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Early Chinese Literature and Thought (Volume A)

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1 Early Chinese Literature and Thought (Volume A)

2 China oldest surviving civilization
regional identity versus cultural-political unity military elites sage rulers (Fu Xi) Yellow River China survived periods of turmoil and rule by non-Chinese conquerors because peoples on the margins of the heartland had adopted China’s writing, cultural values, and institutions, and had thus become “Chinese.” Regional identity is often subordinate to a belief in cultural and political unity. By the second millennium B.C.E., most settlements had defensive walls, a sign of the increasing influence of military elites. Sage rulers laid the foundations for Chinese civilization, including Fu Xi, who taught people to raise silkworms, invented the eight trigrams (basis for the canonical divination text, the Classic of Changes). Shennong invented the plow and instructed people in medicinal herbs. Huangdi’s scribe, Cang Jie, invented writing by observing and imitating bird tracks. The picture shows the Hukou waterfall of Yellow River, China. The river contains large silt deposits that create a yellow color, and its basin is considered the center of Chinese civilization. Aside from periodically creating devastating floods, the river is used for commerce and irrigation.

3 Huangdi and Fu Xi The right image shows Fu Xi with trigrams and a turtle (13th century). The left image is the famous terracotta army of Huangdi, the “Yellow Emperor,” near Xian.

4 China: Bronze Age Shang Dynasty bone divination ancestor worship
3,200-year history logographic “brush talk” Chinese script originated 3,200 years ago during the Shang Dynasty, originally written on animal bones and tortoise shells as “oracle-bone inscriptions” with divinatory purpose to advise Shang kings on political decisions and to restore harmony between the human and spirit worlds. Chinese script is nonalphabetic, with sounds holding dozens of meanings or being represented by multiple characters. Chinese is a logographic language, combined of sound syllables and radicals (concepts), rather than pictographic or ideographic (in which characters directly refer to a thing or concept). The script was used in East Asia until the twentieth century; though characters were pronounced differently and languages were orally unintelligible among nations, foreigners could communicate through “brush talk,” in which ideas were communicated via script rather than spoken language. The Shang was a loose confederation of city-states with a complex state system, large settlements, and, most important, a common writing system. Oracle bone inscriptions are short records of divination rituals; ritual specialists of this period would apply heat to the bones and use the resulting cracks to interpret or predict events related to weather, floods, taxes, harvest, the outcome of war, and the birth of male offspring. Shang kings practiced ancestor worship and veneration of gods including Di, who commanded rain and thunder. The image shows a tortoiseshell, inscribed with writing dating from ca B.C.E., used for ceremonial divination.

5 Zhou Conquest and Decline
agrarian “Heaven” mandate King Wen, King Wu separation into eastern and western Around 1045 B.C.E., the Zhou people overthrew the Shang. They were agrarian and claimed that a new power, “Heaven,” transferred the mandate to rule to the Zhou due to the declining morality of the Shang; the first rulers of the Zhou, King Wen and his son, King Wu, were praised as “sons of Heaven” deserving of this mandate. The image shows an earthenware bowl from the Zhou period (ca. 4th century B.C.E.). The caption reads that “glass was little used in China. Its popularity [represented here as the bowl inlaid with glass paste] at the end of the Eastern Zhou period was probably due to foreign influence.” British Museum.

6 Eastern Zhou Spring, Autumn Annals Period Warring States Period
new diplomacy military technology advance end of old aristocracy Confucius The Eastern Zhou Period was one of the most formative in Chinese history. These rulers built new institutions, diplomacy among states expanded, military technology revolutionized warfare, and new advisers and strategists replaced the old aristocracy. The early period is known as the Spring and Autumn Annals Period (722–481 B.C.E.), while the latter half is named the Warring States Period (403–221 B.C.E.), named after the stories concerning political intrigue among the Zhou states. During this period, Confucius and other philosophical masters formulated visions of how to live and govern well in a corrupt world. The image shows China during the Warring States Period. The caption reads: During the Warring States period, competition between states became more intense. The number of older states centrally located along the Yellow River valley declined, while those on the periphery, such as Qin, Qi, and Chu, grew bigger. By 221 B.C.E., the state of Qin had succeeded in conquering its rivals and unifying China for the first time under an imperial government.

