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The Influence of Song and Qing Antiquarianism on Modern Chinese Archaeology

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image of Ming Qing Yanjiu

Archaeology has been introduced to China in the early twentieth century thanks to the crucial theoretical and methodological contribution of the Western world. Though the emergence of archaeology as a field of study reflected a growing interest among Chinese scholars in empirically based science it is also true that the interest for ancient artefacts and the material traces of the past has been a salient characteristic of Chinese historical accounts since antiquity. Indeed, what scholars termed antiquarianism can be traced to two key works of the Northern Song period, the Kaogu tu by Lü Dalin and the Bogu tu by Wang Fu. The influence of both works is still very visible in the classification of ritual bronze vessels. The other key moment in collecting culture and antiquarian studies was the very long reign of Qianlong, whose art collections exceeded any previous one. Though the investigation methods of Song and Qing literati were certainly different from modern ones it is also true that their cultural tradition remains in many ways a characteristic trait of Chinese archaeology.

Affiliations: 1: * Dept. Asian, African and Mediterranean Studies, Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”, Italy.


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