2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Using Law and Classical Chinese Texts on Rites to Research Society: The Development of Dr. Tao Xisheng’s Research on Chinese Social History

Kuan-chung Huang

Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

Dr. Tao Xisheng was one of the few historical figures of modern China who deserves to be called an expert in various fields: He was not only a historian, jurist, political commentator, strategist, China expert, and a scholar of Communist theory, but also a statesman who served as an advisor in high political circles. This article attempts to provide a comprehensive account of Dr. Tao’s scholarship by examining his autobiography, scholarly works, as well as memoirs and recollections. The goal is to discuss Dr. Tao from the vantage point of his contributions to the development of modern Chinese scholarship, as well as his pioneering achievements in the field of Chinese social history.

During his early youth, Dr. Tao delved into the Chinese classics. Extensive readings in the social sciences and his study of English and Japanese works on this subject broadened his vision, and established a solid academic foundation marked by both breadth and expertise. In his later life, Dr. Tao dedicated himself to social and political reconstruction. While exploring the development of Chinese society and the origins of China’s modern predicament, Dr. Tao established a theoretical basis for revolution in China, thereby evoking the famous debate on Chinese social history.

Through the debate, Dr. Tao realized that only a firm understanding of historical facts could serve as a basis for scholarship on Chinese social history. Thus, he not only devoted himself to teaching Chinese political and social history at various universities, but also founded a semi-monthly journal entitled Shihuo (食貨), which mainly served as a scholarly forum for research on the social and economic history of China. Furthermore, Dr. Tao also established a small research centre for the study of Chinese economic history. This team emphasized the meticulous and organized study of historical materials and argued that only such concrete materials could serve as the point of departure for raising questions and proposing theories. Furthermore, this approach clearly signified that research on Chinese social history had turned away from revolutionary sloganeering to scholarly investigations of Chinese social history.

In his later years, Dr. Tao returned to scholarship, and re-established Shihuo which had a considerable influence on later generations of historians in Taiwan. In his own research, Dr. Tao established a comprehensive analytical framework for understanding the development of Chinese social history. Dr. Tao’s academic development and his pioneering work in the field of Chinese social and economic history point to the importance among scholars of both broad knowledge and expertise. Such an approach assures that Chinese social history retains a concrete foundation and pioneering spirit, rather than merely offering theoretical propositions based on vague impressions.


Keywords: Tao Xisheng, Shihuo semimonthly, debate on Chinese social history, Research Centre of Chinese Economic History, Shihuo monthly, Chinese social history