Nathan Vedal “Cosmology and Phonology in Late Imperial China”
Ming linguistic texts tell us a great deal about the period’s intellectual culture. This talk examines the role of cosmology, in particular, in seventeenth-century studies of phonology, providing a basis for comparison with the well-documented approach to historical phonology practiced by Evidential Learning thinkers in the eighteenth century.
Daniel Stumm “Measuring Change: Intellectual Genealogies in Qing Philology “
Qing philologists constructed intellectual genealogies for many important pre-imperial thinkers, which they used to order and evaluate the corresponding texts. In some cases, a text was in need of an author; in others, an important figure was in need a text. In this talk, I will discuss two attempts from the early-to-mid 19th-century to establish the works of Zengzi, a direct disciple of Confucius, as part of the canon. The paratexts and commentary make clear that the research still appealed to the ideals inherent formulated at the heyday of evidential studies, such as the centrality of intellectual genealogies and a recognition of historical change over time. In sum, they show that history was at the core of Qing philology and informed every aspect of scholarly research.
Kai-wing CHOW (University of Illinosis)
Frederic Clark (University of Southern California)
The Lever Schema: Technical Knowledge and Social Thought in Warring States China
ZHOU Boqun 周博群博士
Assistant Professor 助理教授
The University of Hong Kong 香港大學
In this talk, I explore the impact of mechanics on Warring States thought by examining how schematized knowledge of the lever (quan 權) provides structures for (re)organizing social experience in a rapidly changing world. The lever’s dual function of weighing and weight-lifting, analyzed in the Mohist Canon, become metaphors for ethical weighing in moral dilemmas and strategic leverage in political and military competitions. As a result, philosophical uses of quan divide into a value-rational conception of practical wisdom and an instrumental-rational conception of cunning intelligence. To illustrate the second category of meaning, I will discuss how Shen Dao uses lever metaphors to conceptualize political control in his philosophy.
Language and Gender in Chan Buddhism: Toward a Tropology of Chinese Religion
How do particular turns of figurative language shape the rhetorical force of religious literature in China? The question is especially pertinent for the study of Chinese Buddhist literature in particular. On the one hand, Mahayana Buddhism idealizes total mastery over language and its effect on listeners or readers through the concept of a buddha’s or bodhisattva’s “skillful means.” On the other hand, Buddhist texts routinely warn that language, if misused, can be dangerous. Perhaps no Chinese Buddhist tradition has been more attentive to the danger of language than the Chan 禪school. A great deal of classical Chan literature revolves around the question of how to communicate a form of truth that is understood to be ultimately ineffable. In this literature, to be an authentic Chan master is to exercise buddha-like command over language, and that ideal is routinely contrasted with the ordinary person’s hopeless subjection to language’s capricious movements. In this paper, I closely read several key passages from Chan literature outlining ideals of Chan mastery in terms of control over language. I show how these passages rely on a pattern of metaphorical tropes that serve to characterize control of language as masculine, decisive, and truly alive. In turn, the danger of being controlled by language is cast as feminine, indecisive, and ghostly. I propose, first, that the metaphors invoked in these passages are essential and not incidental to their rhetorical force, which means that we cannot think about Chan attitudes toward language without also considering how those attitudes are bound up with particular ideas about gender (among other things). Second, I suggest that these examples also point toward the potential usefulness of what we might call a tropological approach to Chinese religious literature.
Light and Darkness in Early Daoism
Visiting Scholar, Brown University
Visiting Assistant Professor, Wesleyan University
An interesting feature of the language of many Daoist texts is their atypical idealization of Darkness and Obscurity, which contrasts with the positive connotations of Light and Clarity in virtually all great philosophical traditions. In my talk I will discuss the ways by which this counterintuitive sympathy towards the “dark side” could have reflected several of the philosophical principles that characterized early Daoism, and address an interesting finding which suggests that this unique terminology might have played an even more important role in the earlier stages of the Daoist tradition: comparing the use of the Light/Darkness symbolism in the different versions of the Laozi reveals that while the received text uses both metaphorical schemes to roughly the same extent, the presumably earlier Guodian version lacks almost all of the “bright” references that appear in later recensions, thus constituting a much “darker” version of the text. As I suggest, this terminological shift – from dark to brightness – might have reflected a more general process of philosophical deradicalization Daoism had undergone in the earliest stages of its formation, traces of which can be found in other texts as well. As time allows, I will discuss some of the implications of this suggestion on our understanding of the Laozi itself, as well as on the second chapter of the Zhuangzi, the Qiwulun.
Liang Cai (University of Notre Dame)
Innocent Convicts and the Unlawful Commoners: The Conception of Justice in Early Imperial China (221 BCE -9 CE)
Early Imperial China formed the foundation of the legal system for two millennia of Chinese dynastic history. This paper aims to explore the philosophical conception of justice in lieu of the mutual responsibility system and imperial amnesty in early China. The mutual responsibility system was a major principle applied in legal practice throughout the Qin-Han dynasties until the 20th century. From excavated legal statutes to legal cases in traditional sources, we find that the mutual responsibility system produced a large number of innocent convicts. It openly punished the lawful, including family members, neighbors, and friends of the offenders. Whereas the mutual responsibility principle produced innocent convicts, the imperial amnesty created unlawful commoners. The emperor frequently issued empire wide amnesties, extensively freeing those who were condemned, including men who received the death penalty. Taking those prominent legal practices as a background, this paper will explore how thinkers, officials, and emperors perceived justice in general and legal justice in particular in early China. In what social and historical contexts, did men talk about gong公 (fair/public) and gongping 公平 (fair and balanced), gongzheng 公正 (fair and upright, just) and zhengyi 正義 (upright and righteous; justice)? Was the discussion of justice totally absent in major schools of Chinese thought, including Confucianism, Daoism, or legalist teachings? If not, how would those thinkers comment on, negotiate with, and compromise on the routine legal practices that were not ‘just’ by nature?