7 Master’s Literature Confucians Mohists Daoists Logicians Legalists
Yin-Yang Masters Master’s Literature flourished from the time of Confucius through the Han Dynasty (220 C.E.), and reveals the broad opinions on questions of social order, war, human fulfillment, use of history, and use of words. Masters and their followers were divided into schools of thought. Confucianism and Daoism became the intellectual and religious backbone of traditional China, the Mohists and Logicians died out, the Yin-Yang Masters produced divinatory specialists with calendrical knowledge, and the Legalists (as fundamentalists) remained unpopular due to their tyrannical nature.

8 Confucius moral education analects Daoism Classic of Poetry
“think no evil” “poor yet cheerful, rich yet considerate” Much like Horace’s prescription that poetry must be “dulce et utile,” Confucius and “The Great Preface” understand poetry both as a beautiful thing that pleases humans and as an instructive, serious source of knowledge and understanding. The mind, Confucius indicates, is broadened through the reading and “study” (17.9) of poetry, both intellectually in “stimulation” and socially in “communion.” Analects are collections of sayings, in Confucius’s case compiled by his disciples rather than written down by Confucius; the reluctance to commit his ideas to writing may show Confucius’s Daoist thinking, which sometimes doubts the reliability of written and spoken words. In the provided analects, Confucius importantly emphasizes proper thought and encourages all moral learning through study of the Classic of Poetry. The image shows the tomb of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The writing reads, according to the caption: The Lord Propagator of Culture, Ultimate Sage and Great Accomplisher.”

9 Zhuangzi Daoism anecdote dangers of persuasion necessity of language
Zhuangzi expresses skepticism regarding one’s ability to learn from writing (a Daoist trait), it is also apparent that it expresses this skepticism through writing itself and thus challenges any simple condemnation or approval. Rather, it might indicate the proper caution that ought to be used in grappling with the “dregs of the ancients” (p.1424), for not only might such writing contain as much thought as Zhuangzi, but it might be rhetorically forceful in the manner of Han Feizi. In the final story Zhuangzi demonstrates the utter necessity of using language, and using it well. A tyrant with a destructive proclivity for deadly sports must be corrected in some manner, and it is precisely Zhuangzi’s rhetorical, meaningful speech that is the cause of conversion. The image is titled Cabbages and Butterflies (China, ca. 15th century) and its caption explains the symbolism behind the butterfly based on a story told by Zhuangzi: In China, the butterfly can be a symbol of happiness in marriage. This comes from a story told by the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, in which a young student chases a butterfly into the garden of a retired official. There, he sees the official’s daughter and is so taken with her beauty and charm that he vows to dedicate himself to his work so that he may one day marry her. His hard work not only wins him his bride but also results in his obtaining a high-ranking position. Zhuangzi’s “dream of the butterfly” is depicted in numerous artworks, particularly of the 15th and 16th centuries.

10 Qu Yuan, Imperial China “Encountering Sorrow” Qin
poor character, strong military 221 B.C.E. central bureaucracy Qu Yuan, an aristocrat of the southern state of Chu, advised the king of Chu to beware the militaristic ambitions of the northern state of Qin. He committed suicide, leaving behind the poem “Encountering Sorrow.” The Qin (who had a reputation for ruthlessness but also possessed a well-disciplined and supplied army) ascended in military might during this period, reaching their pinnacle with the foundation of the first Chinese empire in 221 B.C.E. This year is one of the most important in Chinese history, as the king of Qin conferred the title “First emperor of Qin” on himself, thereby creating a new type of state with a strong centralized bureaucracy.

11 Han Feizi Legalist veneration of the written word oral persuasion
applicable knowledge “The difficult thing about persuasion is to know the mind of the person one is trying to persuade and to be able to fit one’s words to it” (p. 1428). Han Feizi committed suicide due to slander, but his work established a new form of rule, based on reducing the power of the old nobility and governance on a direct connection between ruler and bureaucrats, controlled by strict rules of written laws and policies. Han Feizi understood the power of rhetoric and advised that one use it for personal advantage, regardless of truth. Feizi suggested that one should disregard the true and good, and rather than seek to better others through rhetoric, give only true and prudent advice when that talso betters oneself; he thereby makes rhetoric a tool of manipulation and self-interest.

