Associate Professor of Chinese Philosophy; Fellow of The Queen's College
Faculty / College Address:
China Centre / The Queen's College
I work on Chinese Philosophy with special focus on close philological analysis. My research explores argumentative strategies in early Chinese thought production and the interplay of material conditions and ideas. By studying the impact media change has on the systematisation of thinking, I engage with genre and argument construction in philosophical discourse, manuscript and text cultures, and transition periods in philosophy. As a historian of Chinese thought my goal is to conceptualise Chinese thinking on its own terms.
I currently work on the following projects:
Documentation and Argument: The Shangshu 尚書 (Venerated Documents) and the “Shu” Traditions in Early China. This is a corpus-based conceptual history which analyses the ways different conceptual communities made use of a “Shu” genre to advance their own sociopolitical and philosophical positions;
The Production of Knowledge in China, Past and Present acknowledges that knowledge is shaped, sustained, and framed by material conditions. It is a wider project that 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, it enables comparative analysis of the shaping of ideas in a society throughout time and space. The project, which was national contender for the Leverhulme Prize in Philosophy, will be launched with an international conference on the Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought, Past and Present that will result in an edited volume.
Manuscript Cultures in China. (Berlin: De Gruyter). Martin Kern (Princeton), Wolfgang Behr (Zurich), and I co-edit this long overdue conceptualisation of manuscript cultures in early and medieval China. The project grew out of our previous work on a handbook of Early Chinese Manuscripts.
My planned monograph, Producing Thought in China, will synthesise close textual analysis with macro observations about the interrelation of material change and new forms of philosophical enquiry. Building on my research on meaning construction in Chinese discourse, 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.
Literary Forms of Argument in Manuscript Cultures: A Cross-cultural Perspective and A History of Written Thinking in China are long-term projects that will address trends in Chinese written philosophical discourse.
I am Founding Director of the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures at Oxford, which holds regular interdisciplinary workshops (WMTC). By bringing together international scholars working across material text cultures in different areas of specialisation, it 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. This research cluster will provide the framework for a major, long-term project on The Materiality of Meaning Across Time and Space.
We are now launching a new interdisciplinary Journal Manuscript and Text Cultures. I am Editor in Chief together with Angus M. Bowie. Its forthcoming issues are:
- Transposition and Monumentality of Writing (publication date: Oct. 2020)
- Performing Genre
- Author Functions
- Palimpsest and Rewriting
- Texts in the Making of Queens.
- Lectures: contributions to East Asian surveys for Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.
- Tutorials: Writing and Philosophy; East Asian survey (Philosophy, History, Literature).
- 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.
- 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: 9789004291607) 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.
- 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.)
- “Shu 書 (Documents) Repertoire in Argument-Based Texts from Guodian: The Case of Cheng zhi 成之 (Things Brought to Completion)”. In: Dao Companion to the Excavated Guodian Bamboo Manuscripts, ed. Shirley Chan, 139–167. Cham: Springer, 2019.
- " Patterning Meaning: A Thick Description of the Tsinghua Manuscript '*Tang zai Chi/Di men' (Tang was at the Chi/Di Gate) and What It Tells Us about Thought Production in Early China". Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-i Academy of Sinology 5 (2018): 139-167.
- "Recontextualization and Memory Production: Debates on Rulership as Reconstructed from "Gu ming" 顧命 (Testimonial Charge)". In Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Classic of Documents (eds. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer), 106-145. Leiden: Brill, 2017.
- "'Shu' Traditions and Text Recomposition: A Re-evaluation of 'Jin teng' and 'Zhou Wuwang you ji'". In Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Classic of Documents (eds. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer), 224-248. Leiden: Brill, 2017.
- "'Introduction' to Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Shangshu (Classic of Documents)". In Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Classic of Documents (eds. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer), 1-22, 2017. 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, 297-340. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
- "Introduction: Literary Forms of Argument in Early China" (together with Joachim Gentz). In Literary Forms of Argument in Early China, eds. Joachim Gentz and Dirk Meyer, 1-36. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
- "The Art of Narrative and the Rhetoric of Persuasion in the "*Jīnténg" (Metal Bound Casket) from the Tsinghua Collection of Manuscripts". AS/EA 68.4 (2014): 937–968.
