Warring States Project
Prehistory

The Original Analects

Following Chinese custom, the history of the Project before it became the Project, and during its first five years of operation as the Project, was briefly sketched in the Afterword to The Original Analects (Columbia 1998). We repeat that Afterword in lieu of a more formal narrative.

Doubts about the orthodox view of the Analects, as thought to have been compiled within a narrow time span by one or more of Confucius's direct disciples, go back to Han Yw and especially to his protégé Lyou Dzung-ywaen in the late Tang dynasty. They reached the point of counterstatement with Hu Yin in the Sung, who first openly suggested that the work might have more than one layer. Tswei Shu in the Ching Dynasty elaborated what amounts to a third-layer theory. His results, largely unpublished in his lifetime, were rediscovered and revived in the 20th century, and may even be said to have been accepted by recent scholars both Chinese and international. As of 1960, however, they had not displaced the orthodox presumption that the Analects text was put together over a relatively short time span, and could thus still plausibly be regarded as reflecting, in its entirety, the thought and career of the historical Confucius.

Following various preparatory researches in 1964-1973, our own work on this and kindred problems with the Warring States texts was catalyzed in 1974 by a question from J R Hightower about the authenticity of certain Jwangdz passages. Study of that text, supported by a 1979 grant from the American Council of Learned Societies with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, showed that the Jwangdz was insoluble without reference to the Warring States text problem as a whole, and that the Analects, with its great time depth, was the key to that problem. The critical discovery, that anomalies in the Analects could be resolved by a hypothesis of accretional growth complicated by a parallel interpolational growth, was made on 27 April 1980. That discovery was extended in subsequent years into an integrated chronology embracing at least portions of most of the major Warring States texts. The fact that such a chronology could be reached without mutual contradiction was the strongest indicator that the Analects and other individual results were generally in the right direction.

Discussions over the period 1976-1987 with David S Nivison, Victor Mair, F W Mote, the late Joseph F Fletcher Jr, and other colleagues exposed the theory to criticism from various points of view. Several footnotes in David Nivison's 13 February 1984 Evans-Wentz lecture constitute, so far as we know, the first scholarly reference to our findings. Various implications of the work were presented for criticism in annual talks in 1984-1993 to the Colloquium Orientologicum of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, presided over by Alvin P Cohen. Conversations at the annual meetings of the New England Symposium on Chinese Thought beginning in 1988 were also fruitful, and a 19 May 1990 paper on the Analects / Dau/Dv Jing relationship for the Symposium received a helpful response. On 11 June 1993, Dean Lee R Edwards of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst authorized, and Professor Alvin P Cohen has since coordinated, an interuniversity Warring States Working Group, which from its first meeting of sixteen persons on 9-10 October 1993, on three occasions with support from the Committee on China and Inner Asia of the Association for Asian Studies, provided a semiannual forum for the criticism and development of the chronology and its historical interpretation. Other highlights in the presentation of the theory to the field included a panel proposed by Paul Ropp at the New England regional meeting of the Association for Asian Studies on 15 October 1994 with Kidder Smith as moderator and Karen Turner and David N Keightley as discussants, and a panel on Developmental Aspects of the Warring States for a subsequent meeting of the New England AAS in Amherst on 28 October 1995, with Dennis Grafflin, Constance A Cook, and Karen Turner as co-participants. Thanks are herewith extended to all concerned.

Our further study of the linguistic evidence culminated on 15 October 1993 in a revision of what we regarded as the extent of the original LY 4 core, and a Warring States Working Group exchange with David Nivison on the date of the Chi Kingship let on 14 September 1996 to an adjustment of the date previously assigned to LY 3. Lecture audiences at the Universities of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Bates College, and Harvard, Brown, Indiana, and Columbia Universities during the years 1993-1997 raised a number of other provocative questions which readers will find addressed, if not perhaps definitively answered, in these pages. A 1996-1997 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities supported continued research on the larger problems of Warring States text chronology. Those results, for which, as usual, the authors take full responsibility, have been drawn upon for some of the annotations in the present work.

A partial version of the translation was read and, on 29 October 1995 was criticized, by twenty members of the Warring States Working Group. We accept the responsibility for making final choices among the sometimes opposed suggestions and comments which we received on that occasion, all of which have helped in one way or another to make the present work more nearly adequate to its task.

During the 1980's, it was twice hoped to publish a summary account of our general view of the Warring States texts and the history they imply, against which background this Analects translation would function as the elaboration of one, albeit crucial, detail. Those opportunities never materialized, and as a result, the present work carries the double burden of establishing its foundations even as it builds on them. The patience of readers with the steps taken herein to mitigate this dilemma is much appreciated.

The story of the Project in recent years will be found back on the Introduction page.

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