Pre-Modern History: Some Trends in Writing the History of the Song (10th–13th Centuries)



During the Cultural Revolution period (1966–76), there were some bold efforts to integrate a few sinicised Marxist concepts with selected bits of pre-modern Chinese history and to use them to conduct political campaigns. Two attempts were especially striking: adapting the idea of class struggle to a very Chinese Two-line struggle’, in this case, the struggle between backward Confucians and progressive Legalists; and modifying the idea of restoration to explain how that struggle swayed back and forth through the centuries until the present.1 After 1977, these efforts were condemned as having gone totally astray; it was said not only that politics had overwhelmed history-writing, which was not surprising, but also that the political struggle of the time had led to the abuse and distortion of key Marxist ideas themselves. The pent-up anger against that particular development in ‘political’ history as inspired by the Gang of Four and epitomised by the writings of Liang Xiao and Lo Siding came across with great vehemence. Since then, nothing published between 1966 and October 1976 is considered to have had any merit in it whatsoever. One aspect of that ‘political’ history which aroused the greatest indignation among some orthodox Marxists, was the way the writing of pre-modern history between 1973 and 1976 had turned economic base and superstructure upside down.


Song Dynasty Thirteenth Century Historical Materialism Chinese History Class Struggle 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Again, many studies have appeared on this topic. In 1977, I commented on this point at the Leverhulme conference on China held in Hong Kong: ‘Recent Reinterpretations of History’, in Lee Ngok and Leung Chi-keung (eds.), China: Development and Challenge, (University of Hong Kong, 1979) pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Frederick Wakeman, Jr, ‘Historiography in China after “Smashing the ‘Gang of Four’”’, The China Quarterly, no. 76 (December 1978) pp. 891–911; Alex Volkoff and Edgar Wickberg, ‘New Directions in Chinese historiography — Reappraising the Taiping: Notes and Comments’, Pacific Affairs vol 52, no. 3 (Fall 1979) pp. 479–90;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anne F. Thurston and Jason H. Parker (eds), Humanistic and Social Science Research in China: recent history and future prospects (Social Science Research Council, N. Y. 1980), the essays by Chan Hok-lam pp. 21–37; Paul A. Cohen and Merle Goldman pp, 38–60);Google Scholar
  4. Liu Kwang-Ching, ‘World View & Peasant Rebellion: reflections on Post-Mao Historiography’, Journal of Asian Studies, vol XL, no. 2 (February 1981) pp. 295–326;Google Scholar
  5. Albert F. Feuerwerker (ed.), Chinese Social and Economic history from the Song to 1900: report of the American Delegation to a Sino-American sympsium, Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies, no. 45 (Ann Arbor, 1982) — the essays by G. William Skinner, Robert M. Hartwell, Brian E. McKnight and Gilbert Rozman are especially relevant.Google Scholar
  6. Two other essays are also helpful: they are those by Y. C. Wang and by S. Naquin in Frederic Wakeman, Jr (ed.), Ming and Qing Historical Studies in the People’s Republic of China, China Research Monograph no. 17 (Berkeley, 1980) pp. 96–103 and 104–12.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    See also the survey of the 1981–2 studies on historical theory by Su Shuangbi in Zhongguo Lishi Xue Niangjian 1983 (Beijing, 1983) pp. 1–7. In the Lishi Yanjiu di lilun yu fangfa (Hongqi collection), two are noteworthy: Su Shuangbi’s call to develop Marxist historiography, pp. 61–72; and Ge Maochun on how to use the class struggle viewpoint in historical research, pp. 117–31.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    The curiosity about foreign models does not necessarily lead to adoption. There are relatively few attempts to use borrowed terminoloy; see the critical discussion of the use of communication theory and of cybernetics in Bai Gang, Zhongguo Fengjian Shehui Changqi Yanxu Wenti Lunzhan ti Youlai yu Fazhan (The origin and development of the debate over the extended continuation of Chinese feudal society; Beijing: Zhongguo shehui Kexue, 1984) pp. 246–53.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Zhongguo Shijie Zhongshijishi yangjiuhui lishihui (ed.), Xueshu Lunwenji (Xining: Renmin, 1982).Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    For a brief outline of how the debate developed until 1962, see Sun Zomin, ‘Chuli lishi shang minzu guanxi di jige zhongyao zhunze’ (‘Some important principles on dealing with nationality relations in history’), Lishi Yanjiu, 5, 1980, pp.37–42.Google Scholar
  11. 33.
    The most famous essays on the subject are Ouyang Xiu’s ‘Zhengtong Lun’ (‘On Legitimacy’). For these and other texts, see Zhao Lingyang (Chiu Ling-yeong), Guanyu Lidai Zhengtong Wenti zhi Zhenglun (Xuejin: Hong Kong, 1976) pp.78–104; and Rao Zongyi (Jao Tsung-i), Zhongguo Shixue shang zhi Zhengtong Lun (Hong Kong: Longmen, 1977) pp.28–37, 71–109.Google Scholar
