Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD China

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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Mar 14, 2015 3:05 pm

Yeah, Ruan Ji was 4-5 years younger then Shan Tao, rest quite a bit younger. My bad
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Mar 15, 2015 10:14 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Yeah, Ruan Ji was 4-5 years younger then Shan Tao, rest quite a bit younger. My bad

That's fine. :P Shan Tao was indeed the oldest, and he would have had significant experience under both Cao Shuang and the new Jin government. As such, his attitudes very likely were quite different from the other Seven Sages'. He made it a point to avoid countercultures and court conflicts, unlike Ruan Xian (for example) who became the focal point of one.


Chapters Six and Seven.

These last two chapters kind of go together - they mark off the tail end of Xun Xu's active career, and his slow slide into discredit and irrelevance (for the time being, that is - Li Chunfeng 李淳风 having rehabilitated him partially during the early Tang).

Chapter Six, roughly, is all about the impact the Jizhong 汲冢 discovery had on the intellectual landscape; how Xun Xu came to be in control of the extraction of the artefacts inside it, and the re-transcription and interpretation of the Jizhong texts; and how his handling of the texts began creating opportunities for his intellectual and factional opponents to successfully bring him down. In 279, the government of Ji commandery pursued a group of tomb robbers who had plundered an ancient tomb there. The tomb robbers had already destroyed or sold off many of the items in the tomb; several of the texts (which were inscribed on bamboo) had been damaged by water; others were missing or jumbled, and had been mishandled by the Ji commandery authorities. The texts were transferred to the Imperial Library, which was headed by Xun Xu at the time, and he organised a study team of the texts which consisted of himself, He Qiao 和嶠 and Wang Zan 王瓚.

Prior to this, Xun Xu and Jia Chong had opposed the Wu War, which having drawn to a successful close prompted at least Xun Xu to be effulsive in his praise of the Jin Emperor's genius in having pursued the war, as witnessed in some of his poems (particularly those which Goodman deems to have been written shortly after the victory celebrations, particularly on the Lustration Festival). However, Xun Xu's enmities against certain members of the erstwhile pro-war faction deepened, and he successfully lobbied to have Zhang Hua demoted and transferred to the far northeast (Youzhou 幽州) in 281. As such Zhang Hua was out of the capital when the Jizhong relics were translated there and when Xun Xu's team was working on them; however, many of his academic proxies and protégés successfully lobbied for access to the original Jizhong texts. He Qiao himself had close ties to Zhang Hua. Goodman notes that he behaved arrogantly toward Xun Xu, and was probably added to Xun Xu's team only at the urging of Jia Chong.

The punchline of Chapter Six is ultimately that Xun Xu found himself politically outmanoeuvred, and largely on account of his own scholastic overreach with regard to the Jizhong texts project. Xun Xu's insistence on using a certain system of transcription and storage, using absolute dates rather than regnal years in transcribing the Jizhong texts, and even reorganising the loose bamboo strips in ways which supported his Zhou-centric version of history, garnered him a lot of scholarly enemies. As I mentioned on the other thread about Wei Empress Wenzhao's death, the discovery of the Jizhong texts touched off a huge debate in Jin over the historical credibility of the Classics, and an intellectual movement was set in place that demanded corroboration from multiple written sources and careful citation and even critique of each one. At the forefront of this movement were Wei-era military technician Du Yu 杜預 and antiquarian scholars Zhi Yu 摯虞 and Shu Xi 束皙 as well as the above-mentioned He Qiao, all of whom attacked Xun Xu's historiographical and transcription methods.

(Interesting aside. One Chen Shou 陳壽 appears briefly here, as one of the people who comes in for critique by Xun Xu. Chen Shou's historiography irked Xun Xu deeply, to the point where Xun Xu blocked his appointment to the Palace Writers. Goodman posits this was because Chen Shou gave Cao Cao and his advisors a favourable gloss, and in particular he praised Du Kui - whose classicist credentials Xun Xu had made a career out of debunking - as 'a skilful antiquarian--a true musicologist who followed classical guides'!)

Chapter Seven is essentially the aftermath of all this criticism. Zhi Yu moves onto a critique not only of Xun Xu but also Xun Yi, and recommends to the Jin Emperor that reconstituting the court rites from historical sources, should take into account all historical sources, including ones from Wei which had previously been neglected. This went directly against Xun Xu's project of discrediting the legitimacy of Wei's rites, and it also fundamentally undercut Xun Yi's previous work on the Jin rites project. Both Xun Xu and his uncle Yi were by this time die-hard apologists for Jin legitimacy, to the point of outright ignoring (for ideological reasons) historical and prescriptive work done under the auspices of Cao Pi and Cao Rui. Zhi Yu's memorial was received well, and Xun Xu was subsequently 'promoted' out of the Palace Writers and the Imperial Library and made Prefect of the Masters of Writing 向書令. This effectively cut him out of all work being done on the Jizhong texts and left him more or less powerless to pursue his goal of a Zhou-inspired court ritual schema; as a result, Xun Xu became deeply depressed and despondent. 'They've stolen my Phoenix Pool,' he lamented on hearing of his 'promotion', 'and you gentlemen come to congratulate me!' Xun died less than three years later, though there are hints that his son and grandson were tasked with correcting the pitches of Du Kui's court bells - perhaps, Goodman surmises, a project Xun Xu was working on in his twilight years.

