Professor of Chinese Philosophy; Fellow of The Queen's College
Director of the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC)
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:
Silence of a Mode of Meaning production: Philosophical Argumentation in Early China. This monograph analyses silence as a structural feature of argument construction in early China. The silent argument-form embraces the element of concern and articulates a certain position via the structural composition of the text. In types of argument that are carried by such silence, the arguments are not made semantically explicit but instead they are produced by extra-semantic information put in the compositional form of the text and by frustrating the expectations of the text recipient in ways that are retrospectively predictable. The argument thus works as a performance activity through the recipient of the text. A discussion of structural silence must therefore consider the macro features of a text’s composition and so detail how they produce meaning within the text proper. This requires the close examination of the text as one piece. (In progress.)
Songs of the States: The Anhui Warring States Manuscripts. This is a collaborative project with Adam Schwartz, HKBU. It provides complete reading of Songs of the Anhui Manuscripts which, methodologically, we take as not related to the Máo recension. As a thought experiment, we aim to establish an emic reading of this Warring States instantiation of the Songs and contextualise it in the larger framework of studies of the “Shi” (Songs) and meaning production during the Warring States period more broadly. We devise this as a two-volume project. Volume 1 (ALAC 2) discusses the Royal Songs "Zhōu Nán" and "Shào Nán". Volume 2 discusses the songs of the 'common' states.
The Panorama of Silence in Early Chinese Philosophy (co-written with Avital Rom, Cambridge, and Yuan Ai, Tsinghua University). This book (and an attached conference) will discuss early Chinese conceptualisations of silence in Chinese philosophy from three complementary angles, 'verbal silence' (Yuan Ai), 'structural silence' (Dirk Meyer), 'aural silence' (Avital Rom). With this book we seek to develop a comprehensive picture of the rhetorical function of silence in early Chinese argumentative texts. (In progress.)
The Production of Knowledge in China, Past and Present acknowledges that knowledge is shaped, sustained, and framed by material conditions. This 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 was national contender for the Leverhulme Prize in Philosophy.
My planned monograph, Written Thinking 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.
The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC)
I am Founding Director of the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures at Oxford, which 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. Central to the Centre's activities are the termly lectures, termly colloquia, and yearly conferences. At lectures, leading international scholars present a research paper, followed by long and intense discussions. The colloquia are meant to give academics working on any aspect of manuscript and text cultures the opportunity to present their work to an academic audience outside their usual department, and to receive critical yet supportive comments by specialists working on related questions but in different fields.
The Journal of Manuscript and Text Cultures (MTC)
CMTC also hosts a media channel (CMTC media) and publishes a journal, Manuscript and Text Cultures (MTC), for which I serve as Editor in Chief together with Angus M. Bowie. (The production editor is Yegor Grebnev, UIC) The journal appears once a year digitally and in print, in themed issues. It is double-blind peer-reviewed. With the journal we follow a strict open-access policy.
Each issue of MTC is devoted to a particular set of questions that are addressed globally. Articles are at once specialised and interdisciplinary, and led by the common goal of enabling long-term research on how knowledge and meaning are shaped and sustained by material conditions, past and present. As a platform for international researchers to engage in close dialogue across their areas of expertise and inform each other about approaches and theories developed in their various subject areas, the goal of MTC is to generate discussions that cross subject boundaries and contribute to the theoretical understanding of material text cultures and their impact on knowledge production in global literate societies. With our multidisciplinary approach, crossing traditional academic divisions, we hope to cast light on the deep structures of human behaviours in material knowledge production, past and present.The following issues are currently in the making:
Are you interested in submitting to the journal Manuscript and Text Cultures? Please review the About the Journal page for the journal's section policies, as well as the Author Guidelines. Authors need to register with the journal prior to submitting or, if already registered, can simply log in and begin the five-step process.
Manuscript and Text Cultures (print): ISSN 2752-3462
Manuscript and Text Cultures (online): ISSN 2752-3470
MTC is available for purchase in the University of Oxford Online Store. Registered subscribers become Associate Members of The Center for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC). Associate Members are entitled to propose workshops and conferences related to pre-modern manuscript and epigraphic studies that will be hosted at CMTC. In addition, Associate Members can propose new themes for upcoming issues of MTC and nominate themselves as issue editors. Institutional subscription entitles the members of the subscribing institution to benefit from the academic opportunities offered by CMTC.
Manuscript and Text Cultures is published with the support of The Queen’s College, Oxford, the JJC Foundation, New York, and the Faculty of AMES, University of Oxford.
- 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); Argumentation in Early Chinese Philosophy.
- 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.
- Songs of the Royal Zhōu and the Royal Shào: Shī of the Ānhuī University Manuscripts. (Together with Adam Schwartz, HKBU). Leiden: Brill, 2022. (hardback ISBN: 978-90-04-50823-1; e-book ISBN: 978-90-04-51243-6) (xii, 222 pp.).
- Documentation and Argument in Early China: The Shangshu (Venerated Documents) and the Shu Traditions. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021. (x, 281 pp.) (ISBN hard copy: 9783110708417; ISBN e-book: 9783110708530) This study uncovers the traditions behind the formative Classic Shàngshū (Venerated Documents). It reveals “Shū” (Documents) as a genre of textual practice that was used creatively by contrasting conceptual communities for socio-philosophical ends. Through analysis of Warring States manuscript texts, it shows how different communities rewrote old cultural capital and became political actors through literary thought production.
