The New Chinese Classics
Spring and Autumn:
The Chinese World Before Confucius
A Taeko Brooks and E Bruce Brooks

 

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The Chun/Chyou or "Spring and Autumn" appears to be the court chronicle of Lu for the years 0722-0479. This is exactly what we believe it to be. Chinese tradition has dismissed it as containing coded moral judgements by Confucius, and as a source for the period, has relied instead on an 04c commentary, the long and colorful Dzwo Jwan. The Dzwo Jwan is a great literary masterpiece, full of virtue and vice, served up with liberal doses of sex and violence; an obvious success. But it can be shown to be not only inaccurate, but wilfully inaccurate, about the realities of Spring and Autumn history.

Spring and Autumn is the first half of the post-Jou classical period, the time when ancient China created itself, when it became the Empire that it has ever since remained. Those two and a half centuries are essential if we would grasp the character of these states, and the historical dynamic in which they participated. In this book, we clear away the overgrowth of Dzwo Jwan stories, and confront the Spring and Autumn as it appears in the only extensive contemporary document of the period: the chronicle of Lu.

This book is not a translation of the Chun/Chyou, it is more of a guided reader. It first provides Orientations to the major diplomatic and military realities of the period, including a previously unsuspected window into the feelings, as well as the deeds, of successive Lu rulers. Five major historical transitions affecting Lu are described in the next section. The last of these applies to all the states, and provides, for the first time, an objective and meaningful periodization for Spring and Autumn history.

It is often thought that the "terse" CC gives little biographical detail, but some lindividual ives are visible as such, and seven of them (plus the almost invisible careers of two nevertheless important women) are put together in the next section, giving a sense of what it was like to have a public career in these dangerous times. There follow consecutive accounts of the last three reigns of Lu Princes (Jau-gung, Ding-gung, and Ai-gung) whose collective merit it was to regain a degree of central control, against the potentially usurping Three Clans, and at the same time to prepare the transition from a personal state to a bureaucratic state, and thus to lay the groundwork for the larger army which no progressive state could affort to be without, in the coming Warring States period. This is also the lifetime of Confucius, himself a major contributor to that social transition, whose military role was negligible, but whose role in providing, for the new society, proteges who were ideologically prepared for the new civil service, was retrospectively important.

No reader of the Chun/Chou can ignore the Dzwo Jwan, regarded by many as the true account of the Spring and Autumn centuries. A concluding group of studies exposes the thinness of that claim, and bares the interpretive agenda (or more exactly, since the book was composed over some 80 years, and continually tinkered with its own theories, agendas) which DJ brings to the period.

Table of Contents for Spring and Autumn:

Advisors
Front Matter
Preface
Contents

Prolegomena
Five Transitions
1. Beginning the Chronicle
2. Suppressing the Rung
3. Climate Change and the Di
4. The Syi-gung Watershed
5. The League of the North

Nine Characteristics

1. Enfiefment Renewal
2. Sacrifices and Portents

3. Military Capacity
4. Defeat
5. Covenants
6. Peacemaking
7. Killing
8. Social Expansion
9. Personal Feelings
Center and Periphery: Nine Lives
1. Chvng-fvng of Jwan-yw
2. Gungdz Swei of Lu
3. Jisun Hang-fu of Lu
4. Jau Dun of Jin
5. Hwa Ywaen of Sung
6. Tswei Ju of Chi
7. Shusun Bau of Lu
8. Shu Gung of Lu
9. Mvngdz of Wu
Recovery at the Center: Three Reigns
1. Jau-gung
2. Ding-gung
3. Ai-gung
Appendix: What the Dzwo Jwan Knew
1. The Chariots of Chvng-pu
2. Civilianization
3. The Historiography of Jyw
4. Imagining Jvng Jwang-gung
4. The Hegemon
6. Heaven and Man
7. The End of Morality

Apparatus
Chinese Romanization Table
Works Cited
Subject Index


This book attempts to open up the Spring and Autumn period for serious historical study, free of the lurid tales with which the Dzwo Jwan encrusts it, and clear of the moral preachments with which the Dzwo Jwan overlays it. Fiction of course has its charms; it is more exciting than fact. It exists precisely in order to be more exciting than fact. Morality too has its charms; few things are more satisfying than discovering oneself to be better, or better aware, than other people. But fact also has its appreciators, and this book will prove an essential resource for them. Nowhere else is it possible to take the Spring and Autumn, so to speak, straight.


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

Spring and Autumn: The Chinese World Before Confucius

Approximately 272 pages
Tentative $49.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-21-3
Tentative $26.95 paper. ISBN 978-036166-61-9
Tentative Release Date: September 2014

When announced, this book may be ordered from a link on this web page

 

 

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