||When Chun Qiu was passed down to Kangxi in the early Qing Dynasty, it had already had a history of two millennia in which it underwent elaborations and explanations by both emperors and scholars. The preceding explicatory attempts had accumulated to not only form an enormous system of interpretation but also develop many important issues.|
After having ascended to authority, Emperor Kangxi commissioned the Hanlin imperial academicians to expound Chun Qiu for him. Kangxi Emperor’s Chun Qiu Jie Yi (referred to hereafter as Chun Qiu Jie Yi) is an anthology of the teaching materials used in the lectures. As newcomers to the long procession of previous interpreters of Chun Qiu, Kangxi and the academicians could not help having to respond to both the existent scholarship on the gist and calligraphy of the classic and the issues foregrounded by biographies and explanatory notes on which their own explications were based. Moreover, when it came to appropriating and extolling Chinese classics, the emperors reigning at the dawn of the Qing Dynasty, being foreign rulers, could not possibly bypass the exegetical tradition of Chun Qiu and were expected to declare their perspectives on the issues emphasized therein. Therefore, one of the aims of this dissertation is to examine how Chun Qiu Jie Yi responds to the issues in the exegetical system of Chun Qiu.
In addition, Chun Qiu Jie Yi should be regarded as a work collaboratively written by Emperor Kangxi and his assembly of lecturers specializing in classics, known as rijiang officials. Since as early as the Song Dynasty, the jingyan rijiang officials have conferred upon themselves grand ideals and great duties, maintaining “the greatest responsibilities of the country rest upon the shoulders of zaixiang (the prime minister) and jingyan: whereas the former is responsible for bringing order and peace to the country, the latter is held accountable for imparting morality and virtues to the sovereign.” In Qing, a dynasty characterized by the growing concentration of power in one individual, becoming the emperor’s rijiang official virtually amounted to an opportunity of a lifetime, for it allowed scholars to mold the sovereign’s thinking thoroughly over an extended period of time, thereby enabling them to realize their aspiration of bettering the world. Since Chun Qiu primarily concerns events in the political realm, it has lent itself to initiating and facilitating discussions of politics as the rijiang officials saw fit. Here, what demands attention is that, in the study, the monarch temporarily assumed the role of a student while his officials preached. Beyond the study, however, the hierarchy was resumed and the ruler-subject relationship was restored. Such alternation of the dual relationship is also an aspect worthy of further consideration in Chun Qiu Jie Yi. This dissertation intends to compare the exegetic works cited in Chun Qiu Jie Yi, in hopes of assessing the attainability of the rijiang officials’ aspiration to act as the emperor’s mentors.
The dissertation approaches Chun Qiu Jie Yi as a historical activity. Hence, it attempts to contextualize the anthology, to reconstruct the circumstances in which Kangxi and his rijiang officials undertook the explication of Chu Qiu, and to scrutinize their interpretive behaviors and the underlying ideologies as well as purposes. On the grounds of this premise, when discussing the hermeneutic activities in Chun Qiu Jie Yi, the dissertation aims to first point out the ideas the anthology conveys, highlighting its concerns about a sovereign’s method of governing a country. Second, the dissertation shifts the focus from what the anthology is about to how Kangxi and his officials’ viewpoints on political doctrines were articulated. It proceeds to analyze the hermeneutics as well as ensuing pitfalls of Chun Qiu Jie Yi, with the aim of calling attention to the similarities between the anthology’s reading of Chun Qiu and the decoding activity that extends from the author (real or implied) to the reader (real or ideal) as proposed in the contemporary theory of narratology. Third, the dissertation zeroes in on the exegetic works cited in Chun Qiu Jie Yi in order to, on the one hand, investigate the anthology’s response to and evasion of key issues accentuated by scholars of preceding dynasties and the history of Chu Qiu studies and, on the other hand, probe into the interrelationship between the exegesis of the classic and the political appropriation of such a literary classic as exemplified therein. Finally, the dissertation ventures to suggest that in the heart of the hermeneutics adopted in Chun Qiu Jie Yi lies a structure akin to a flower with multiple layers of petals—a structure of thinking wherein the anthology strives to both establish its legitimacy in understanding the profound teachings of Confucius and canonize its interpretation as the paradigm their literary and political successors would consult. It concerns not only how traditional intellectuals approached an ancient classic but also how scholars of Han descent, in particular, consciously appropriated the classic to serve their roles as teachers for a foreign emperor in early Qing.