12 Qin Burning of Books 213 B.C.E. intellectual disagreement
practical manuals The Qin Burning of Books of 213 B.C.E. was based on Emperor Qin’s solution to intellectual disagreement: the suppression of scholars and burning of all books except for practical manuals of medicine, agriculture, divination, and historical records of Qin. The image is a statue of Emperor Qin, reconstituted after the terra-cotta soldiers.

13 Han Dynasty Emperor Wu campaigning
Five Classics: Classic of Changes, Classic of Documents, Classic of Poetry, Spring and Autumn Annals, Record of Rites Sima Qian, history Han Dynasty established imperial consolidation, expanding China’s boundaries into central Asia. Emperor Wu, in particular, undertook large campaigns to expand the empire, was a patron of the arts, privileged Confucian scholars, and founded a state academy for professors to teach the Five Classics: Classic of Changes (divination), Classic of Documents (proclamations of early kings and ministers), Classic of Poetry (hymns to Zhou ancestors and ballads on the history of the Zhou), Spring and Autumn Annals (a historical chronicle), and the Record of Rites (on ritual). Sima Qian wrote the first comprehensive history of China, establishing the style for which subsequent dynastic histories would be written up through modern times. The image is a portrait of Sima Qian.

14 The Emergence of Unified China
The Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770–256 B.C.E.) ruled China for some five centuries, but it did not create a clearly unified nation. Because the Eastern Zhou Dynasty lacked a strong central authority, numerous independent states emerged within China, including the Qin in the west (among others). The Qin would ultimately unify China into its first true empire. The state of Qin conquered the last independent states by 221 B.C.E. This map depicts the growth of the Qin territory from a single state in 350 B.C.E. to its ultimate imperial expansion in 221 B.C.E. The king of Qin bestowed upon himself the title of First Emperor, and imperial rule would continue for centuries in China until the Republican Revolution of Despite its unifying power, however, the Qin Dynasty did not last long. It did, however, set the groundwork for the Han Dynasty that followed, which lasted more than four hundred years.

15 The Han Empire Following the brief but important Qin Dynasty (that established a unified, imperial China), the Han Dynasty ruled for four hundred years (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.). As this map depicts, the Han Dynasty did not just consolidate existing Chinese states, it sought to add new territory to the empire. It expanded its boundaries into Central Asia. Important trade routes developed, such as the Silk Road, which connected China to other parts of the world.

16 Test Your Knowledge What was the ancient Chinese Classic of Changes (the I Ching)? a. a farming text b. a divination text c. a history d. an early poetry anthology Answer: B Section: Beginnings: Early Sage Rulers Feedback: The Classic of Changes was ancient China’s canonical divination text. Its basis was eight diagrams that consisted of three lines (trigrams) that were either broken (Yin) or unbroken (Yang). These trigrams were said to have been divinely imagined by Fu Xi, an early sage ruler.

17 Test Your Knowledge The earliest Chinese writing used characters that looked like: ___________ . a. the Phoenician alphabet b. hieroglyphs c. bird and animal tracks d. elements like water, fire. and air Answer: C Section: Beginnings: Early Sage Rulers Feedback: The scribe named Cang Jie (under the “Yellow Emperor,” Huangdi) invented Chinese writing, which used a series of characters created in the image of bird and animal tracks.

18 Test Your Knowledge The “Mandate from Heaven” was a way justifying which of the following? a. the correctness of one philosophy over another b. the importance of military rule c. changes in crop yield from year to year d. shifts in power from one dynasty to another Answer: D Section: The Zhou Conquest and the “Mandate of Heaven” Feedback: The idea of the “Mandate of Heaven” was a way for new dynastic rulers to justify their power: they were presumed to be virtuous while the earlier dynastic power was corrupt, and thus the new dynasty was mandated by heaven to take power. This first occurred with the Zhou Dynasty, which overthrew the Shang in 1045 B.C.E.

19 Test Your Knowledge What was “Masters Literature”?
a. collections of great dramatic works b. collections of philosophical texts c. historical court records d. military strategy guides Answer: B Section: The Decline of the Eastern Zhou and the Age of China’s Philosophical Masters Feedback: It was during the highly militaristic later Eastern Zhou period that Confucius, and other philosophical masters, developed teachings about how to live and govern. These were called “Masters Literature,” which flourished from about 206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E. (into the Han Dynasty).

20 This concludes the Lecture PowerPoint presentation for The Norton Anthology
Of World Literature

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