The New Chinese Classics
The Hundred Voices:
An Intellectual History of Classical China
E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks
This comprehensive overview arranges excerpts from the classical Chinese texts in historical order, and draws from them a coherent narrative of intellectual and political development, a development with many a byway and dead end, but leading as a whole to the unified Chinese state which is still with us.
The unification process begins in 0771 with the fall of the Jou, which had presided over an indirect sovereignty system, and who left in their wake a suddenly acephalous set of tributary or obligational states. Over the next few centuries, called the Spring and Autumn period those states fought for priority within the resulting multi-state system. Confucius lived his life in the last quarter of Spring and Autumn, and cannot be understood without some acquaintance with this older China out of which he came, and of which he was himself a part.
The end of Confucius's life coincided with the transition to a period of more intense warfare, in which the armies of the state were reformed on a popular (in effect, a Napoleonic) rather than elite warrior model, and the state itself was transformed into a larger and more bureaucratic entity, which alone could provide for, and control, that much larger and much more deadly army. A major social restructuring was part of this complex of changes, and Confucius contributed by adapting the warrior's code into a new, less personal, and more civilian service ethic. Trade developed along with the increasing fiscal sophistication of the state, and an ethic of the trader also emerged, to compete with the adapted ethic of the warrior. These developments take us to the end of the 05th century.
Major realignments occur from the beginning of the 04th century. The Micians organize themselves around the earlier trader ethic, and criticize the warrior state from that perspective. The Confucians adopt a new ideology based on ritual, and defined by ritual procedures and their accompanying text traditions. Philosophers of the new state as such, the social engineers of the period, also emerge, and begin to accumulate advocational texts of their own. The practice of meditation, known since the early 05th century, develops in at least two independent schools, and address the hot topic of statecraft from their special point of view. Military science advances by small practical leaps and then by larger theoretical bounds. The relation between the human and cosmic orders attracts attention toward the end of the century, spawning yet another set of thinkers and theorists. This is the High Warring States period, the golden age of its classical thought. Its diversity is widely appreciated (the Chinese name for it is The Hundred Schools), but its interconnectedness has never before been adequately appreciated: what we have here is the thought and self-awareness of a whole culture, evolving at a rapid pace, and expressing itself in the seemingly multiple but actually related voices of individuals. This book sets forth that interactive situation in detail, and for the first time.
By the 03rd century it has become obvious that political unification is going to be achieved in one way or another. The philosophical schools either assimilate their agendas to the priorities of the new state, or adopt a stance of opposition to the whole unification process, powered as it was by increasingly unrestrained and brutal warfare. Thought in this period was no longer the gnomic wisdom of the preceding period, but looked toward system coherence in the modern sense, as well as to practical effectiveness in the insistent business of killing the people of the neighboring states. These system tendencies, and their human cost, are given their share of space.
Under unification, first in 0221 by the short-lived Chin Dynasty and then in 0202 by the more successful Han, the question of one state versus many, and of force as a tool of social engineering, were worked out over many highly perilous decades; an art of the courtier, explaining how to survive and succeed under these extremely dangerous conditions, also developed. Tension between the desire for wealth (and thus a policy favoring trade) and the need for security in the recurrent wars with the peoples to the north, who contested the major trade routes, defined the policy spectrum. Careers were sacrificed, and supposedly ancient texts of justification were forged, as part of that policy pendulum. Eventually the ongoing intellectual wars were decided in favor of a now bookish and loyal Confucianism as the ideology of the serving elite, and Chinese intellectual history from that point on lost the variety and vibrancy it had had in the classical period. The reign of the Han Emperor Wu, and not the end of the multi-state system as such, is thus the true conclusion of the Warring States story. It is at that point that this overview of the story comes to an end.
Extracts from The Hundred Voices:
Chapter 1: The career of Gungdz Swei
Chapter 7: Ritual Theory
Chapter 9: The Twilight of Eastern Thought
Chapter 11: Classicism Underground
This is the survey volume for the New Chinese Classics series. For a briefer and partly topical account, see our wide-audience book The Emergence of China, in the Ancient China in Context series.
E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The Hundred Voices: An Intellectual History of Classical China
Approximately 832 pages.
Tentative $65.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-37-4
Tentative $42.95 paper. ISBN 978-036166-77-0
Release Date: To Be Announced
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press
14 August 2010 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page