Warring States Project
The chronology of a text, its placement in time, is the single most useful piece of information about that text. To recover that information for as much as possible of the corpus of classical Chinese texts has been a central focus of Project research. We are accordingly pleased to be collaborating on chronology with the Thesaurus Linguae Sericae (TLS) project, based at Oslo University and on-line at Heidelberg University. TLS has a long history under the direction of Christoph Harbsmeier, with programming assistance from Jens Østergaard Petersen, and supervision at Heidelberg by Michael Lüdke. It aims to give access to the Chinese wordstock in a way analogous to that provided for Latin by the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, still being compiled at Munich after more than a century. For details, see the TLS General Introduction.
The Project Contribution
During 2007, the Project composed for TLS short descriptions of the 36 texts in the classical portion of the TLS database. We then arranged these and other text descriptions in chronological order. The result is an overview of the early Chinese texts as a whole. We here offer that result, tentative as it must be in the light of ongoing research, as a convenience to TLS readers, and a service to Sinology at large. Suggestions for improvement will be gratefully received; they may be made via the E-mail link at the bottom of this page.
An Overview of Selected Classical Chinese Texts
Ultimately, it is intended that the individual texts will be described more fully in an alphabetically arranged reference, with the Overview or its successor as a concluding section.
On The Dating of Texts
Dating is not agreeable to all users of texts, and the principles involved are sometimes disputed even among those who find dating valuable. As methodological background, we have therefore added the following notes.
Texts can be dated in one of two ways: by locating them on a scale of years (absolute dating) or by determing which of them precede or follow others (relative dating). It often happens, especially with ancient materials, that relative dating is all that is possible. If an absolute date can be assigned to one or more points in a relatively dated system, so much the better. But relative dating in itself gives us a lot. It shows the intellectual historian the order in which ideas arose, and the way in which they influenced each other as they developed.
If a text includes materials of different date, then precise dating is only possible for each portion separately. For such a text as a whole, the correct date is a span. Accretional texts are common in classical China, and are not unknown in the Mediterranean world, nor will the concept be strange to students of the Mahabharata. These are thrice told tales.
Discovering that a text has a history behind it, resolving it into its constituents, and placing those constituents in chronological context, is a matter of technique. We here give a link to some information about technique, together with a few sample graphic presentations. The presentations show how easy it is to envision the solution of certain problems, when you have a map to look at. It is the system of text relationships - the relative chronology - that provides that map. If the map can be further coordinated with real time, then not only do we know the sequence of ideas in that culture, we know the relation of that sequence to political and other events. It is this result at which historical research aims.
- [see in our Philology section]
- A Graphic View of Some Major Warring States Texts
15 Dec 2007 / Contact The Project / Exit to Home Page