  12. 35.
    The literary and artistic works of the tenth to thirteenth centuries were not neglected, only the history of the Wudai, Song, Liao, Xi Xia and Jin states and Chinese society in general. One area was given special attention: the peasant rebellions of the period. But they were almost never studied in terms of the actual circumstances of the times, but simply as important segments of the whole history of such rebellions from Chen Sheng and Wu Guang of the 3rd century BC to the Taiping Rebellion in the nineteenth century. As for the questions of qualitative change reflected in continuous debates about periodisation in premodern history, there is a detailed history of the debates in Lin Ganchuan, Tian Renlong and Li Zude, Zhongguo Gudaishi Fenqi Taolun Wushinian (Fifty Years of Debate on the Periodisation of Ancient Chinese History; Shanghai: Renmin, 1982). Another example of the debate on feudal society is Bai Gang’s Zhonggu Fengjian Shehui (see note 12 above); together with that on ‘the sprouts of capitalism’, there were occasional discussions on socio-economic questions of the tenth to thirteenth centuries. But these centuries were never central to the debate and attracted little mention.Google Scholar
  13. 45.
    There is a brief account in Song Shi (Zhonghua edition) vol 495, pp. 14214–18. Significantly, this is not under the Waiguo (Foreign countries) section together with Jiaozhi (chuan 488), but under the Manyi (Barbarian Tribes) section. The best accounts are in Sima Guang, Sushui Jiwen (Taibei: Shijie, 1962) chuan 13, pp. 130–47Google Scholar
  14. (also in Jiang Shaoyu, Songchao Shishi Leiyuan [Shanghai: Guji, 1981] vol.2, pp. 1000–9);Google Scholar
  15. and in Li You, Songchao Shishi (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1955), pp.253–7.Google Scholar
  16. For an excellent study of the Nong Zhigao rebellion, see Kawahara Masahiro, ‘Nō Chikō no hanran to Kōshi’ (‘Nong Zhigao’s rebellion and Jiaozhi’), Hōsei Shigaku (Tokyo) 12, 1959, pp.25–47.Google Scholar
  17. 49.
    Bai Gang, ‘Zhong Xiang Yang Yao Yishi’ ji qi Shibao Jiazhi (On the ‘Zhong Xiang Yang Yao Yishi’ and its value as historical data; Taiyuan: Renmin, 1978). Bai Gang was already the ranking expert on peasant rebellions and wrote the report on the research done in 1979 for Zhongguo Lishixue Nianjian 1979 (Yearbook on Chinese History; Hong Kong: Sanlian, 1981) pp. 40–52.Google Scholar
  18. 50.
    Bai Gang, ‘Ping “Sirenbang” zai nongmin zhanzhengshi lingyueli so zhizao di hunluan ji qi fangeming benzhi’ (‘On the confusion created by the “Gang of Four” in the field of peasant rebellion history and its anti-revolutionary nature’), in Zhongguo Nongmin Zhanzhengshi Luncun (Taiyuan: Renmin, 1978) vol. I pp. 1–25.Google Scholar
  19. 52.
    Bai Gang (with Xiang Xianghai), Zhong Xiang Yang Yao Qiyi Shimo (The history of the Zhong Xiang Yang Yao Uprisings; Taiyuan: Renmin, 1980).Google Scholar
  20. 53.
    Bai Gang, ‘Guanyu Fan Ru-wei qiyi di jige wenti’ (‘Some problems concerning Fan Ru-wei’s rebellion’), in Zhongguo Nongmin Zhanzhengshi Luncun, vol.II (Henan: Renmin, 1980) pp.231–71. The other was on the Fang La rebellion and was entitled, ‘“Shenggung” k’ao’ (‘A Study of “Shenggung”’) in the same series, vol.III (1981) pp.40–59.Google Scholar
  21. 55.
    Bai Gang, ‘Dangqian nongmin zhanzhengshi yanjiu zhong yizhong yingyu zhuyi di qingxiang’ (‘A trend worth noting in current researches on peasant rebellions’), in Zhongguo Nongmin Zhanzhengshi Yanjiu, vol.III (Shanghai: Renmin, 1983) pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  22. 62.
    The main work by Wu Tianxi appeared in 1980, Xi Xia Shigao (Draft History of Xi Xia; Chengdu: Renmin) while the smaller popular work by Zhong Kan et al., Xi Xia Jianshi (A short history of Xi Xia) was published in 1979 (Renmin: Yinchuan). For a technical study, the printing of 37 700 copies of Wu Tianxi’s book was unusual. It seems to have sold out, and the revised second edition (adding 28 pages of revisions) appeared in 1983, with 6000 copies printed.Google Scholar
  23. I should also note that there was in 1978 a reprint of Chen Shu’s Qidan Shehui Jingji Shigao (Draft history of Khitan Social and Economic History; (Beijing: Sanlian) first published in 1963. The next year, a popular history by Zhang Zhengming, Qidan Shilu (A short history of the Khitans) was published by Zhonghua, Beijing. In 1981, Chen Shu produced Liaodai Shihua (Historical Notes on the Liao; Renmin: Henan). The one serious study of the Jurchen Jin economy appeared in 1981. This is Zhang Boquan’s Jindai Jingji shilue (A brief economic history of the Jin dynasty; Renmin: Shenyang).Google Scholar
  24. A smaller work which includes all three conquest dynasties is Hong Huanchun’s Song Liao Xia Jin Shihua (Historical Notes on the Song, Liao, Xia and Jin dynasties; Beijing: Zhongguo Qingnian, 1981).Google Scholar

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© Michael B. Yahuda 1987

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