Dirk Meyer


Associate Professor of Chinese Philosophy; Fellow of The Queen's College

Faculty / College Address:

China Centre / The Queen's College



Research Interests:

History of thought; interplay of material conditions and ideas; orality and literacy in early Chinese philosophical discourse; excavated manuscripts from early China; early Chinese textuality; transition periods in Philosophy; argumentative strategies in early Chinese Philosophy

Current Projects:

  • The Materiality of "Shu" Traditions and the Creation of the Documents. This wider project is conceived in three parts. 1: Manuscript Cultures during the Warring States period (c. 453-222 BC); 2: Processes of Canonisation during the early Empires (c. 221 BC-AD 220); 3: Hermeneutics efforts of imperial scholars up to the Song Dynasty (960-1279)
  • The Journal of Manuscript and Text Cultures (JMTC) 
  • New book series: Library of Sinology (De Gruyter)
  • Literary Forms of Argument in Manuscript Cultures: A Cross-cultural Perspective
  • Oxford-Princeton Partnership: The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy (together with Martin Kern, Princeton). With this partnership, we propose a new approach to one of the core texts of the classical Chinese tradition, the Classic of Documents
  • The Production of Knowledge in China, Past and Present: Knowledge is shaped, sustained, and framed by material conditions. My new project takes China, past and present, as a case study for conceptualising the ways material factors enable society to generate information, facts, argumentation and meaning. By focusing on breakthrough moments of systematic philosophical reasoning from the Classical period to contemporary China, the project enables comparative analysis of the shaping of ideas in a society throughout time and space. The project will be launched with an international conference on the Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought, Past and Present.
  • Producing Thought in China: This planned monograph will synthesise close textual analysis with macro observations about the interrelation of material change and new forms of philosophical enquiry. It constructs a comparative account of the material forces behind thought production across millennia, thus casting light on reduplicative patterns in philosophical endeavour from the ancient to the contemporary.


Courses Taught:

  • Lectures: contributions to East Asian surveys for Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.
  • Tutorials: Writing and Philosophy; East Asian survey.
  • Classes: Mengzi; Xunzi; Zhuangzi; Readings in Classical Chinese.
  • Special Subject (classes, lectures, tutorials): Text and Manuscript Cultures in Early China; The Myth of the Confucian Classics in the Warring States Period; Interrelation of pre-codified “Shu” (Writings).
  • Graduate Seminars: Early Chinese Textuality; contributions to Chinese Studies Research Methods Seminar; Classical Chinese Texts Seminar; Old Chinese Phonology; Archaeology; Theory Readings; contributions to the MPhil Traditional East Asia.

Recent Publications:


  • Philosophy on Bamboo: Text and the Production of Meaning in Early China. HCT 2. Leiden: Brill, 2012. (x, 396 pp.) (ISBN: 9789004207622) This book analyses excavated philosophical texts from the Warring States period. It treats texts as objects in their own right and discusses the relationship between the material conditions of text and manuscript culture, writing, techniques of meaning construction and philosophy in the Warring States period (ca. 481-222).
  • Literary Forms of Argument in Early China. SinL. 123. Leiden: Brill, 2015. (x, 354 pp.) Co-edit with Joachim Gentz (Edinburgh). (ISBN: 9789004291607This book addresses literary patterns in pre-modern Chinese texts and their philosophical functions. By drawing attention to the philosophical relevance of form and thought in early Chinese writings, it examines the formal characteristics of written argument in pre-modern Chinese philosophy. 
  • Paperback: Literary Forms of Argument in Early China (ISBN: 9789004331341).
  • Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Shangshu (Classic of Documents). HCT 8. Leiden: Brill, 2017. (vi, 495 pp.). Co-edited with Martin Kern, Princeton. (ISBN: 9789004343498.)


Book Series:

  • Library of Sinology: I am co-editor of Library of Sinology, published by De Gruyter (together with Chen Zhi, Macau). The Library of Sinology is a new book series initiated by the Jao Tsung-I Academy, HKBU. It responds to a revival of interest in the study of Chinese cultures during the twenty-first-century as numbers of manuscript texts on bamboo and silk are being discovered as never before. New materials are emerging which promise to transform fields as diverse as classical philology and anthropology, philosophy and art history, linguistics and religious studies, literature and archaeology. By promoting interdisciplinary research in classical Chinese Studies and international academic exchange, the book series sets out to spearhead a transnational reconceptualisation of traditional Chinese ideas and their relevance for modern times. 



  • 竹上之思:早期中國的文本與意義生成. Shanghai: Shanghai guji. 
  • Monumentalising the Past: Traditions of Writings 書 (Shangshu) and Political Argument in Early China.
  • Reading Early Chinese Manuscripts: Texts, Contexts, Methods. HdO. (Leiden: Brill). Martin Kern (Princeton), Wolfgang Behr (Zurich), and I co-edit this long overdue handbook. The handbook is conceived as a programmatic statement on how to approach the study of early Chinese manuscripts, as well as a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the tools and methods necessary for such study.


