Doubting Antiquity School

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The Doubting Antiquity School or Yigupai (Chinese: 疑古派; pinyin: Yígǔpài; Wade–Giles: I-ku-p'ai[1][2]) refers to a group of scholars and writers who show doubts and uncertainty of antiquity in the Chinese academia starting during the New Culture Movement, (mid 1910s and 1920s).

Most of their criticism concerns the authenticity of pre-Qin texts and deals with questions put forward by the past dynastic writers, as well as other subjects. Hu Shi initiated the critical movement,[1] with his pupil Gu Jiegang and his friend Qian Xuantong continuing this school of thought.[3] Their writings also had influence on many western sinologists, including Bernhard Karlgren and Samuel Griffith.

In a more specific way, the Doubting Antiquity School was represented by Gushibian 古史辨 (Debates on Ancient History), the scholarly movement led by Gu Jiegang, centered on the magazine of the same name. Seven issues of the magazine, 1926-1941, contain about 350 essays.

Major critics of the Doubting Antiquity School were historians associated with the Critical Review (Xueheng 學衡), a journal founded in 1922. The historians included Liu Yizheng, Liang Qichao (梁启超), Wang Guowei, Chen Yinque, and Miao Fenglin (繆鳳林).


Joseph Needham wrote in 1954 that many scholars doubted that classic texts such as Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian contained accurate information about such distant history, including the thirty kings of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–c. 1046 BC) listed by Sima. Many scholars argued that Sima could not have had access to written materials, which detailed history a millennium before his time. However, the discovery of oracle bones at an excavation of the Shang capital at Anyang (Yinxu) matched 23 names of the 30 Shang kings listed by Sima. Needham writes that this remarkable archaeological find proves that Sima Qian "did have fairly reliable materials at his disposal—a fact which underlines once more the deep historical-mindedness of the Chinese."[4]

In 1993, scholar Li Xueqin made an influential speech in which he called for historians to "leave the 'Doubting Antiquity' period", which became the manifesto of the "Believing Antiquity" movement. Scholars of this viewpoint argue that archaeological discoveries of recent decades have generally substantiated Chinese traditional accounts rather than contradicted them, rendering the doubts of the Doubting Antiquity School largely obsolete. For instance, manuscripts discovered in tombs have proved the authenticity of several texts long thought to be later forgeries, including the Wenzi, the Kongzi Jiayu, the Heguanzi, parts of the Yi Zhou Shu, and many others.[5]

List of early modern scholars[edit]

Prominent figures[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard Univ Asia Center. ISBN 0-674-00249-0. Page 345, see: [1]
  2. ^ Loewe, Michael and Edward L. Shaughnessy (1999). The Cambridge History of Ancient China Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47030-7. Page 72, see: [2]
  3. ^ De Bary, William Theodore (2001). Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 Through the Twentieth Century. Published by Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11271-8. p. 364.[3]
  4. ^ Needham, Joseph. (1972). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 1, Introductory Orientations. Richmond: Kingprint Ltd., reprinted by permission of the Cambridge University Press with first publication in 1954. ISBN 0-521-05799-X. Page 88, see: here.
  5. ^ Shaughnessy, Edward L. (2006). Rewriting Early Chinese Texts. SUNY Press. pp. 257–258. ISBN 9780791482353.

Further reading[edit]

  • Liu, Jianguo (2004). Distinguishing and Correcting the pre-Qin Forged Classics. Xi'an: Shaanxi People's Press. ISBN 7-224-05725-8.