Reading between the Lines of a Classical Chinese Prose Anthology

Guwen guanzhi as a Subtle Challenge to State Orthodoxy


  • Jyrki Kallio Finnish Institute of International Affairs



Literary Chinese, anthologies, orthodoxy, censorship, Guwen guanzhi, 中國文學, 選集, 正統觀念, 審查制度, 《古文觀止》


Guwen guanzhi, first published in 1695, is the most renowned anthology of classical Chinese prose, and is still widely read in schools within Greater China. This article challenges the conventional assumptions that such anthologies in general echoed the imperial orthodoxy, and could not favour heterodox views, and that Guwen guanzhi in particular was just an ordinary anthology based on an imperially approved model, Guwen yuanjian, without any other independent merits than its concise size. The analysis in this article suggests that Guwen guanzhi promoted diversity of thought and autonomous virtue both in terms of its approach to education and its critique towards authoritarianism. While it is impossible to say how intentional this was on the part of the anthology’s compilers, Guwen guanzhi is nevertheless an example of how unorthodox ideas could have been promoted in a subdued manner.



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