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The idea behind the Warring States Project is that to understand the Chinese classical period historically, one must first approach the texts philologically. The result of carrying out this rather obvious idea has been a revolution, both in the classical China field, and later (beginning in the 21st century) also in the parallel New Testament field.

The project in its present form is located at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It was created on June 10, 1993, in a conversation between Professor Al Cohen and Dean Lee Edwards, at which the dean recognized the parallel between the research possibilities of the classical Chinese situation, which was new to her, and the more familiar Synoptic Problem. She authorized funds to cover the cost of a small conference, which was held that October. It was followed by more than twenty conferences of the Warring States Working Group (WSWG) in the following years, some with financial assistance from other centers (Harvard, New York University) and some both sponsored and hosted by other centers (WSWG 4 at North Carolina, WSWG 13 at Lehigh, WSWG 17 at Leiden). In 1995, Vice Chancellor for Research Fred Byron joined in support of the project, a dual situation which continues to the present. The funding of the project was gradually separated from the (presently extinct) Department of Asian Languages, and now resides in the university's Research Office. In 2004, the project achieved departmental status in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. It reports to the dean of that college, and to the Vice Chancellor for Research.