Intellectual Dynamics of the Warring States Period
E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks

Studies in Chinese History #7 (December 1997) 1-32

This is a survey of the picture of Warring States literary production and interaction which is implied by our individual text-chronology studies. Some conclusions are:

1. The Chinese classical period is severely underdocumented, and what texts we do have tend to document the same (elite) stratum of the culture, and to be controversialist rather than reportive in nature. Caution should be used in accepting as true the picture given by the texts, or in extending it to non-elite levels of society.

2. There is a general spread of literacy beyond court to non-court uses, and a clear late 04c transition from an oral to a written medium of statement.

3. The support groups implied by the texts become increasingly more organized during the period.

4. A dialogue develops in the 04c among non-court texts; this corresponds roughly to what is known as the "Hundred Schools" phenomenon.

5. Interviews with rulers appear to have followed rather precise forms, being among other things sharply limited in time. The genuine portions of Mencius 1 are reliable late 04c examples. These forms evolve and expand during the 03c. They evolve even more in the imaginations of later writers.

6. Patronage appeared in the late 04c. There is a later shift from patronage of authors (Ji-sya, 04c Chi) to patronage of texts (Lw Bu-wei, 03c Chin).

7. The so-called classics were closely involved with 04c unification theory, and new interpretations placed on those texts in the 04c sometimes caused severe disjunction with the earlier (05c) theories which the texts, as compiled, had originally embodied. Thus, the use of negative moral examples (most notoriously the "Songs of Jvng") in the original Shr became an interpretational dilemma for later Confucian expounders, whose method envisioned only positive moral examples.

8. Changes in social and material culture, such as the revolution in war and an associated shift of metal industries from ritual to military production, paralleled and influenced what the texts had to talk about, and what they were up to.

9. We may quote the entirety of the final Envoi. It contains one sentence:

Enduringly interesting as all these details may be, our object in reviewing them here is to show that, in the light of the new text chronology (for all its remaining imperfections), they assume greater historical coherence than before, revealing Warring States thought to have been closely related not only to itself, but also to contemporary material and political developments.

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