Reading Notes Jotted down at the Studio


This work is a collection of essays with commentaries compiled by Chen Zi (1683–1759), a famed poet and calligrapher during the Kangxi reign. Chen Zi was also the author of Jing xin ji shi chao (Jing Xin Collection of Poems by Chen Zi), a manuscript volume of poetry in the Chinese rare book collections of the Library of Congress. He and his contemporary Li Kai (1686–1755) were considered the two best poets of the time, with Chen in the south and Li in the north. This collection, in two volumes, consists of eight essays, each having a distinctive title and given a cyclical date. The essays are of different lengths, the shortest having only two leaves and the longest 19 leaves. They are chiefly Chen’s notes and commentaries on some of the works he read, which reflect his views and his philosophical, religious, and literary ideas. He expounded on his patriotism and his admiration for Zhu Xi, the leading Song dynasty figure of the School of Principle (a branch of Neo-Confucian theory) and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian. Some of Chen’s comments were sarcastic and intended to ridicule. He was prolific but his works were not widely circulated in his lifetime. This may have been due to the miscellaneous nature of his works, but it is also possible that some of the expressions he used could have hindered publication amid the prevailing literary inquisition of the early Qing dynasty. This work was not published and thus escaped censorship. It is the only extant copy.

Last updated: January 3, 2018