Covering four bibliographical categories, Hong Mai’s Miscellaneous Notes from his Study is recognized as the top fiction in the Southern Song Dynasty. This work had been popular from Song Dynasty to Ming and Qing Dynasty. Occupying a significant position in the history of documentation, it is regarded as an important work for Confucian scholars to improve themselves in textual research, distinguishing the originals, and compiling manuscripts. Hong Mai had begun working on the miscellaneous notes since he was forty-one, and the writing had proceeded for forty years. This study explores Hong Mai’s work through Hong’s reading in relation to the politics, important events, and historical milieu in the Southern Song Dynasty. Through this work, this study investigates Hong Mai’s intention in writing, providing a new way for people to understand the writer Hong Mai and his Miscellaneous Notes. The main academic contribution and creative features of this dissertation as well as the keynote of each chapter are expressed summarily as follows:
Chapter One “introduction” reviews current related studies and points out possible ways of thinking. It then clarifies the concepts of notes in the writing by people in Song Dynasty. Besides, it indicates the implicit meanings of the study as the title Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study suggests and the meaning of “moving at any time.” From the publication and circulation of Miscellaneous Notes, this dissertation examines how this work was positioned as “the top fiction in the Southern Song Dynasty,” and presents readers’ passion for promoting reading beyond time. Chapter Two explores how, privileged from his official family and rich family collection of documents, Hong Mai found his way in the kingdom of knowledge and became a representative of profound erudition for the emperor and courtiers in the Southern Song Dynasty.
Chapter Three introduces the process of Hong Mai’s integration between reading and experience. Because Hong Mai was very passionate for reading, Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study can be regarded both as his reading production and a kind of knowledge output. Situated in the cultural exchange and conversation stimulated by the Southern Song culture, Hong Mai constructs his writing with sense and sensibility, producing works in response to contemporary issues. This chapter focuses on the four very different prefaces written in the period between Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study and Five Notes from Hong Mai’s Study, scrutinizing the transformation of Hong Mai’s thinking when writing Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study, and exploring what motivates Hong’s writing during his writing career. Second, this chapter traces Hong Mai’s academic inspiration through the works of his father and brother, his teacher Zhang Jiu-cheng, and the Northern Song writers Ou Yang-xiu, Su Shi, Si Ma Guang. By referring to the reading notes written when Hong was young and the investigation of the chronology of each volume of notes, this chapter explores the construction of Hong Mai’s writing in Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study. At about 50 years old, Hong Mai completed the first three volumes of Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study. The first volume took about six years. It was a period when Hong Mai trained himself in the writing of notes. Afterwards, Hong Mai was familiar with this form of writing. Although Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study, The Second Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study, The Third Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study were completed in 18, 13, 5 years respectively, in fact, most of the notes in these three works were written in four to five years.
Chapter Four to Six focus on the construction of Hong Mai’s reading experience and writing after Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study is studied. Chapter Four “Archeology of All Things and the Observation of and Writing on Plants, Woods, Insects, and Fish”: is divided into three types of notes: archeology of tools, plants, woods, insects, and fish, and medicine divination, and astronomy. Chapter Five “Notes and Writings on Political Suggestion and Comment”: Although Hong Mai was not a courtier in the Southern Song Dynasty, he cared much about the political situation at that time. Through the notes which reflect history, he found a way to participate in politics. This chapter examines how Hong Mai develops conversations with the emperor and his contemporaries. However, because of the limitation at that time, the empire was ruled by the monarch of the same family of Zhao (Emperor Xiao Zong). Hong Mai was appreciated by the emperor, but he was not assigned to any important position.
Chapter Six “Reading Notes and Writing Constitution on Poetry”: This chapter examines the transmission and conversation of Hong Mai’s poetry reading experience so as to provide contemporary poetry readers a new reading perspective for poetry appreciation, and lead readers to an innovation way of reading. Hong Mai not only presents poems embodied readers’ life, but also contributes to correcting the absurdity in poetry and compiling documents.
Chapter Seven “Conclusion”: This dissertation begins from Hong Mai’s reading experience and writing construction, reexamining the author and his Miscellaneous Notes from Hong Mai’s Study. On the one hand, this dissertation presents Hong Mai’s academic achievement, but on the other, from the hindsight, it demonstrates how man is confined by his own problems and the social and historical milieu. Through reading and writing, Hong Mai situates himself in between history and reality, trying to improve and solve political and social issues, and relieving his personal anxiety in life.