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) 
  • 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
  • A History of Written Thinking in China. This long-term project will address trends in Chinese written philosophical discourse.

Courses Taught:

  • Lectures: contributions to East Asian surveys for Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses
  • Tutorials: Writing and Philosophy
  • Classes: Mengzi; Xunzi; Zhuangzi; Readings in Classical Chinese
  • Special Subject (classes, lectures, tutorials): Text and Manuscript Culture in Early China; The Myth of the Confucian Classics in the Warring States Period
  • Graduate Seminars: Early Chinese Textuality; contributions to Chinese Studies Research Methods Seminar; Classical Chinese Texts Seminar; Old Chinese Phonology; Archaeology; Theory Readings

Recent Publications:


  • Philosophy on Bamboo: Text and the Production of Meaning in Early China. HCT 2. Leiden: Brill, 2012 (pp. x + 396). 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. Co-edit with Joachim Gentz (Edinburgh). This 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.




  • 竹上之思:早期中國的文本與意義生成. Shanghai: Shanghai guji. 
  • Origins of Chinese Political Thought: Studies in the Classic of Documents. HCT. (Leiden: Brill) Co-edited with Martin Kern (Princeton).
  • The Materiality of "Shu" 書 Traditions: Documents and the Monumentalisation of the Past 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.


  • "Recontextualization and Memory Production: Debates on Rulership as Reconstructed from "Gu ming" 顧命 (Testimonial Charge)". In The Classic of Documents (eds. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer). Leiden: Brill
  • “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
  • "When 'wen zhi bin bin' 文質彬彬 no longer matters: A Thick Description of '*Tang zai Chi/Di men' 湯在啻門 from volume 5 of the Qinghua Manuscripts."

Recent Conference and Workshop Organisation (2008-present):

  • 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 Culture (WMTC): I am convenor of the Workshop on Manuscript and Text Culture, 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 theorie. WMTC meets at least once each term at 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. WMTC is intended primarily for research students and Faculty members, 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.
  • Library of Sinology: I am co-editor of the new series Library of Sinology (De Gruyter).
  • 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

  • Yegor Grebnev (DPhil candidate): The Core Layers of the "Yi Zhoushu"
  • Rens Krijgsman (DPhil candidate): Cultural Memory in Warring States China
  • 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