An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Liu Shipei 劉師培

May 7, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Liu Shipei 劉師培 (1882-1920), courtesy name Shenshu 申叔, style Zuo'an 左庵, was a philosopher and specialist of the Confucian Classics (jingxue 經學 "studies of the Classics") living during the last years of imperial times and the first decade of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Liu was a conservative nationalist.

Liu hailed from Yizheng 儀征, Jiangsu. He obtained his juren degree in 1902 and was admitted to the metropolitan examination a year later which he was able to pass. On his way back he became acquainted with Zhang Taiyan 章太炎 (Zhang Binglin 章炳麟, 1869-1936), a thinker of the revolutionary wing. Under his influence, Liu adopted the name Guanghan 光漢 "Elucidating the Han people", which meant that he opted for overturning the rule of the Manchu Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) and give back rulership into the hand of the Chinese people. He spread his his slogan "expel the Manchus and turn over their rule" (pai Man ge ming 排滿革命) in several of his newspapers, most importantly the Jingzhong ribao 警鐘日報 and Guocui xuebao 國粹學報.

In 1907, Liu Shipei and his wife He Yinzhen 何殷震 (c. 1884-c.1920) travelled to Japan, where he became a member of the revolutionary party Tongmenghui 同盟會, the predecessor of the Guomindang 國民黨. In this journals Tianyibao 天義報 and Hengbao 衡報, Liu spread the ideas of feminism, communism and anarchism. Convinced by Zhang Taiyan, Liu published in the journal Minbao 民報 his ideas of revolution against the Manchus, which he did not see as subjects of the Chinese empire, but as intruders (Manzhou fei Zhongguo zhi chenmin 滿洲非中國之臣民). Appealing to the Han-Chinese people (Pugao Hanren 普告漢人), he rediscovered the report of the ten-days long Manchu atrocities in 1644 in the city of Yangzhou (Yangzhou shiri ji 揚州十日記) and propagated it to incite revolution against the "foreign usurpers".

In 1908, Liu became a retainer of Grand Minister Duanfang 端方 (1861-1911) and discarded his revolutionary thoughts as well as his adherence of anarchism which led to his split with Zhang Taiyan. After the foundation of the Republic in 1912, Liu Shipei joined the political party Chou'anhui 籌安會 "Society planning for peace", which supported the attempts of President Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859-1916) to revive the imperial system with himself as emperor. When Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 (1868-1940) was made president of Peking University (Beijing Daxue 北京大學) in 1917, Liu Shipei was appointed Professor for Chinese Literature. Two years later, he founded the monthly Guogu xuekan 國故學刊 "National Affairs", which he used to criticize the May Fourth Movement (wusi yundong 五四運動) which, among others, promoted the use of the vernacular language in literary writings, the so-called "New Literature Movement" (xin wenhua yundong 新文化運動). Liu Shipei died in 1920 from a pulmonary disease.

As a philosopher, Liu Shipei continued an interpretative tradition which some of his ancestors had founded, namely his great-grandfather Liu Wenqi 劉文淇 (1789-1857), his grandfather Liu Yusong 劉毓崧 (1818-1867), and his paternal uncle Liu Shouceng 劉壽曾 (1838-1882), all of which can be counted as members of the Qian-Jia School (Qian-Jia Hanxue 乾嘉漢學). The three were interpreters of the ancient Classic Chunqiu-Zuozhuan 春秋左傳. Liu Shipei himself produced two books on that Classic, namely a study on place names (Zuozhuan yi di er ming kao 左傳一地二名考), and one on official titles (Guanzhi yitong kao 官制異同考). As a child, he had been able to use correctly the emulation of Yijing 易經 hexagrams. During all his life, Liu Shipei continued to study and teach the development of the interpretation of the Classics corpus, as can be seen, for instance, in his textbook Jingxue jiaokeshu 經學教科書, which describes the origins of the Classics studies, the development of various schools, and the exegesis of each of the particular Classics texts. This book was the basis for all overviews of Classics studies to come. A summary of his findings on the Classics is his collections Zuo'an ji 左盦集 and Zuo'an waiji 左盦外集.

Apart from the Classics, Liu Shipei studied many other early texts and systematically wrote new commentaries on them, like Mozi shibu 墨子拾補, Laozi jiaobu 老子斠補, Zhuangzi jiaobu 莊子斠補, Guanzi jiaobu 管子斠補, Yanzi chunqiu jiaobu 晏子春秋斠補, Xunzi jiaobu 荀子斠补, Hanfeizi jiaobu 韓非子斠補 or Chuci kaoyi 楚辭考異. Liu was also interested in recent discoveries and compiled a short book on Tang-period 唐 (618-907) manuscripts discovered in Dunhuang, Dunhuang xinchu Tang xieben tiyao 敦煌新出唐寫本提要. Many of his scholarly products were published in the serial Guocui xuebao 國粹學報.

Being very interested in political matters, Liu Shipei integrated his philosophy into a political theory. He interpreted various statements of the Classics as a postulation that "the people was the root" of governance (min ben 民本). In this way he was able to prove that the Qing rulers did not follow these principles but had to be eliminated. The most important writings with this purpose were Liang-Han xueshu fawei lun 兩漢學術發微論, Qunjing dayi xiangtong lun 群經大義相通論, Du Zuo zhaji 讀左劄記, and his book Rangshu 攘書, in which he described the usurpation of China by the Manchus.

The collected writings of Liu Shipei, Liu Shenshu xiansheng yishu 劉申叔先生遺書, were edited by Qian Xuantong 錢玄同 (1887-1939).

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 300.