Ever since the Qin and Han dynasties, the number of writers has increased greatly, and paper has become more readily available whilst written characters have become simpler and more convenient to use; books are now so plentiful that it may be said that there is a volume available on every topic. But at the same time scholars have become ever more careless and superficial. Why is this? I myself am old enough to have met elderly scholars who claimed that when they were young they found it all but impossible to get hold of copies of the Records of the Grand Historian 史記 and the History of the Han 漢書. When, by luck, they were able to do so, they would immediately copy the text out by hand without break day or night. They recited it as they did so, fearful least they would not have time to finish the book. In recent years, however, book merchants can have ten thousand pages of the texts of the masters of old circulated and printed in the course of a single day, thus making it easy for scholars to enjoy an easy supply of books. By rights, this should mean that the number of scholarly writings in the present age should be many times greater than that of the ancients; but today scholars in pursuit of success in the examinations, leave their books unread, losing themselves instead in fatuous rhetoric. Why, I ask, is this so?
Master Li’s Mountain Hut Collection | China Heritage Quarterly (via someone on Tumblr or maybe it was Twitter. No, wait, it was WordPress – er, The Guardian. No, er…)