- 竹上之思:早期中國的文本與意義生成. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2021. This book is a translation of my 2012 monograph Philosophy on Bamboo. (ISBN：9789888758692)
- Philosophy on Bamboo: Text and the Production of Meaning in Early China. 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).
- "Sentences, Paragraphs, and Sections" (with Lisa Indraccolo). In Jack Chen et. al., Literary Information in China: A History, 174-182. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020.
- “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.
- "Dank wenzhang chengwei shijian: yuedu Guodian *Laozi" 当文章成为实践：阅读郭店老子. In Liu Xiaogan, Zheng Jixiong, Liu Tao, eds. Jianbo sixiang wenxian yanjiu 简帛思想文献研究:個案與方法, 156-169. Beijing: Dongfang, 2019. (ISNB 978-7-5207-0751-)
- " 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.
- Songs of the Peripheral States: Shī of the Ānhuī University Manuscripts. (Together with Adam Schwartz, HKBU). In progress.
- Analects of Confucius: Unseen Philosophical Sayings of Anhui University Manuscripts. (Together with Adam Schwartz, HKBU). In progress.
- Silence of a Mode of Meaning production: Philosophical Argument in Early China. In progress.
- A Panorama of Silence: Chinese Philosophy reconsidered. (Together with Ai Yuan, Tsinghua, and Avital Rom, Cambridge). In progress.
- "Aural Fixity and Semantic Flexibility in the Early Chinese Songs: The Case of 'White Boat' (白舟) / 'Cedar Boat' (柏舟) in the Ānhuī University Manuscripts" (co-authored with Adam Schwartz). MTC 4: 2023.
- "The Dialectics of Rule in in the Political Philosophy of *Mìng xùn (Taking Chinese Philosophy on its own Terms)". In Lisa Indraccolo and Wolfgang Behr, eds, Warp, Woof, Wen / Phoneme, Pattern, Pun. Leiden: Brill, 2023.
- Moving old cultural capital into new problem space: “Hòu Fù” and the materiality of meaning networks in “Shū” (Writings) genre. In preparation.
- "Antiquity Resurfaced: A Critical Reflection on the Use of Unprovenanced Manuscripts for the Study of Early China". MTC 5. In preparation.
- "'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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Conference and Workshop Organisation (2008-present):
- Music in Manuscript Cultures: Hybrid conference to be held by the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC), The Queen's College and The China Centre, 8-9 September 2022.
- Poetic Traditions in Manuscript Cultures: Online conference held by CMTC, The Queen's College, 16-17 September 2021.
- The Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought, Past and Present: The conference was held at Yuelu Academy, Hunan University, 3-5 September 2019.
- 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
- I am serving on the Editorial Board of the Hong Kong based journal 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 Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy. ISSN: 1540-3009 (print); 1569-7274 (electronic)
- I am serving on the Editorial Board of Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia. ISSN: 2667-0755.
- I am Senior Research Fellow of Jao Tsung-I Academy (JAS), Hong Kong Baptist University
- I am Senior Research Fellows of United International College (UIC), Zhuhai
- I am Adjunct Professor at Yuelu Academy, University of Hunan
- 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 DPhil Students
- Alec Schellinx: Reading the Hanfeizi as a concrete poetic site.
- Andreas Kerschbaum (Humboldt University, Berlin): Wuwei Revisited: Ancient and Modern Perspectives.
- Fang Ziyang: The concept of li 利 in Yantie lun: a philosophical analysis.
- Peter Smith: An Exploration into the Shift of Analysis and Interpretation in Oral Explanations of the Zhuangzi.
- Ye Ziwei: Written Culture and Knowledge Production in Medieval China and East Asia.
Chew Sihao: Literature and Philosophy Modes of Explanations for Oneness.
Parker Chan: Filiations of Poetry Interpretations in the Western Han.
Oliver Hargrave: Ecology in the Spiritual Landscape of Anecdote Collections in Pre-Tang.
Previous DPhil Students
- Lea Cantor (DPhil). 2023. Parmenides and Zhuangzi on Formulating what Can (and Cannot) Be Known. From October 2023: Research Fellow in Philosophy at Peterhouse, Cambridge.
- Flaminia Pischedda (DPhil). 2023. Philosophical implications of the ancient Chinese divination methods. Now: Post-doc at University of Vienna.
- Chun-man (Kevin) Kwong (DPhil). 2023. The Performed Dao: Understanding Zhuangzi with the Literary Form Approach.
- Stefano Gandolfo (DPhil). 2020. Division of Knowledge in the Siku Catalogue. (Chinese Philosophy) Now: Counselor at Ministry of Education, Greece.
- Corina Smith (DPhil). 2020. Time and Memory in Early Chinese Texts.
- Yuan Ai (DPhil). 2018. Situations Beyong Human Control in the Zhuangzi. Now: Assistant Professor of Chinese Philosophy, Tsinghua University, Beijing.
- Yegor Grebnev (DPhil). 2016. The Textual History of the Yi Zhou shu. Now: Assitant Professor of Chinese Culture, UIC, Zhuhai.
- Rens Krijgsman (DPhil). 2016. The Rise of a Manuscript Culture and the Textualization of Discourse in Early China. Now: Associate Professor of Chinese Manuscripts, Tsinghua University, Beijing.