Dirk Meyer


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

Faculty / College Address:

Institute for Chinese Studies / 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. Leiden: Brill (Contracted) 
  • The Journal of Manuscript and Text Cultures (JMTC) 
  • 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
  • Graduate Seminars: 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. 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). (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. x + 396.




  • Literary Forms of Argument in Early China. SinL. (Leiden: Brill). Co-edit with Joachim Gentz (Edinburgh). The 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. (For a detailed description of the project, see here).
  • 竹上之思:旱期中國的文本與意義生成. Shanghai: Shanghai guji. 
  • The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy. HCT. (Leiden: Brill) Co-edited with Martin Kern (Princeton).
  • 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
  • “Truth Claim with no Claim to Truth: Text and Performance of the “Qiushui” Chapter of the Zhuangzi.” In: Literary Forms of Argument in Early China (eds. Joachim Gentz and Dirk Meyer). Leiden: Brill

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:

Bernhard Karlgren Fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study for the academic year 2014-2015

Workshop for Manuscript and Text Culture (WMTC): The Workshop on Manuscript and Text Culture is 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.

Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology 饒宗頤國學院院刊 (BJAS): I am on the Editorial Board of 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