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Forgery, Banditry, and Advanced Mathematics: The Curious Academic Lineage of Kong Yingda (574–648) in the Sui and Northern Dynasties

Abstract : Lead editor of the Orthodox Meaning of the Five Classics (Wujing zhengyi 五經正義) and Chancellor of the Tang Directorate of Education, it is hard to think of a Confucian scholar more influential or ‘orthodox’ than Kong Yingda 孔穎達 (574–648). The same cannot be said of his schoolmasters, Liu Zhuo 劉焯 (544–610) and Liu Xuan 劉炫 (c.546–c.613). In this talk, I will tell their story. Liu Zhuo and Liu Xuan were no less influential in Kong Yingda’s day than Kong Yingda is in ours. Known as ‘the Two Lius’, theirs is a touching story of two best friends from childhood who returned home from the capital in their forties to establish their own place of learning in the provinces – a private school that would attract such elite pupils as Kong Yingda and Zhang Shiheng 張士衡 (d. 645), teacher of Jia Gongyan 賈公彥 (fl. 637), and from which they would write the classical subcommentaries that Kong and Jia would synthesize and, ultimately, supplant. Their school was also something of a madhouse. Liu Zhuo was a visionary in li 曆 mathematical astronomy, who, constantly outmanoeuvred at court, took out his frustration by writing classical commentary that, in Kong’s words, ‘invariably falls back on numbers, invoking the Classics as all but complementary reading, … which leaves the teacher vexed and full of doubts, and the student toiling with little reward’. And the two did not so much decide to return home as they were reduced to commoners and ejected from the capital after Liu Xuan was caught forging ‘lost works’ to collect money from the court’s library-restoration campaign. Equally worth mentioning is that, shortly after Kong Yingda’s departure and Liu Zhuo’s death, the school’s student body joined a gang of local bandits, whom they convinced to extract Liu Xuan from behind the walls of the commandery seat to make him their bandit leader. This may sound like a world apart from that of Kong Yingda and Jia Gongyan, in the early Tang (618–907), but it is that of their youth, and, as I hope to show, it is one that deeply informed their later careers.
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Contributor : Daniel Morgan <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 28, 2019 - 9:33:41 AM
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Daniel Patrick Morgan. Forgery, Banditry, and Advanced Mathematics: The Curious Academic Lineage of Kong Yingda (574–648) in the Sui and Northern Dynasties. Early Medieval China Workshop, INALCO, Nov 2019, Paris, France. ⟨halshs-02335042⟩

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