Gallery of Philologists

Chywæn Dzu-wang

29 January 1705 - 9 August 1755

Yellow River

Chywæn Dzu-wang was the third-generation descendant of a Ming loyalist in whose flight from the Manchus a notable library was lost. His son and grandson gradually reassembled it, mostly by copying. Chywaen himself while growing up was entranced by tales of the end of Ming, and also deeply nourished by the library.

His first, if unsuccessful, competition for a degree was at the age of sixteen. Part of the following years were spent at the Imperial Academy in Peking, where he met his older contemporary, the outspoken Fang Bau. He finally passed the preliminary examination in 1732, and the higher examination in . the whose flightwas the first scholar to detect, somewhere around 1751, the mixing of text and commentary in the Shwei-jing Ju (Waterways Survey), and to establish the principle on which the two could be systematically separated. He communicated this discovery to Jau Yi-ching (c1710 - c1764), who had also been working on this text, and in 1754 the two met and compared notes. In Jau's words, "we found that we had reached exactly the same results. We raised our cups to each other and laughed heartily. He then wrote a preface for my book."

Working independently, the younger scholar Dai Jvn (19 Jan 1724 - 1 July 1777), had also been at work on the Shwei-jing Ju, and had articulated four principles on which the text and commentary could be distinguished. His work was submitted in the summer of 1774 to the Imperial Library, and was immediately recognized as a masterpiece. Controversy later arose over whether he had plagiarized the work of Jau Yi-ching. It seems that three independent studies of the same work, on similar and correct principles, had led to the same correct result. Hu Shih's note on the question has the subtitle "A Study of Independent Convergence in Research as Illustrated in their Works on the Shui-ching Chu."

The moral to be drawn is that all correct philological work tends to converge.

Readings

  • Hu Shih. A Note on Ch'üan Tsu-wang, Chao I-ch'ing, and Tai Chen, in: Arthur E Hummel (ed), Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, U S Government Printing Office (1954) 2/970-982

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