Revisiting Chen Yinke’s Historical Explanations——The Cases of An Alternative Biography of Liu Rushi and Hu Shi’s Annotated Version of On “Love Destiny Reborn”
Wang Fansen;Institute of History and Philology,"Academia Sinica";
Aiming at "standing in the same realm with ancient theory founders", Chen Yinke(陈寅恪) formulated his historical explanations by reconstructing the historical actors' own repertoires of decisions and intentions. With the concepts of "symbolizing process", "invisible order"(隐形的条理), and "literary writing mechanism", this paper first captures the key features of Chen Yinke's approach to the integration of poetic evidence with historical evidence. In his historical hierarchical explanations, Chen not only traced specific contexts of his research subjects through allusions used in their verses and proses. Based on a comprehensive understanding of the social conventions of literary production, he also grasped the otherwise unseen centrifugal and centripetal forces in the social networks of history. Such an empathetic approach to historical explanation, however, could not fully convince Hu Shi(胡适), another towering figure renowned for evidential research. The second half of this paper begins with an under-research copy of Chen Yinke's article On "Love Destiny Reborn"(《论再生缘》) owned by Hu Shi. In 1958, shortly after obtaining this mimeographed copy in Taipei, Hu Shi expressed his reservations and disagreements by annotating in the margins. As seen in these annotations—ranging from question marks to written comments, such as "speculative" — Hu Shi remained skeptical on Chen's imaginative approach to social conventions, which I call "invisible order", in history. While Chen Yinke sought for explanations that were at once emotional and historical, and urged researchers to be intellectual equals with the traditional "gentlemen with comprehensive knowledge connecting past and present", Hu Shi, regardless of his appreciation of bold hypotheses, maintained the principle of careful verification. These unpublished materials, I contend, reveal two significantly different attitudes towards historical methods in historiography in the period of the Republic of China, that have been hidden under the umbrella term of evidential research.