Trenton Wilson (Yale University)
Empire over Luck: Law, Luck, and the Limits of Favor
In this paper, I show how, in a diverse number of early Chinese texts, political order, in general, and legal order, in particular, were conceived as means to eliminate luck and favor (xing 幸). Showing favor (also xing 幸), however, was at the same time an important part of the ethical vocabulary of empire and the rhetorical presentation of imperial rule. By focusing on the problem of luck/favor, I will show the tensions and contours of thinking about order in the imperial period, with some reference to pre-imperial ideas as well.
Hafner Arnd Helmut (Meiji University)
David B. Honey 韓大偉 (Brigham Young University 楊百翰大學)
This talk presents the results of the last 15 years of my research on the history of Chinese classical Scholarship. To date, three volumes in English have been published by Academica Press: Vol. 1 Zhou Dynasty: Confucius, The Six Classics, and Scholastic Transmission; Vol. 2: Qin, Han, Wei, Jin: Canon and Commentary; Vol 3: Northern and Southern Dynasties, Sui, and Early Tang: The Decline of Factual Philology and the Rise of Speculative Hermeneutics. Vols. 4 and 5 will treat the Qing dynasty. I shall explain the motivations behind this series, sketch the contents of each volume, introduce the philological disciplines developed during each era, and focus on introducing the scholarly approaches and interpretive paradigms I adopted from modern histories of classical scholarship in the West. Comparative glances between traditional Chinese and Western classicists pervade the presentation.
Yegor Grebnev 葛覺智 (Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai 北京師範大學珠海校區)
Revisiting the History of Daoism through Early Chinese Scriptures (shu 書)
This talk focuses on the previously ignored connection between the Warring States scriptures (shu 書) and Daoism, particularly the esoteric textual traditions commonly identified with “religious Daoism”. Although Daoism is still commonly described as a tradition of detached philosophical speculation (as a philosophy) and innocent otherworldly fantasies (as a religion), the groundbreaking works of Anna Seidel have highlighted its political dimension reflected in the continuing preoccupation with royal legitimacy. However, Seidel shared the conventional opinion that the history of Daoism as a religious tradition only begins in the Eastern Han, and the sources examined by her belong to the medieval period. In this talk, I shall demonstrate that Seidel’s observations can be extended to the Western Han and the Warring States periods, and the precursors of Daoist esoteric textual traditions can be identified in the scriptural (shu) texts, preserved today in such collections as the Shang shu 尚書 and the Yi Zhou shu 逸周書.
FENG Shengli 馮勝利
(Beijing Language and Culture University 北京語言大學 / Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學)
On Philology as Science——A case study of Qian-Jia Libi 理必 (Logical Certainty)
In the 16th century, Western science made a great leap. Meanwhile, in China, the scholars of textual criticism including Gu Yanwu (1613-1682), Dai Zhen (1724-1777), Duan Yucai (1735-1815), Wang Niansun (1744-1832) also facilitated the development of scientific reasoning (Hu Shi 1967). However, what are science and scientific reasoning? In this paper, it is argued that science is a deductive system that can be verified, falsified and experimentalized, thus the notion of Libi 理必 (logical certainty) initiated by Dai Zhen represents a new era of scientific reasoning in their philological studies. Like the linguistic science created by N. Chomsky today, the philological science was created by Dai Zhen in the Qian-Jia period. The former has changed the academic paradigm from a structuralist view to a generative enterprise; the latter established a new paradigm of the libi reasoning through out Qing Dynasty but was barely kept by the Zhang-Huang school today (同源孳乳词、声韵相挟、文献语言学、韵律形态学句法学) . The argument made here claims that although the scientific principle of logic certainty is a newly developed indigenous rationalism in Chinese intellectual history created and practiced by the Qian-Jia scholars, it has almost been lost: neither recognized in Ying-shih Yu 余英时’s work on Chinese intellectual history nor practiced and entertained by scholars of contemporary Chinese exegesis, philology, linguistics as well as other social studies.
HUANG Kuan-yun 黃冠雲 (National Sun Yat-sen University 國立中山大學)
The Qianlong Emperor and the Birth of Philology
This presentation is an analysis of three essays by the Qing emperor Qianlong (r. 1735 – 1796). For this “Son of Heaven, Man of the World,” the Neo-Confucian thinkers Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi espoused a radical position that poses a direct challenge to the authority of the ruler. The Qianlong Emperor took notice of this, rejected it, and proceeded to denounce more generally the style of learning associated with those philosophers, which ultimately promoted and gave rise to a contrasting, more evidential approach. Herein lies the birth of Philology, the modern academic discipline as it has come into its own in the context of China. There is a dark underside to it. Understanding that dark underside allows us to rediscover some options in philological research that we have never been able to consider.
Ori Sela 石敖睿 (Tel Aviv University 特拉維夫大學)
Between Imperial and Private Science: Scholars, Philology, and Ritual in the 18th Century
(To be shared upon request.)
For an observer’s report 工作坊述評 by He Yingtian 何映天 (Princeton University 普林斯頓大學), please click here.
Our sincere thanks to Maddalena Poli for her kind help with poster design.