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


Men of Letters and Unrestrained Swordsmen in the Early Northern Song: The Style and Image of Liu Kai

Vol. 36 No. 2   12/2006    


Men of Letters and Unrestrained Swordsmen in the Early Northern Song: The Style and Image of Liu Kai


Pak-sheung NG









Key words

men of letters, civil officials, unrestrained swordsmen, martial literati,“uphold the literary and restrain the military"


       This study, based on a careful reading and interpretation of literary and historical texts, challenges the widely accepted notion that Song literati

became effeminate as a result of the military culture being de-emphasized.To substantiate this argument, this paper analyzes how the double role of

literati and knight-errantry was played by Liu Kai in the early Northern Song. Liu Kai's double role is a good example to indicate a trend that men of

letters in North China generally acquainted themselves with martial arts. Examining the implication of the policy of upholding the literary and

restraining the military is another focus of attention. In the process of establishing a civil administration, the Northern Song had to deal with a ─number of difficulties caused by recalcitrant military officials and banditry; only martial literati instead of frail scholars were able to handle the situations

effectively. In this sense, the civil officials who were assigned with the tasks of holding the military in check and suppressing bandits needed to be militarily as well as literarily capable. Lastly this paper attempts to explain how Liu Kai's career was affected by the measures that were implemented by the central government with a view to transforming the negative social and political traditions prevailing over the Five Dynasties era; this is of particular importance for us to understand the significance of the appointment principle adopted by the early Northern Song. Although the Northern Song viewed martial literati as a necessary means for the establishment of civil administration, the government did not hesitate to impose severe punishments on those who acted in utter disregard of the law and discipline and consequently neutralized the imperial efforts to achieve social and political transformations.



Author: Pak-sheung NG
Genre: Article
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