Warring States Project

Taeko at Her Desk


The root idea behind the Project is that to understand the Chinese classical period historically, one must first approach the texts philologically. The result of carrying out this rather obvious idea has been a revolution, both in the classical China field, and later also in the parallel Biblical field or fields; it turns out that the methodology for solving textual problems is universal across all the humanistic fields. The Project has consistently exploited that fact, making use of parallels in cognate traditions, and continually bringing a comparative perspective to bear. It has also made a new tool available to philological work in all fields: a stylistic difference test, first introduced to the Sinological public at Leiden (2003), with publication in our two journals to follow in 2017-2019.


The history of this effort before the establishment of the Project may be read in the Afterward to The Original Analects (1998); see the Prehistory page.

The Project in its present form is located at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It was created on 10 June 1993 in a conversation between Professor Al Cohen and Dean Lee Edwards, at which the Dean recognized the parallel between the research possibilities of the classical Chinese situation, which was new to her, and the more familiar Synoptic Problem. The similarity across these two fields was thus a crucial element in the creation of the Project, as well as in its own subsequent research. Dean Edwards authorized funds to cover the cost of a small conference, which was held that October. It was followed by more than twenty conferences of the "Warring States Working Group" (WSWG) in the following years, some with financial assistance from other centers (Harvard, New York University) and some both sponsored and hosted by other centers (WSWG 4 at North Carolina, WSWG 13 at Lehigh, WSWG 17 at Leiden). In 1995, Vice Chancellor for Research Fred Byron joined in support of the Project, a dual situation which continues to the present. The funding of the Project was gradually separated from the (presently extinct) Department of Asian Languages, and now resides in the University's Research Office. In 2004, the Project achieved departmental status in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. It reports to the Dean of that College, and to the Vice Chancellor for Research.


The Project has a small resident and nonresident staff, a network of Senior Research Fellows in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, and an international group of Editors and Advisors for its two journals and related book publications. It has collaborated with projects at the Colegio de Mexico and at Heidelberg University, and is in continual touch with approximately 250 scholars worldwide through its several E-mail lists. For a complete staff listing, see here.


Some comments from the Project's earlier years suggest the reception of the its first book, and appreciation of its influence thereafter.

Current Activities

The Project's work is now focused on sharing its research results through its Publications program. Two of the three journals being produced from the University's College of Humanities and Fine Arts (Warring States Papers and Alpha) originate in the Project. A series of general and specialized book publications bring together the fundamental research published in the journals. A live interface with other scholars is maintained on topics of Sinological interest at the Discussion Forum, and its counterpart on the Alpha Christianity side of the Project's agenda, and in several E-lists in both fields.

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25 Jan 2018 / Contact The Project / Exit to Home Page