The transformations of Zhang Taiyan's interpretation of Zuo Zhuan 左传. Zuo commentary on the spring and autumn annals

Start - End 
2020 - 2020 (ongoing)



The topic of my research project are the transformations we can identify in Zhang Taiyan’s 章太炎 (1869-1936) interpretation of the Zuo zhuan 左傳  (Zuo Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals). As is well known, Zhang Taiyan was one of the most prominent and influential scholars of the late Qing and Republican period. Departing from “Old Text” Confucianism and as well as the modernization of academic research, Zhang developed a new interpretation of the Zuo zhuan which profoundly influenced the study of Confucianism and historiography in modern China. Focusing on three distinct stages in his reading of the Zuo zhuan as well as the broader system of ideas behind it allows us to better understand his changing interpretation and the formation of his ideas. The main topics of my research include 1) Zhang Taiyan’s views on “Old Text” vs. “New Text” Confucianism, 2) the question as to whether the Chunqiu 春秋 (Spring and Autumn Annals) counts as a “classic” (jing 經) or a “history” (shi 史), 3) the problem of whether the Zuo zhuan should be seen as a historical record or a commentary on the Chunqiu, 4) the relationship between the Zuo zhuan and other important commentaries such as the Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳and Guliang zhuan 穀梁傳, 5) Zhang’s approach to different commentators on the Zuo Zhuan throughout the ages such as Xunzi 荀子 (3rd century BCE), Liu Xin 劉歆 (ca 50 BCE – 30 CE),Jia Kui 賈逵 (30-101), and Du Yu 杜預 (222-285). As his viewpoints were constantly developing, I would compare different stages in the development of his reading of the Zuo zhuan, while taking into account both the changing and constant elements in his interpretation. The different transformations in Zhang Taiyan’s understanding of the Zuo zhuan, the Chunqiu, and other Confucian classics offers us with an ideal vantage point from which to study the position of canonical texts in modern Chinese thought.