The Making of "China" Through History: Li Zhi 李贄 (1527-1602) and the Shigang pingyao 史綱評要 (1613) in the Context of Late Ming Historiography

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2025-02-17
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Asien- und Orientwissenschaften
Advisor: Mittag, Achim (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2023-02-17
DDC Classifikation: 090 - Manuscripts and rare books
100 - Philosophy
320 - Political science
400 - Language and Linguistics
490 - Other languages
900 - History
950 - History of Asia; Far East
Keywords: China , Mingdynastie , Geschichtsschreibung , Geschichte , History , Chronik , Weltchronik , Li, Zhi , Wang, Zhongmin , Kulturrevolution , Kritik , Legalismus , Konfuzianismus , Diskurs , Debatte , Moral , Philosophie , Chinesisch , Blockdruck , Qin , The @first emperor , Kaiser , Kommentar , Anmerkung , Annotation , Ikonoklasmus , Nationalismus , Nationenbildung , Identität , Selbstverständnis , Nation , Nationale Einheit , Einheit , Land , Bewusstsein , Wang, Yangming , Taizhou
Other Keywords: Geschichtschronik, Weltchronik, Ikonoklasmus, biannianti, gangmuti
world chronicle
Li Zhi
Wang Zhongmin
Wang Yangming
Discourse that holds to the norm (of what is right and wrong)
right and wrong
Legitimate Line of Succession
historical criticism
Qin Shihuangdi
Shigang yaoling
outline and detail
Zizhi tongjian
Zizhi tongjian gangmu
Yao Shunmu
Annalistic style
Ming dynasty
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Diese Dissertation ist bis zum 17. Februar 2025 gesperrt.


This dissertation examines the late Ming world chronicle Shigang pingyao 史綱評要 (Critical Annotation of the Essentials of the Outline of History, 1613) within the context of contemporary historiography. Attributed to the nonconformist thinker Li Zhi 李贄 (1527-1602), the writing provides a concise account of Chinese history, spanning from its earliest origins to the end of the Yuan dynasty (AD 1368). The text is enriched with explanations and commentaries inserted in the top margins, between the text columns, and after paragraphs. The Shigang pingyao was lost during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) until the 1960’s when a privately owned copy surfaced and was donated to the History Museum of Quanzhou 泉州. Based on this exemplar, a modern edition was published in 1974, at the peak of the “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” (pi Lin pi Kong 批林批孔) campaign. Despite the publisher’s claims that the Shigang pingyao was authored by Li Zhi, who was hailed as an “anti-Confucian hero” (fankong yingxiong 反孔英雄), doubts about Li’s authorship persisted from the outset of the chronicle’s rediscovery. Historian Wang Zhongmin王重民 (1903-1975) strongly opposed the Gang of Four’s (Sirenbang 四人幫) efforts to authenticate the book as a genuine work of Li Zhi. Thus, Wang faced reprisals from the Red Guards and ultimately committed suicide. Since then, the authorship question remains unresolved. The Shigang pingyao serves as a paragon for a book representing major historiographical trends of the late Ming period. As part of the flourishing shiping 史評 (historical criticism) literature, the writing garnered attention due to its unconventional content, including alleged praise of the first emperor Qin Shihuangdi 秦始皇帝 (r. 247-210 BC) and Legalist policies, alongside vigorous criticism of Neo-Confucianism and its proponents. Li Zhi’s books were banned in 1602 and again in 1625. During the Cultural Revolution, Li and the writing were instrumentalized for propagandistic purposes. Research on the Shigang pingyao has been scarce to date. The writing remains relatively unnoticed by Western scholars. Although this thesis explores the authorship issue, the focus of the study is directed toward the Shigang pingyao as a specific Chinese paradigm of conceiving the world as a historical entity, as a historical work that is organized as a histoire événementielle, yet pays also attention to long-term structures and institutions. The Shigang pingyao is juxtaposed to other surviving world chronicles from the late Ming period (c. 1580-1650) and is discussed as part and parcel of the historical discourse which had evolved over the second half of the Ming dynasty. This dissertation unravels the Shigang pingyao as a product of significant Ming historiographical trends. These developments were the thriving of “comprehensive histories” (tongshi 通 史) and “unofficial historiography” (yeshi野史), the disputes on the Legitimate Line of Succession (zhengtong 正統), and the culmination of “historical criticism” as components of a larger debate, the so-called “discourse that holds to the general norm (of what is right and wrong)” (gonglun 公論), with its discussions about the Confucian moral notion of what is “right and wrong” (shifei 是非). This thesis investigates the significance of the Shigang pingyao and other Chinese world chronicles following the “outline and detail” (gangmu 綱目)-format in the development of what scholars have aptly termed “proto-nationalism” (see Tillman 1979). It explores the writings’ contributions to the formation of a ‘national’ historical consciousness. Additionally, this dissertation provides first English translations of selected passages from the Shigang pingyao. In the course of the research, the work critically analyzes the content and structural composition of the Shigang pingyao in the context of the late Ming period. It delves into the intriguing connection between the book’s text and commentaries with the renowned scholar and philosopher Li Zhi. Furthermore, this study thoroughly uncovers how the Shigang pingyao serves as a conduit for expressing its author’s profound philosophical insights, shedding new light on the intellectual landscape of late Ming China.

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