Ancient China in Context
The Emergence of China
From Confucius to the Empire

E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks


The Emergence of ChinaThe first to be issued of the volumes planned for this series, Emergence gives a brief overview of the Chinese classical period (the 05th through the 03rd centuries), its antecedents in earlier times, and its final result: the establishment of the Chinese unified Empire under the Chin Dynasty, out of the multi-state system which had preceded it. Of the surveys currently available, this one has several unique features.

Like other books in the series, The Emergence of China presents the classical period in its own terms. It contains more than 500 translated excerpts from the classical texts, linked by a running commentary which traces the evolution and interaction of the opinions which the texts represent. The various schools of thought are shown in direct argument, about issues from tax policy to the length of the mourning period for a parent. Some texts labor to construct the legal and political edifice of the new state, while others passionately oppose its war orientation, or amusingly ridicule those who supported it. Here are the arguments of the Hundred Schools of classical thought, for the first time restored to life and vividly presented.

"If generations of Western readers have expressed disappointment about the lack of dialogues in Chinese philosophy, we can now tell them: The dialogues are there. It merely requires the right understanding of the text to make them visible" - Jörg Schumacher, Université de Genève

Readers who are already familiar with the most popular of these writings (the Analects of Confucius, the speeches of Mencius, the cryptic pronouncements of Laudz, or the flights of fantasy in the Jwangdz, not to mention the Art of War of Master Sun) will find many of them here, but energized and clarified by being seen against their contemporary background of hardship and conflict. The contributions of India, Greece, and the Ancient Near East to the creation of the distinctive Chinese culture are mentioned, as are those of the several non-Sinitic peoples who were largely displaced or absorbed in the Sinitic expansion.

"The Emergence of China will provide an indispensable point of reference for all scholars working on the period, regardless of discipline; I also anticipate assigning it as a textbook in courses on early Chinese thought" - Dan Robins, Richard Stockton College

There are six topical chapters, each treating a major subject in chronological order, framed by a preliminary background chapter and a concluding survey of the eventual Empire. Each chapter includes several brief Methodological Moments, as samples of the philological method on which the work is based. Occasional footnotes point to historical parallels in Greece, Rome, the Ancient Near East, and the mediaeval-to-modern transition in Europe, which at many points the Chinese classical period resembles. At the back of the book are a guide to alternate Chinese romanizations, a list of passages translated, and a subject index.

A preliminary version of The Emergence of China was classroom-tested, and the suggestions of teachers and students were incorporated into the final version. The results of those classroom trials, in both history and philosophy classes, were favorable:

"The Emergence of China is the most lively, detailed, insightful and accessible introduction to the formative period of the Warring States that I know of in any language. The authors capture the drama, excitement, and complexity of the period and weave into their narrative hundreds of direct quotations, thus encouraging readers to become active participants in the quest to understand this too-often mythologized era of Chinese civilization. My students were excited by the book and by the vivid sense of new discovery it brings to the study of the Warring States" - Paul Ropp, Clark University

"The fruit of an extraordinarily detailed and wide-ranging research program, The Emergence of China succinctly lays out the evolving political, social, and economic context without which we cannot understand the great classics of Chinese philosophy in their own terms. Students are helped to see the texts not as free-floating bits of wisdom, but as real objects put together by real people for a variety of complex reasons. No matter what one's disciplinary approach, the result is a richer experience of the texts: my students had no problem seeing our subject as philosophy, but as philosophy developed in a particular time and place" - Stephen C Angle, Wesleyan University

"At last, a way to teach ancient Chinese philosophy historically: we may jettison the old cardboard-cutout versions of "the philosophers." The Emergence of China shows how the ancient Chinese texts formed over time and in dialogue with each other, as their authors struggled to accommodate - and to shape - the rapidly changing, increasingly violent world around them. Placed in historical context, the voices of the Warring States become all the more compelling, while also effectively introducing state centralization, the role of officials, the rise of industry and trade, and many other key themes of imperial-era China. I am looking forward to teaching this book in my survey of Chinese history" - Sigrid Schmalzer, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

"I will definitely use it in my course. It solves a problem I have had from the beginning: to give a context for the philosophical texts . . . A stylistically economical, accessible, gripping, and substantive book" - John J Furlong, Transylvania University

"Wonderfully rich and informative, lucidly outlined, tightly written, packed with fascinating excerpts and simply a joy to read. I wish someone would do this for early Greek history, including the explicit focus on methodology and mythography" - Richard Martin, Stanford University

Extracts from The Emergence of China:

This is the only account of early Chinese thought which presents it against the background of the momentous changes taking place in the early Chinese state, and the only account of the early Chinese state which follows its development, by correctly dated documents, from its beginnings in the palace states of Spring and Autumn to the economically sophisticated bureaucracies of late Warring States times. In this larger context, the insights of the philosophers remain, but their failure to influence events is also noted. The fun of the Jwangdz is transmitted, but along with its underlying pain. The achievements of the Chinese Imperial formation process are duly registered, but so is their human cost. Special attention is given to the contribution of non-Chinese peoples to the eventual Chinese civilization.

Those wishing to follow a major philosophy in more detail through the Warring States centuries may consult several forthcoming works in this series, among them Confucius (as his image changed during the later evolution of Confucianism), The Arts of War (for the military sophistication of the state in its Warring States form), Waging Peace (for an overview of the counterpart antiwar philosophy, which is that of the influential Micians), and, in Quiet Ways, the first and most influential form of philosophical Dauism. A companion volume will show how the thinking of the humanistic and populist Mencius successor schools became more shrill, and also more discouraged, as the tide of cultural evolution turned against them..

E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese, and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The Emergence of China: From Confucius to the Empire

256 pages, 10 illustrations, 4 maps.
$47.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-936166-35-0
$24.95 paper. ISBN 978-1-936166-75-6
Tentative Release Date: September 2014

Order from the University of Massachusetts Press


Back to Ancient China in Context

31 August / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page