on the book series
The New Chinese Classics
Ancient China in Context
These comments were made in 2006, in letters of recommendation to our first distributor, the University of Massachusetts Press, for a program which included these two book series, as well as the Project's journal, Warring States Papers. Like the early reviews of The Original Analects (1998), they often noted the importance of the Project's work in general:
- "The work of Bruce and Taeko Brooks is unique in Sinology. They have brought to the field the proven methodology of Classical philology and applied it to long unsolved problems concerning the date and structure of the Chinese classical texts . . . The result has been a revolution in the scholarly understanding of these texts, and in their proper use as sources for history" (Christopher I Beckwith, Indiana University) .
- "It is particularly important from my point of view that the Warring States publication proposal sets out to place Chinese philology in a comparative context, and to raise issues that are of broader interest than those of a narrowly professional public" (Christoph Harbsmeier, University of Oslo)
- "Hitherto, understanding of pre-imperial China has been obfuscated by a narrative which was composed in the early Empire and which retrojected conditions obtaining in its own time or desired in its own time onto the preceding period" (Raphael Sealey, Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley)
- "I have been both impressed and influenced by the work of Bruce and Taeko Brooks since I became aware of it in the mid-1990's . . . In several ways they have fundamentally shifted the ground beneath the feet of scholars whose work relates to early China" (Stephen C Angle, Wesleyan University)
- "The Project's most significant contribution is its commitment to trace changes in intellectual trends over time. This approach has shaken some in our field, who would prefer to view certain figures and texts as representations of eternal wisdom, existing out of time. But such a traditional way of viewing early China precludes any hope of coming to terms with the intersection between history and thought . . . In short, the work of the Project is timely, solid, and path-breaking" (Karen Turner, College of the Holy Cross)
- "The picture the Brookses have built up, piece by piece, over the years deeply alters our understanding of the classical texts, of the nature of the dialogue among thinkers, and of the actual history of early China" (Haun Saussy, Yale University)
- ". . . One major deficiency in the field, however, is a clear chronology of these transmitted texts and unearthed manuscripts. The Warring States Project is the only group of scholars working on a comprehensive chronology to meet this deficiency" (Paul van Els, Leiden University)
- "Through a systematic effort, we get at a general chronology including all major texts, and this effort has shown a degree of interconnectedness that few would have anticipated" (Jörg Schumacher, Université de Genève)
- These works are eagerly awaited in the field (Lewis Cook, Queens College)
- "Original scholars from all over the world have rallied to the Warring States Project. Whether established or young, all want to find a road to learning that is as historical as it is linguistic . . . That is why I find the work of the Warring States Project among the most valuable in Chinese studies" (Nathan Sivin, University of Pennsylvania)
- "The Project's work promises to transform the study of early China in a number of ways, and the books they foresee publishing are sure to be among the most significant written about early China, probably for decades" (Dan Robins, Stockton College)
- "Every one of the publications planned in this series will make a major contribution in establishing a new paradigm for our understanding of the key philosophical, political, and historical texts . . . how these texts spoke to each other, and how they evolved in dynamic dialogue with each other" (Paul Ropp, Clark University)
The idea that texts have dates, and that some dates are spans rather than years; that authority texts in particular may undergo growth while still in their formative phase, and under the control of their authors or proprietors; that texts and their authors are better understood in the context of what other authors were doing, and what other texts existed, at that time; - these ideas are normal and standard in other fields of humanistic endeavor. The revolution repeatedly mentioned above comes when these ideas are systematically applied to the early Chinese texts, which many people in that field regard as something like diffuse wisdom from on high, coming together who knows how, and when we cannot say, and in general defying the laws of gravity.
The Project's picture is one where the laws of gravity do apply, where Aristotle follows and goes beyond Plato, where Horace and Vergil are Augustan contemporaries, where Anderson is burlesqued by Hemingway but shows Faulkner where the next step in the novel lies; where early texts are earlier than later texts, and where earlier and contemporary texts create a historical background against which the later texts come into being. Though too mundane for some, this view makes the Chinese past more intelligible to the others. We venture to recommend it.