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A Social History of the Chinese BookBooks and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China$
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Joseph P. McDermott

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9789622097810

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789622097810.001.0001

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Literati Writings and the Case of Qian Jinren

Literati Writings and the Case of Qian Jinren

(p.171) 6 Literati Writings and the Case of Qian Jinren
A Social History of the Chinese Book

Joseph P. McDermott

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter returns to the case of Qian Jinren. The understanding of his situation will be transformed by what has been learned of the life and learning of the literati and scholars whose writings he fervently admired. After offering a brief account of Qian Jinren's learning and literacy, the chapter examines the various understandings of the benefits of literacy and the book in late imperial times and then compares Qian's appreciation of them with that of his literati admirers in Suzhou. It starts by summarizing common economic, moral, social, and religious perceptions of literacy, books, and book collecting, and then considers the extraordinary case of Qian Jinren. Qian's use of his literacy ran counter not just to some widespread assumptions of his time but also to the far wider intellectual commitments of his literati admirers, particularly Peng Shaosheng. The history of literate men, their literacies and the book in late imperial China was far too complicated and unpredictable to allow for such a boring “happy ending”.

Keywords:   Qian Jinren, literati writings, learning, literacy, Peng Shaosheng, China, Suzhou

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