2018 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Social Networks of Antiquities Collectors in the Late Northern Song

Ya-hwei Hsu

Department of History, National Taiwan University

The mid-eleventh century witnessed the growing interest of scholar-officials in collecting antiquities, and by the end of the Northern Song, ancient bronze objects had become a prominent category in Emperor Huizong’s imperial collections. This study investigates the process of this exceedingly fervent development by examining five extant treatises composed by scholars and collectors at the time. It draws data from the Chinese Biographical Database (CBDB) and employs the digital tools of Social Network Analysis (SNA) to reconstruct the network of the antiquity collectors for each treatise. A study of the individuals in these circles allows us to make micro-observations of their roles in the networks, while the overall structure of the networks offers a way to evaluate the social capital of the collectors collectively. As this study shows, the scholar-collectors’ networks reached their height when Lü Dalin combined social and political capital in antiquity collection. They were then broken up after Emperor Huizong stepped into the picture and changed the dynamics entirely. Not only did individual collectors’ networks shrink in scale, but connoisseurship of ancient bronze objects came to be dominated by court officials who had access to Huizong’s imperial collections. The networks reconstructed from the five treatises from the 1090s to the 1120s offer a micro-examination of this critical period of the development of collecting antiquities.


Keywords: study of metal and stone, antiquarianism, collecting culture, digital humanities