Li Wei-zhen (1547-1626) was chosen by Wang Shi-zhen as a member of the Last Pentaschool. Li was not an outstanding ideologue, and he was not known very well to those who study in the Late Ming Dynasty’s literature. Still, the eras he lived and the position he held was so special to ignore.
In the studying of the Environment of Late Ming Literature, there are two agendas for us to rethink: First, It is almost an accepted opinion that the Anti-Classicist School was in the opposing positions to the Classicist School. The prejudgment is taking the Classicists represented superannuation and conservation, while the Anti-Classicist School, including Yuan’s brothers of Gongan School, Li Chi, Hsu Wei, and Tang Shen-Zu, represented innovation and advancement. Second, so-called “important” literary authors were defined in the discourse of literature history. These won’t be major mistakes, but if the “academic focus” were established, the details will be ignored easily. To avoid the catches, we have to re-estimate those who were standing in the compromise position, famous at that time, but not notice in the later period, such as Li Wei-zhen. Maybe Li’s viewpoint was not so important and powerful, but, as he involved in the variation of Late Ming Literary arena, he pointed out the major agenda for the Late Ming’s literary authors, he also represented the turning phase of late Classicists’ literary concept.
This thesis will focus on three major points to analyze Li Wei-zhen’s literary philosophy. First, his historical consciousness of literature: the Classicists always attached importance to tradition. Li followed the Classicist’s concept of “the later, the lower character”, but revised it to “every generation got its own poem,” and tried to prove the Ming’s literature was standing on the summit of literature history via the rules of literary development. Second, his theories about creating: he emphasized both affections and spirits, and brought up three terms of creating – talent, knowledge, and experience. Through these, Li harmonized the two different directions “follow the ancient” and “follow the soul”. Third: his theories about criticism: he analyzed the idea “full-scale ability” the Classicists had addressed, and recognized that author was limited with his talent and interest. He tried to revise the idea with the concept “suit”, and appreciated “special forte”. Also, he analyzed different genres of literature and their style to grasp the methods of creating.
The topics discussed in this thesis are not focus on Li Wei-zhen’s texts; instead, they are expected to be the entrance points in studying Late Ming’s literary circle, and to provide the reference or assistance to the Late Ming’s literature.