Fang Hao(方豪) and Zhongxi jiaotong shi(中西交通史) - Its Meanings and Limitations in History of Historiography -
This paper examines the life and achievements of modern Chinese historian Fang Hao(1910-1980) and the meanings of Zhongxi jiaotong shi, one of his representative achievements, in history of historiography including its composition, materials, characteristics and limitations.
It is thought that the author, who had never had any formal professional education of history, was able to write a masterpiece of this field not only due to the atmosphere of Chinese universities and academia of the time which emphasized competence rather than educational background, but also with his own effort and will as the greatest driving force. The author lived an extraordinary life by consistently publishing numerous wide-ranging academic writings during his busy daily life of actively participating in various conferences and research institute activities, while fulfilling his duties as a Catholic priest, a director of a press, and a professor as well.
Zhongxi jiaotong shi is a book that almost completely summarizes the history of Sino-Western exchange from the prehistoric era to the mid-Qing Dynasty, and it’s difficult to find a research comparable to this in terms of composition, cited materials, historical investigation and perspective. While it describes the relations with the West in a chronological order until the late-Ming dynasty, which is when the contact between China and the West began in earnest, it takes an exceptional approach regarding the Sino-Western cultural exchange mainly developed by Western missionaries after the late-Ming dynasty, by dealing in detail according to each academic discipline. In addition, the trustworthiness of historical investigation is increased by the comparative analysis of various domestic and foreign materials and preceding studies including excavated artifacts and ancient legends, and in some cases it shows flexibility of using materials from East Asian countries that are not in the research range. Moreover, comprehending the phenomenon of Sino-Western exchange from the world-history perspective and focusing on indirect and trivial relations were rare attempts compared to preceding researches.
This book not only has expanded the horizon of studies on the history of Sino-Western exchange through finding out historical sources and individual researches unnoticed by others, but is also characterized by solving long-standing issues of academia and correcting errors of related materials and preceding researches which led to a lot of new interpretations. This has been made possible due to the author’s solid basis of Chinese studies, excellent foreign language skills, detailed historical investigation, and his own unique view of the history. The author focused on studying the Sino-Western cultural exchanges during the late-Ming and the early-Qing period because, other than the environmental factors of his growing up and being a priest, he considered the continuation of cultural exchanges with the spirit of mutual equality and respect as the most ideal direction for human society’s coexistence and convergence. As a member of the generation that had experienced inequalities and invasions between China and the West since the Opium War, this perception of the author is thought to be an academic attitude ahead of the times.
Although this book has a lot of strengths shown above, it has problems such as poor readability due to the systematic limitation of writing practices of the time, and the misprints caused by rushing printing to use it as a textbook. Quite a few imperfections such as contents that seem to be the author’s mistake or misunderstanding and the lack of consistency(unity) are found additionally. As the author was also aware of these shortcomings and was very dissatisfied by them, it’s a shame he did not have an opportunity to make corrections and supplementations to the end. Nevertheless, the publication of this book is judged to have historiographic status and meanings in that it has laid the foundation for researches of a history of Sino-Western exchanges and raised the level one step further by integrating previous research outcomes and pioneering new research perspective and area.