Ancient China in Context
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 0722-0481. 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. We here prefer the contemporary CHun/Chyou chronicle. It gives an entirely different picture, a picture which is unknown to recent scholarship

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. The Spring and Autumn half of classical Cjina is vital if we would understand where the classical period began, and how it became what it later became. In this book, we clear away the overgrowth of Dzwo Jwan stories, and confront the Spring and Autumn as it appears to those who lived and died in that period.

This book is not a translation of the whole Chun/Chyou. Along with about a quarter of the chronicle, it takes up the major events in the period and their significance, Some general topics such as sacrifices and military capacity come next.

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 eight 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. This is also the beginning of the transition from a personal state to a bureaucratic state, laying the groundwork for the larger army of the future, the army which finally unified China.

Those three reigns also include the adult lifetime of Confucius, himself a major contributor to that 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 vital.

Two concluding chapters show how 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 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: Late 2017

 

 

When announced, this book may be ordered from our distributor

 

18 December 2015 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page