Xu Zhongshu (1898-1991), people of Huaining County (present Anqin City), Anhui Province; a renowned historian and expert in palaeography in modern China.
Xu graduated from the former Department of Traditional Chinese Culture, Research Institute of Tsinghua University, and learned from celebrated scholars like Wang Guowei and Liang Qichao. During this period, he established the concept of “New Historiography” under the influence of Mr. Wang Guowei. Later in the actual process of research, combining palaeography with sociology, classical philology and historiography, he creatively developed the “Dual Evidences Method” invented by Wang Guowei into “Multi Evidences Method”. From the year 1928 on, Mr. Xu successively served as professor and researcher in Fudan University, Jinan University, the Research Institute of Historical Language of Academia Sinica, and Peking University. In 1937, recruited by the Boxer Indemnity program and Sichuan University, he entered the History Department of SCU. Except for short-term part-time teachings at Wuhan University, West China Union University, Yenching University, and National Central University, he taught at SCU for his life time, and acted as the Director of the History Department from 1947 to the 1980s (with short-term intervals). After the People’s Republic of China was founded, Mr. Xu held successively such positions as academic member of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and member of the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council, among others. In 1981 when the Chinese government established the first batch of doctoral programs, Mr. Xu alone served as supervisor of two doctoral programs: Ancient Chinese History and Archaeology, which was considered as an extremely rare case at that time. He was a renowned expert in the history of Pre-Qin Dynasty, and once served as the Director of the Society of Pre-Qin History of China. Xu was also one of the earliest participants in the domain of modern Chinese archaeology, especially adept at the research of Palaeography. Besides, Mr. Xu dabbled in ethnic history, local history, history of Ming and Qing Dynasties, and history of Chinese literature, etc., and enjoyed a great reputation in the international academic circle for skillful combination and cross reference of them. In his early years, Mr. Xu was known to the outside world due to his paper Research on the Farm Tool Leisi. With the cross reference between unearthed ancient written materials, ancient texts, and material objects, this paper gives a solution, once and for all, to a long-standing puzzle of over 2000 years, which was about the shape, structure, and function of Leisi. It has thus become a classic in the history of modern Chinese academics. After that, with novel research methods, adequate evidence and fruitful achievements, a series of Xu’s works on the history of Pre-Qin period also aroused great interest among the academic circle. Such works include: My Humble Opinions on the Culture of Ancient Yin and Zhou Dynasties, People’s Enslavement of Elephants in the Yin Dynasty and Elephants’ Migration Southward, On the Origin of the Square Field System, On the Origin of Cattle Ploughing in East Asian Continent, On the Ownership of Land and Its Social Nature in the Zhou Dynasty. While in the domain of philology, Mr. Xu’s Explanatory Specimens of Blessing Bronze Inscriptions is a must-read reference material for experts in bronze inscriptions. The Grand Dictionary of Chinese Characters, which was published under Xu’s general editorship in his twilight years, with the largest number of Chinese characters coupled with the most complete explanatory notes, deserves to be a milestone in the history of Chinese dictionary publishing. And another book under his general editorship, the Dictionary of Oracle Scripts, is deemed as an epoch-making great work in the history of oracle studies. In 1992, after Mr. Xu Zhongshu had passed away, Bashu Publishing House published Essays on the Pre-Qin History, a book compiled on the basis of his teaching records; in 1998, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Mr. Xu Zhongshu’s birth, Chung Hwa Book Company published the Selections of Xu Zhongshu’s Papers on History.