The Home of a Doubting Scholar

The academic world sometimes can feel like a separate universe with a secret jargon that requires a decoder ring dug out of a Cracker Jack box. This is a largely technical language needed to speak to very specific issues within scholarship. For example, in literary theory, there are schools of thought like deconstruction, reader-response, queer theory, post-colonialism, post-structuralism, and more. Each of those camps has it’s own subsets of jargon that has fueled papers, theses, and dissertations and will continue to do so for centuries to come. For example, post-structuralism has some circular gibberish about “signifier” and “signified” that I could never fully wrap my head around. Trust me, I tried very hard. That’s just the study of literature. That’s not even touching the other English fields of teaching, linguistics, grammar, and translation.

In academia, Chinese history also has its diverse groupings of scholars. One of them is something called “Doubting Antiquity.” These were researchers who expressly voiced concerns about the historical accuracy of some stories within classic Chinese texts like Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian.

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It would be a lot like western historians asking and researching critical questions into Herodotus or  Holinshed’s Chronicles — which provided some source material for some of Shakespeare’s plays. Since Qian sometimes wrote about the nearly mythical Shang Dynasty thousands of years ago, it would almost be like historians probing more into the historical accuracy of something the Welsh Mabinogian.

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The Doubting Antiquity School was not all about destroying somebody like Sima Qian. Mostly, it’s about raising questions and the researching possible answers. Those answers led to more questions. That’s how scholarship works.

Changzhou was once home to a one of these scholars. His name was Lu Simian 吕思勉 lǚ sī miǎn.

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He was born in Wujin in 1884, and he went on take a professorship at Kwang Hua University in Shanghai. This institution went on to become East China Normal University. During his academic career, he authored a number of books on antiquity covering subjects like science, ethnicity, literature, and more.

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His former residence is actually located in downtown Changzhou, and it’s open to the public without an admission fee. A visitor does have to sign into a log book, however.  The place is rather small. You can see some of the living quarters.

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And places where he kept a personal library and a possible office.

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Most of the informational displays here are in Chinese, but there is one introductory sign in English. This former residence is downtown, but it’s actually located in an narrow alley a few streets up from Yanling Road, Nandajie, and the Luqiao Commodities Market. So, for some, it may not be easy to find.

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This alley intersects with Jinling Road. And here it is on Baidu Maps.

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Why do I post screenshots of Baidu Maps? English and Google Maps will do nothing for you if you show it to Chinese cab driver. Just saying.

 

3 thoughts on “The Home of a Doubting Scholar”

  1. Lv Simian is not promoted under the CPC only until recently. His chronicles of Chinese History used to be text books in the 20s or 30s, ming guo, but then flushed away after 1949.

    Similarly there are many a few scholars from CHANGZHOU like Zhao Yuanren Yu Youren Zhou Youguang. The government may have restored their former residences too, mainly in order to apply for the title of “national historical and civic city”.

    In addition to the “former residences” of the famous, in fact the ancient bridges in CHANGZHOU are worth exploring. Have you tried?

    1. Qinggou Lane is currently being renovated, and a lot of former residences, like Zhao Yuanren, are there. So, can’t visit there until like next year. However, I will look into the bridge thing. Thanks for the tip. I wrote an article for Open Magazine in Suzhou about Changzhou’s section of the Grand Canal. So, yeah, I would absolutely be interested in looking into the ancient bridges.

  2. Nice post and very informative.

    It always amazes me how much history and culture you can actually find in Changzhou.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I stumbled by chance over your post – in future I will be a frequent visitor.

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