Rupture and Continuity: Scholar-Official Clan Culture in the Six Dynasties and the Legacy of Chinese Civilization

in Frontiers of History in China
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In the Six dynasties, the clans of the scholar-official stratum not only occupied a dominant place in social and cultural life but also played an important role in maintaining Chinese civilization. As a succession of northern minorities entered the Central Plains, foreign culture became widespread and the Chinese people and culture experienced an unprecedented crisis. Thanks to the scholar-official clans who shouldered the burden of preserving Chinese culture, Chinese civilization was able to persist through the ages to become an “unbroken” civilization. These clans can be categorized in three groups according to their territorial origin: “Clans of the Wu Area” which developed in Jiangnan after the Han dynasty; “Immigrant Clans” which moved to Jiangnan from the north during the Jin dynasty and the ensuing dynasties, these being referred to jointly as “the Southern Clans”; and “the Northern Clans,” being those clans that remained in their homelands (Shandong and the Central Shaanxi Plain) during the period of ethno-national amalgamation in the north of China. Though these clans had various cultural characteristics due to different historical roots, cultural traditions and ancestry, their clan learning had a common core, i.e., the study and practice of Confucian rites as established in the Han dynasty. This formed the basis for the integration of Han with other cultures, making a sound foundation for the further development of the Chinese civilization.

Rupture and Continuity: Scholar-Official Clan Culture in the Six Dynasties and the Legacy of Chinese Civilization

in Frontiers of History in China

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