- “Bamboo and the Production of Philosophy: A Hypothesis about a Shift in Writing and Thought in Early China.” In: History and Material Culture in Asian Religions (eds. Benjamin J. Fleming and Richard Mann). London: Routledge (2014): 21-38.
- “Texts, Textual Communities, and Meaning: The Genius Loci of the Warring-States Chu-Tomb Guodian One.”Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques 63.4 (2009): 827-856.
- “Writing Meaning: Strategies of Meaning-construction in Early Chinese Philosophical Discourse.” Monumenta Serica 56 (2008), pp. 55-95.
- Meaning-Construction in Warring States philosophical discourse: A Discussion of the Palaeographic Materials from Tomb Guodian One. Leiden: CNWS, 2008.
- “Structure as a Means of Persuasion as seen in the Manuscript Qiong da yi shi 窮達以時 from Tomb One, Guodian.” Oriens Extremus 45 (2005/06) : 173-210.
- “Betrachtung einer Bibliothek. Das Grab Nummer Eins zu Guodian.” Castrum Peregrini. Zeitschrift für Literatur und Geisteswissenschaft 271-272 (2006): 107-123.
- “A Device for Conveying Meaning: the Structure of the Guodian Tomb One manuscript “Zhong xin zhi dao.” In Wolfgang Behr and Joachim Gentz (editors). Komposition und Konnotation—Figuren der Kunstprosa im Alten China (Bochumer Jahrbuch 29, 2005) : 57-78.
- Library of Sinology [LoS]: I am co-editor of a new book series published by De Gruyter. Library of Sinology is initiated by the Jao Tsung-I Academy, HKBU. It responds to new material evidence of meaning production in Chinese cultures as made manifest through oracle bones, bronzes, as well as manuscript texts on bamboo and silk. Library of Sinology covers 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. If you wish to submit a manuscript to us, please email email@example.com.
- 竹上之思:早期中國的文本與意義生成. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.
- Documentation and Argument in Early China: The Shangshu 尚書 (Venerated Scriptures) and the "Shu" Traditions. Berlin: De Gruyter.
- "Antiquity Resurfaced: A Critical Reflection on the Use of Unprovenienced Manuscripts for the Study of Early China". In preparation.
- "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." BUJAS 5 (2018): 139-165.
- "'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.
- Moving old cultural capital into new problem space: “Hòu Fù” and the materiality of meaning networks in “Shū” (Writings) genre.
Recent Conference and Workshop Organisation (2008-present):
- The Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought, Past and Present: The 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
- Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC): I am Director of the Centre on Manuscript and Text Cultures, an interdisciplinary initiative which 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. CMTC 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. CMTC 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. We 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). Our workshops with invited external speakers take place 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. 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 CMTC. If you have special access requirements, please email wmtc[at]queens.ox.ac.uk). CMTC is intended primarily for Faculty members and research students, but undergraduates are also welcome. CMTC has now recruited a Junior Research Fellow in Manuscript and Text Cultures, a three-year post-doctoral position with a research specialism in knowledge-production and text-transmission in pre-modern literate societies. We are also offering graduate studentships. 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.
- Bernhard Karlgren Fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study for the academic year 2014-2015.
- 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
- Corina Smith (DPhil candidate): Time and Memory in Early Chinese Texts.
- Chun-man (Kevin) Kwong (DPhil candidate): Form and Expression in Zhuangzi.
- Stefano Gandolfo (DPhil candidate): Division of Knowledge in the Siku Catalogue. (Chinese Philosophy)
- Lea Cantor (PRS student): Parmenides, Heraclitus, Laozi and Zhuangzi on Reality, Unity and Difference.
Flaminia Pischedda (PRS student): Philosophical implications of the ancient Chinese divination methods.
Chew Sihao (PRS student): Literature and Philosophy Modes of Explanations for Oneness.
Oliver Hargrave (PRS student): Ecology in the Spiritual Landscape of Anecdote Collections in Pre-Tang.
Henry Jacobs (MSt student): Theories on music and human affect.
Ashton Ng (MSt student): A Systematic Analysis of Han Fei's Laozi Reception.