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Kaozheng 考證 ("search for evidence"[1]), also kaoju xue 考據學 ("evidential scholarship") - a school and approach to study and research in China from about 1600 to 1850. It was most prominent during the rule of Qianlong and Jiaqing Emperors of the Qing dynasty (hence the alternate name zh:乾嘉學派). For ancient Chinese texts it corresponds to the methods of modern textual criticism and this was sometimes associated with an empirical approach to scientific topics too.

History and controversies

Some of the most important first generation of Qing thinkers were Ming loyalists, at least in their hearts, including Gu Yanwu, Huang Zongxi, and Fang Yizhi. Partly in reaction to the presumed laxity and excess of the late Ming, they turned to Kaozheng, or evidential learning, which emphasized careful textual study and critical thinking. [2]

Rather than regarding kaozheng as a local phenomenon of Jiangnan and Beijing areas, it has been proposed to view it as a general trend in development of Chinese scholarship in light of contribution of Cui Shu (1740-1816).[3]

Towards the end of the Qing and in the early 20th century, reform scholars such Liang Qichao, Hu Shi and Gu Jiegang saw in kaozheng a step towards development of empirical mode of scholarship and science in China. Conversely, Carsun Chang and Xu Fuguan criticized kaozheng as intellectually sterile and politically dangerous.[4]

While Yu Ying-shih in the late 20th century has tried to demonstrate continuity between kaozheng and neo-Confucianism in order to provide a non-revolutionary basis for Chinese culture, Benjamin Elman has argued that kaozheng constituted "an empirical revolution" that broke with the stance of neo-Confucian combination of teleological considerations with scholarship.[5]

See also


  1. Quirin, 36 n.9.
  2. Mote (1999), p. 852-855.
  3. Quirin, 37-8.
  4. Quirin, 36-7.
  5. Quirin, 37-8.


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  • Quirin, Michael. "Scholarship, Value, Method, and Hermeneutics in Kaozheng: Some Reflections on Cui Shu (1740-1816) and the Confucian Classics". History and Theory 35.4:34-53. Available at www.academicroom.com, retrieved 18.5.2014.
  • Krebs, Edward S. 1998. Liu's prison essays. Chapter 4 of Shifu, Soul of Chinese Anarchism. Rowan & Littlefeld Publishers. 48-50 (at google books)
  • Kenji, Shimada. Pioneer of the Chinese Revolution: Zhang Binglin and Confucianism. Translated by Joshua A. Fogel. 58-60 (at google books)
  • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. 103-105. (at google books)