Classical Chinese


The Confucian classics offer many horizons of interpretation and understanding. For centuries, their primary value was seen to be the sagely wisdom which they stored intact from antiquity, and from which subsequent generations could profit with the requisite training and experience. As empirical modes of scholarship came to dominate philosophically-oriented ones in the modern period, the utility of early Chinese texts changed considerably. They revealed a new character as repositories of different kinds of knowledge—ancient or early modern linguistic data, pointed and partisan historical
argumentation, regionalism, and more. The methods of philology became the preferred ones for parsing and reconstructing the meaning of these early sources.

Today, we read Classical Chinese documents from the early and pre-imperial periods through a wealth of methodologies. We employ a dynamic range of resources that lie at our disposal, from contemporary glosses and commentaries to newly-excavated materials that shed an increasingly potent light on early Chinese studies across many disciplines. The purpose of this Classical Chinese reading group would be to convene weekly meetings of scholars and colleagues from across this range of fields—history, literature, linguistics, philosophy, and comparative studies—to read these ancient texts in modern ways, albeit more carefully, haltingly, and with (we hope) more minute insights than the format of a traditional seminar usually allows.

The traditional canon of thirteen Classics, which served as the curriculum of study for imperial examinations during the Song dynasty (960–1279), have naturally received uneven amounts of attention in contemporary scholarship. We propose to devote the first year of our collective reading to an especially neglected text, the Gonyang Commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals (Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳). We look forward to a careful, interdisciplinary reading of this text, which presents a set of idealized dialogues between Confucius and his disciples on the merits of different
historical figures from remote antiquity. By engaging with the basic layers of the classic, alongside period commentaries and excavated sources, we hope to connect the many species of textual knowledge that the encounter with these texts has generated in diverse readers over time into a genuine collective reading experience for the present.


Thursday, October 26

Thursday, November 30

Thursday, February 1

Thursday, March 7