UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Scholars and their marginalia in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) Wei, Yinzong


Marginalia are a variety of writings and symbols drawn by readers on the pages of books. In Chinese history, marginalia were rare in both records and physical books before the late Ming (1368-1644). The early-Qing (1644-1911) calligrapher, bibliophile, and textual scholar He Zhuo (1661-1722) devoted himself to reading and collating books and composed marginalia on hundreds of titles. After his death, the composition and transcription of marginalia started to become a popular scholarly practice. The transcription of marginalia helped to build up a rather efficient model of transmitting information, knowledge, and thought among scholars. It formed a particular scholarly culture—a systematic way for scholars to think and behave. This study explores how this scholarly culture took form, gained momentum, and shaped scholarly styles and scholars’ lives, thoughts, mental states in the Qing dynasty. The main part of this study is made up of four chapters. Chapter 2 introduces the characteristics of marginalia in comparison with other Chinese interpretive texts. Chapter 3 is a case study of He Zhuo’s marginalia. Focusing on He’s marginalia on the Hou Hanshu (History of the Later Han Dynasty [25-220]), this chapter explores He’s reading habits and scholarly practices, and their influence on later scholars and readers. Chapter 4 is concerned with questions of who participated in the practice of transcribing marginalia, how different participants were involved in the process of transcription, and their motives and attitudes. Chapter 5 analyses different transcriptionists’ colophons, so as to explore their private lives and mental states. Qing scholars spent an enormous amount of time and energy composing and transcribing marginalia. They were concerned with both content and form of marginalia. In this process, scholars not only tried to accumulate knowledge, but also pursued its aesthetic values. They inherited reading habits and scholarly approaches from Ming scholars, and developed their own way of reading, doing research, and living.

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