Zhang Hua was now fully-vindicated and politically ascendant, but that wouldn't last long either. Xun Xu and Zhang Hua were both dedicated factionalists, and Hua (already being the enemy of Jia Nanfeng, now Empress) made the mistake of running afoul also of Sima Lun 司馬倫, and was killed when Lun briefly usurped the throne. However, his intellectual legacy would be carried on through his adopted student Jia Mi 賈謐.

The book concludes with a brief treatment of Xun Xu's place in the social and political history of Jin. Xun Xu did not have a broad-ranging circle of friends and companions and literary correspondence the way Zhang Hua did; he didn't leave us any poetry or art that might have hinted at his inner feelings, though he was quite skilled in both; he was secretive; and he was thoroughly and even obsessively dedicated to fashioning what Goodman calls a prisca Zhou, a thorough, Confucian aesthetic-ideological-political-historiographical-musicological social schema compliant with the techniques he studied - opposed diametrically to the countercultural Daoistic world of qingtan and the more relaxed (yet still robust), collegial study of distant antiquity, here exemplified by the Seven Sages and by Zhang Hua. Goodman's portrait of Xun is one of an incredibly brilliant polymath, but neither a politically-astute nor a particularly personable one, whose flaws in these latter two areas make for a highly-sympathetic and even tragic figure. However well-intentioned, he was also resentful, proud and unyieldingly stubborn; ultimately, he was a savant out-of-step with his times.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:32 pm

I believe Chen Shou was, at least seen as, a follow of Zhang Hua?

That fits into what I had heard about Xun Xu before but really fleshes it out. Thank you WWD
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Jordan » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:00 am

I need this book.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Xu Yuan » Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:11 am

'The music of a dying state is sad and full of longing, and its people are full of misery.') As noted before, several scholars who were allied with Ruan Xian undertook an archaeological expedition to prove that the Cao Wei chi length was the classically-correct one. But this comment apparently deeply offended Xun Xu, who had Ruan Xian demoted and sent off to Shiping, where he spent the rest of his life, devoting time to his Xiongnu 匈奴 wife and his children.

That's... kind of adorable. I had no idea Ruan Xian settled down (with a foreigner at that) to focus on his family. It seems very often that when someone is exiled in the time period they either die of depression in short order or they scheme to get back into court somehow (Yang Biao also being the exceptions of this).

All in all an incredible synopsis. Who would have known that Xun Yu's kinsman would turn out to be such a magnificent, but deeply flawed fellow? His fall seems well aligned with the issues at the time and it doesn't seem like Zhang Hua got to bask in his victory for long, hearing all of the scholarly debate section is quite intriguing and I love the little quip about Chen Shou being too pro-Cao (because Xun Xu favored disowning the Cao-Wei all together) He would have gotten along well with Xi Zuochi.

So does that mean that the SGZ was compiled under the direction of Zhang Hua's faction then when?
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby ivolga » Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:03 pm

Thank you very much, WeiWenDi, for posting summaries of chapters from his book!

There is one thing that interests me greatly:
This is where Xun Xu starts to set out his programme for 'fixing' the official flutes for the Jin Dynasty, by redesigning them according to his recently-reformed chi measure. Xun and Lie put forward a programme for the Jin Emperor, for the design of a full set of twelve six-holed di flutes 笛子. These flutes, Xun hoped, would be the standards by which all of the other instruments in the orchestra would be tuned, and would provide a perfect, standard pitch to be used by all court ensembles.

Does the book specify, whether they used transverse, side-blown flutes, or vertical, end-blown flutes? The thing is, now 笛 (or 笛子) di means the transverse flute, and the vertical flute is called 箫 xiao. However, back then it was the vertical flute (modern xiao) which was called di. It would have been more logical for Xun Xu and Lie He to use vertical flutes, but I don't think vertical flutes of that time were referred as 笛子, just 笛...

If you (or anyone here) still have this book, could you please tell me, did they use vertical or transverse flutes? Also does this book contain a lot info about flutes?

(This may be a bit off-topic for a Three Kingdoms forum, but I'm very interested in the history of the xiao flute, and info about it is a bit hard to find.)
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Fornadan » Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:08 pm

Zhang Hua was one of Empress Jia's main allies and a leading scholar at court for more than a decade, so there was nothing brief about his ascendancy
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