Li Xueqin dies at 85 (5)

Thanks to Sarah Allen for her comments. I disagree, but let me also repeat that I do think Li Xueqin accomplished many feats of scholarship for which he should be credited and commended.

But not without discussion of questionable sides of his scholarship, which I wrote about, as mentioned. And yes I was there when he told us “I believe the old books,” that is: We should not be skeptical. And I’ll certainly side with those of his colleagues who argued, against Li, that no discovery of excavated texts or the like since the time of the original critical ‘doubts’ of Gu Jiegang and his colleagues, suggest that the time has come for such skepticism to be ‘left behind’ or ‘transcended.’

BTW, here is yet one more remembrance of Li, published today, which includes discussion of Li’s role in the debates over the matching of the mentions in the classics of a Xia Dynasty, with unnamed material remains — a chapter of its own in the discussion about skepticism towards the received classics, and, one which Professor Allen brought up too):

It too omits discussion of what I see as the deeply misguided (and very political) ideas Li helped shape and promote of ‘relics’ as incarnating a ‘culture’ essence, including in his role as chief advisor to latter-day repatriation activists — which perhaps not everyone is acquainted with — but which to me align very clearly with a conservatist embrace of tradition ‘for its own sake’ and an accompanying reluctance or refusal to examine topics such as inequality, exploitation or its mystification as enshrined in the glories of received cultural tradition and its embodiments. Which is why, in my earlier writings about Li, I suggested his anti-skepticism and the conservative cultural stance brought to bear on repatriation went hand in hand. At the 1990s meeting, he also resolutely dismissed ‘tout court’ a discussion of culture as a concept — likely because it might have disturbed the coherence of this cultural conservatism.

Again, none of this is to detract from his many accomplishments. He even visited the MFEA in Stockholm (before my time there), to re-examine and re-read the oracle bones there, publishing a volume just on them.


Magnus Fiskesjö <>

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