Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in Third-Century AD China


This biography of the court scholar Xun Xu explores central areas of intellectual life in third-century China — court lyrics, music, metrology, pitch systems, archeology, and historiography. It clarifies the relevant source texts in order to reveal fierce debates. Besides solving technical puzzles about the material details of court rites, the book unfolds factional struggles that developed into scholarly ones. Xun’s opponents were major figures like Zhang Hua and Zhi Yu. Xun Xu’s overall approach to antiquity and the derivation of truth made appeals to an idealized Zhou for authority. Ultimately, Xun’s precision and methods cost him both reputation and court status. The events mark a turning point in which ideals were moving away from such court constructs toward a relatively more philosophical antiquarianism and towards new terms and genres of self-expression.
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EUR €150.00USD $196.00

Biographical Note

Howard L. Goodman, Ph.D. Princeton University is editor of Asia Major (Academia Sinica, Taiwan). His focus is Chinese intellectual culture, 170-300 AD. His publications include Ts’ao P’i Transcendent (1998), “Sites of Recognition” ( Early Medieval China, 2009), “Chinese Polymaths” ( Asia Major, 2005).

Review Quote

'He [Goodman] has, indeed, given us both the large and small views of Xun Xu. Goodman’s breathtaking detailing of Xun Xu’s scholarship and career allows us to imagine the life of a third-century scholar-official in the most tangible way possible.'
Meow Hui Goh, Ohio State University, China Review International 16,4 (2009)


Students and scholars of pre-1800 Chinese history, society, and government. Scholars in history of medieval Western and E. Asian sciences, archeology, and antiquarianism; specialists in Chinese literature, bureaucracy, and musicology. All major academic libraries.


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