E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The Gwan Jung Myth
Panel: War, Diplomacy, and the State in Early China
AAS New England Meeting, Dartmouth College, 6 November 2004

E Bruce Brooks


It is commonly believed that Gwan Jung, a low-born minister of Chi Hwan-gung, masterminded a program of state strengthening in the late 07th century, including both civil and military reform, and leading to a decisive advantage for Chi against the other states, and finally to the granting of the Hegemon (ba) title to Chi Hwan-gung. In the first part of this paper, I will show that the supposed military advantage of Chi never existed, making it unnecessary to explain how it might have come about, and that the Hegemon system is an invention of the theorists who wrote the Dzwo Jwan.

Gwan Jung is then a myth, but how did the myth arise? In the second part of the paper, I suggest that he may be an emblematic figure, who was constructed by Chi political theorists as a precedent for their own activities in trying to engineer a genuine, and effective, but also unprecedented, program of state strengthening in Chi in the middle 04th century.

As such, he belongs to a small but highly visible company of Spring and Autumn figures, some real and some invented, to whom were attributed many of the social innovations that were actually taking place in mid Warring States, and who served in that literature, and continue to serve today, as lending ancient precedent to what were in fact later innovations, disguising, under the supposed agelessness of China, the actual creative potential of China.


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29 May 2004 / Contact The Project / Conferences Page