Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

12. The Scene of Inquiry in Early Chinese Historiography

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

David Schaberg [+-]
University of California, Los Angeles
David Schaberg is Dean of Humanities and Professor in Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of California Los Angeles. He has published articles on early Chinese literature, historiography, and philosophy as well as Greek/Chinese comparative issues. He is author of A Patterned Past: Form and thought in early Chinese historiography, which was awarded the 2003 Levenson Prize for Books in Chinese Studies (Pre-1900 Category) and translator, with Stephen Durrant and Wai-yee Li, of Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan: Commentary on the ‘Spring and Autumn Annals’ (3 volumes, University of Washington Press, 2016). His most recent work addresses the history of oratory and ritual speech genres in early China.

Description

With a nod to the origins of the word historia and particularly to the role of aitia (cause, culpability, accusation) in the framing of Herodotus’s work, this chapter investigates the occasions and motivations of historical inquiry that are implied in early Chinese sources stretching from legal disputes as memorialized in Western Zhou (ca. 1046–771 BC) bronze inscriptions down to exegeses and practical applications of Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu) passages in the Warring States period (ca. 453–221 BC) and Western Han (206 BC–AD 8). The Greeks’ understanding of historical work as in certain fundamental senses a juridical activity allows us to pose some questions about early Chinese historical activity: How were narratives about the past invoked in legal disputes? How was writing used in the presentation of such narratives, in the commemoration of settled disputes, and in the formulation of principles to guide later judgments? How did the scene of judgment—the confrontation of disputants in the presence of a judge of one kind or another—condition forms of narration and, in the case of the Chunqiu, later pedagogical practices? How did conceptions of reciprocity in ritual propriety (li) relate to more abstract notions of justice? How did the roles of the shi (scribe, astrologer, and only later historian) relate to questions of legal judgment? The ultimate aim is to identify as completely as possible, on the basis of the opening Herodotean observations, the quasi-legal underpinnings of historical activity in classical Greece and China, and in this way to establish a basis for further comparisons.

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Citation

Schaberg, David. 12. The Scene of Inquiry in Early Chinese Historiography. Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 181-193 Jun 2019. ISBN 9781781796566. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=33728. Date accessed: 21 Aug 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.33728. Jun 2019

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