Review by
Lionel Jensen
From "China: Ancient" in Boyd ed: Encyclopedia of Historians (1999) v2 206f.

We here quote the relevant paragraphs from this long article on the historiography of ancient China:

" . . . This view of the traditions of Warring States thought is convincingly reinforced by the most exciting text-based scholarship on Chinese antiquity, that of E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks. They labored in relative isolation for more than two decades, but their efforts to establish a reliable chronology for selected texts of the 5th to 3rd centuries BCE gained a scholarly forum in 1993 with the creation of the Warring States Working Group. The group treats texts as living traditions and, relying on a typology of texts in which the genuine/spurious dichotomy is enriched by the addition of an accretional model of text formation, has been able to propose full or partial stratifications or dating for many of the heterogeneous works brought forward in the Warring States avalanche. Texts of this era are considered as an evolving "record of an advocacy position over decades and sometimes even centuries." Dates are considered assignable to textual strata alone, never to an entire work unless that work can be demonstrated to be integral, and thus the matter of authenticity remains ongoing. Moreover, strata may be compared with parallel texts of the same time in China, or even with texts from another culture, to consider the diverse provenance and history of transmission of the work."

"The results have been impressive: the first example of a text fully analyzed by this method - The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors (1998) - was recently published. In the coming years it is hoped to give equally thorough treatment to other major texts, among them Mengzi (Book of Master Meng or Mencius), Sunzi Bingfa (Master Sun's Art of War), the Dao De Jing and the Chunqiu (Springs and Autumns Chronicle), and to produce summary accounts of the Shijing (Classic of Poetry) and of the general development of Warring States thought and society. As with archaeological excavations and a new historicist paleography, the Brooks' endeavor provides an impressive corrective to the narrative of China's cultural evolution."

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14 April 2000 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page