The New Chinese Classics
Spring and Autumn:
The Chinese World Before Confucius
A Taeko Brooks and E Bruce Brooks
The Chun/Chyou or "Spring and Autumn" appears to be the court chronicle of Lu for the years 0722-0481. 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 willfully 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 describes five major historical transitions affecting Lu, which together provide an objective and meaningful periodization for Spring and Autumn history. A number of studies of beliefs and military and social structure of Lu, and most of the other northern states, follow.
It is often thought that the "terse" or even "dry as dust" CC gives little biographical detail, but some individual lives are visible as such, and nine of them (including the careers of two important women) are presented in the following section; these contrasting personalities show what it was like to have, or to influence, a public career in these dangerous times. Finally come 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 begin 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 afford 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, protégés who were ideologically prepared for the new civil service, was retrospectively important.
Four concluding chapters show how, and why, the Spring and Autumn period was misrepresented in later centuries.
Click here for the Contents Page of Spring and Autumn, including some downloadable chapters.:
This book opens 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 more aware, than other people. But fact also has its fans, 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
256 pages, 30 illus, 4 maps, 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
LCCN: Not yet assigned
Tentative $49.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-936166-25-1
Tentative $26.95 paper. ISBN 978-1-936166-65-7
Tentative $25.95 E-book. ISBN 978-1-936166-85-5
Expected: July 2018
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University Press of New England
18 December 2015 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page