  • "Dank wenzhang chengwei shijian: yuedu Guodian *Laozi" 当文章成为实践:阅读郭店老子. In Jianbo sixiang wenxian yanjiu 简帛思想文献研究:個案與方法, ed. Liu Xiaogan, 170-183. Beijing: Dongfang.
  • “Text, Philosophy, and the Rise of a Manuscript Culture in Early China.” In: Reading Early Chinese Manuscripts: Texts, Contexts, Methods (eds. Wolfgang Behr, Martin Kern, Dirk Meyer). HdO. Leiden: Brill.
  • "Patterning Meaning: A Thick Description of the Qinghua Manuscript '*Tang zai Chi/Di men' 湯在啻門 (Tang was at the Chi/Di Gate) and what it tells us about Thought Production in Early China."
  • "'Shu' lei de chuantong yu wenben chonggou: 'Jinteng' yu 'Zhou Wuwang you ji' zhi chonggu" “书”類的传统与文本重构:“金縢”与“周武王有疾”之重估.

Recent Conference and Workshop Organisation (2008-present):

  • The Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought, Past and PresentThe conference will be held at The Queen's College, University of Oxford, 19-21 September 2018.
  • The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Oxford-Princeton Research Partnership. Conference organised at The Queen's College, University of Oxford, funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund and the Davis Fund, with support from The Queen's College, Oxford. 21-22 March 2014.
  • Literary Forms of Argument in Pre-modern China. Conference organised at The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, funded by the Chiang-Ching-Kuo (CCK) Foundation, the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS), the British Inter-university China Centre (BICC) and The Queen’s College. 16-18 September 2009.
  • Research Training Old Chinese, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This workshop series consisted of six workshops held across the UK
    (i) Philosophy & Religion: 29 Jan-2 Feb 2009, Edinburgh (in collaboration with Joachim Gentz)
    (ii) Old Chinese Phonology & Palaeography:25 Aug-3 Sept 2009, Oxford
    (iii) History & Historiography:24-28 March 2010, Cambridge (in collaboration with Mark Strange and Roel Sterckx)
    (iv) Text & Textuality:24-28 June 2010 Oxford
    (v) Art & Archaeololgy:21-24 Sept 2010, London, SOAS (in collaboration with Lukas Nickel)
    (vi) Old Chinese Grammar and Syntax: 9-13 July 2011, Oxford

Further Info:

  • Workshop for Manuscript and Text Cultures (WMTC): I am convenor of the Workshop on Manuscript and Text Cultures, an interdisciplinary research group that brings together specialists and students working on manuscript and text cultures of the ancient Near East, the Mediterranean (Greece and Rome), ancient East and South Asia, and medieval Europe. WMTC examines material aspects of writing and text production, as well as transmission and the interface between the oral and the written, across pre-modern literate societies. WMTC aims to create a platform where both specialists and research students engage in a close dialogue across the areas of specialisation and inform each other on different approaches and theories. WMTC will now meet thrice termly. We hold Lunchtime Colloquia on each Tuesday of the second week of the term (Michaelmas, Hilary, Trinity) where two speakers present papers that discuss different aspects of manuscript and text cultures (12.30-2pm in the Magrath Room, The Queen's College), as well as on each Tuesday of the fourth week of the term (MT, HT, TT) where doctoral students present work in progress (1-2pm at Queen's); we also hold Workshops on each Wednesday of the sixth week of the term (MT, HT, TT) from 5-7.15pm in the Magrath Room of The Queen’s College, with invited local or external speakers. The workshops normally take the format of a presentation of circa one hour, followed by one hour of discussion. Attendance to the workshops is open to all members of the University. (See recent activities of WMTC. If you have special access requirements, please email wmtc[at]queens.ox.ac.uk). WMTC is intended primarily for Faculty members and research students, but undergraduates are also welcome. As part of the Workshop for Manuscript and Text Cultures, the Governing Body of The Queen's College has now recruited a Junior Research Fellow in Manuscript and Text Culturesa three-year post-doctoral position with a research specialism in knowledge-production and text-transmission in pre-modern literate societies. If you wish to be on our email list, please email dirk.meyer[at]queens.ox.ac.uk. You can also follow us on Twitter (@OxWMTC).
  • Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology 饒宗頤國學院院刊 (BJAS): I am serving on the Editorial Board of the Hong Kong based journal BJAS.
  • Collaborative Research Training in Old Chinese:
In 2008, I have secured a £60,000 AHRC Collaborative Research Grant for Research Training in Old Chinese for a two-year series of postgraduate workshops. The idea of this programme was to connect the various UK centres for the study of Old Chinese into a nationwide network to facilitate specialised research-training in Old Chinese phonology, palaeography, grammar and syntax, literature, philosophy, and religion, and strengthen the international visibility of traditional Sinology in the UK at large. Details of the series can be found here.
  • International Workshop-series on Old Chinese Phonology:
In 2005, I initiated the two-week European League for Non-Western Studies international intensive graduate seminar on Old Chinese phonology. The seminar was hosted by the Research School for Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS) and the Office for International Relations of Leiden University, Faculty of Arts. Further two-week workshops were held in 2006 and 2007. While the first meeting was a general introduction to Old Chinese phonology in general, the focus of the follow-up meetings was put on more sinological issues to accommodate the particular needs of students working with early Chinese excavated texts. Accordingly, the 2006 and 2007 meetings combinedOld Chinese phonology with Old Chinese palaeography.

Current Research Students

  • Yuan Ai (DPhil candidate.): 'Gongfu' Dimensional Reconstruction in the Zhuangzi.
  • Corina Smith: Time and Memory in Early Chinese Texts.
  • Chun-man (Kevin) Kwong: Form and Expression in Zhuangzi.
  • Stefano Gandolfo: Division of Knowledge in the Siku Catalogue. (Chinese Philosophy)
  • Han Zhirong: (MSt in Theology.) Human Nature in Xunzi and Augustine. (Together with Carol Harrison, Christ Church College.)