The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy

The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy

The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy:

An Oxford-Princeton Research Collaboration
21-22 March 2014: The Queen’s College, University of Oxford

While current Chinese political discourse is replete with references to the political and philosophical discourse of Chinese antiquity, the focus remains on Confucius (551-479 BCE) and the political thinkers who followed him over the next three centuries. The one text, however, that consistently served as a reference to  these thinkers, the Shangshu, which contains a series of royal speeches attributed to the emperors of high antiquity, dating  from the first millennium BCE, with its early parts likely to go back to the 10th century BCE, remains woefully understudied. Within the Chinese tradition, these speeches are of central importance as the earliest formulations of the concept of kingship and the “Mandate of Heaven”; they emphasize the common people as the source of their ruler’s legitimation, they discuss just war and legitimate regicide, and they debate issues of loyalty and dynastic succession and consider the terms of interstate relations. Yet to this day there has been no systematic study in any European language of these speeches. As part of an Oxford-Princeton research partnership, a conference on the Classic of Documents is being held at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford on Friday and Saturday, 21-22 March 2014. This is the second of a series of conferences devoted to the study of the Shangshu in which a new interdisciplinary approach to one of the core texts of the classical Chinese philosophical, historical, and political tradition will be explored.

Further details of the conference are available at: http://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/conferences/shangshu/index.html

Third Meeting of WMTC

Third Meeting of WMTC

“Ostraka and the culture of writing in Egypt’s deserts”

Roger Bagnall,

Leon Levy Director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford University

 

Egypt’s deserts offer deep contrasts in physical character and economies. This variety is reflected in the written documentation found in vast quantities in the last thirty years: the Eastern Desert with its military presence, extractive industries, and trade routes, was marked by the presence of Latin, the need for correspondence, and the importance of the government. The Western Desert, a land of isolated agricultural settlements, generated an entirely different set of types of texts. There are, however, some interesting connections in the educational underpinnings of the writing cultures of the two zones.

 

Second Meeting of WMTC

Second Meeting of WMTC

The “Jinteng” Chapter of the Shangshu and its Newly Discovered Manuscript Version from ca. 300 BCE: Comparison and Methodological Considerations

Martin Kern, Princeton University

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford University

 

Among the exciting new bamboo and silk manuscript finds from early China are texts that have counterparts in the received literature and thus reveal new insights into the formation of the ancient textual tradition. One such text, recently published by Qinghua University, parallels the “Metal-bound Coffer” (Jinteng) chapter of the Hallowed Documents (Shangshu), the preeminent canon of ancient Chinese political thought. In comparing the newly found—albeit unprovenanced—manuscript from ca. 300 BCE with its received counterpart as well as with other parallels in the textual tradition, the lecture analyzes significant textual differences and their implications for both the original context of the manuscript and the editorial processes that have given us the received text. This analysis further leads to the methodological considerations that must be brought to the study of early Chinese manuscripts in general.