yinxian 鄞縣 (near modern Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiang), and earned his gongsheng degree in 1729. In 1736 he was granted the title of erudite literatus (boxue hongci 博學鴻詞) and in the same year passed the metropolitan examination, which allowed him being selected bachelor (shujishi 庶吉士) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. A year later he retired and never again strove for an official appointment.

In his home province, he became chief professor of the Jishan Academy 蕺山書院 and later headed the Duanxi Academy 端溪書院 in Guangdong.

Quan Zuwang was an adherent of the practical philosophy of Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610-1695) and Wan Sitong 萬斯同 (1638-1702) and ardently devoured books to learn useful things written in the Confucian Classics and historiographical books. During his time in the Hanlin Academy he had access to the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典 and produced copies of many chapters. Quan Zuwang so became a very important representative of the Zhedong School 浙東學派 of late Confucian philosophers.

He was very interested in Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279) and late Ming period writings. His own writings are concerned with philosophy and history. The finished the draft of the book Song-Yuan xue'an 宋元學案 and wrote critical commentaries to the essay collection Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞 by Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296), to the "River Classic" Shuijingzhu 水經注 (Quan jiao Shuijingzhu 全校水經注) and to the official geographical treatise of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) (Hanshu dili zhi jiyi 漢書地理志稽疑).

The Song-Yuan xue an was written according to Huang Zongxi's Mingru xue'an 明儒學案, a history of Ming period philosophy arranged according to philosophical schools. Huang Zongxi had planned such a book, but neither he nor his son Huang Baijia 黃百家 (1643-1709) were able to go beyond the stage of a draft. Quan's commentary to the Shuijingzhu was only published in 1888, as latest of three contemporarily written commentaries, the others being produced by Zhao Yiqing 趙一清 (1711-1764) and Dai Zhen 戴震 (1723-1777). Although the three commentators did not really contradict each other in scholarly respect, they attacked each other during lifetime.

Quan Zuwang wrote many biographies and essays. Among the former are Zhongjie Qian Gong di er bei ming 忠介錢公第二碑銘, Erqu xiansheng fashi wen 二曲先生窆石文, Tinglin xiansheng shendao biao 亭林先生神道表, Lizhou xiansheng shendao beiwen 梨洲先生神道碑文, all biographies of early Qing period personalities the text for which is often derived from tomb inscriptions; among the latter are writings like Zhuang taichang zhuan 莊太常傳, Chen Tongfu lun 陳同甫論, Ming Zuangliedi lun 明莊烈帝論, Puyang jiangji 浦陽江記, Lizhou xiansheng sijiu lu xu 梨洲先生思舊錄序 and Xinsang zhazi da Yin ling 心喪劄子答鄞令. Some writings (ch. 38) in the "outer part" (waibian 外編) of his collected writings Jieqiting ji 鮚埼亭集 were compiled by disciples of his, namely Chu Chabai xiansheng mubiao 初查白先生墓表, Meihua lingji 梅花嶺記, Huashi Zhonglie hezhuang 華氏忠烈合狀, Tu-Dong erjun zihe zhuang 屠董二君子合狀 or Jiangzhe liang da yue ji 江浙兩大獄記.

The literary quality of Quan Zuwang's essays was often criticized as coarse and not systematical enough. Much more important is that Quan contributed a lot to many historiographical aspects concerning the early Qing period. Even in his many poems that cover a 10-juan long collection, biographical information can be detected. Some further writings of Quan Zuwang are Jingshi dawen 經史答問, Dushi tongbiao 讀史通表 and Lichao renwu shibiao 歷朝人物世表.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 228.
Wu Zhengming 吳正明 (1986). "Quan Zuwang 全祖望", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 659.