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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


[Feature Article] Some Remarks on E-evidential Research: The Case of Cao Xueqin’s Great-uncle Cao Quan’s Date of Birth

Vol. 50 No. 4  12/2020



Some Remarks on E-evidential Research: The Case of Cao Xueqin’s Great-uncle Cao Quan’s Date of Birth


Huang Yi-long











Key words

e-evidential research, Big Data, Cao Quan曹荃, Cao Yin曹寅, Maojun卯君


Big Data and Digital Humanities have become heated topics recently. Scholars either use them as means to broaden the horizons of the humanities or to try and secure authority in this newly established field. Through an investigation of Maojun 卯君, the nickname Cao Yin 曹寅 chose for his younger brother Cao Quan 曹荃, who was supposedly born in the year of Yin, and of Cao Quan’s exact date of birth, which was alleged to be the same day as the huashengri 花生日, this article demonstrates the effectiveness of e-evidential research methods in resolving contradictions by filtering materials necessary for contrastive studies from a large amount of data under the guidance of clearly defined research questions. Using e-evidential research methods, we arrive at two conclusions. First, contrary to the previously held belief that “mao” 卯 in “Maojun” indicates the year in which Cao Quan was born, this article argues that Cao Yin nicknamed Cao Quan “Maojun” out of brotherly love and the high expectations he held for him. This was the very nickname Su Shi 蘇軾 had selected for his younger brother Su Che 蘇轍. Second, according to the Cao family’s juanjian 捐監 records and Cao Yin’s poem titled “Ji erdi shengchen” 寄二弟生辰, Cao Quan was born on the 15th day of the second lunar month in the year 1662, the day when Beijing residents celebrated the Huazhao 花朝 Festival. The case of Cao Quan’s date of birth shows that e-tools allow us to attain a better understanding of the ancient world and ancient texts.


Author: Huang Yi-long
Genre: Article
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