New Book | China’s Philological Turn

Posted in books by Editor on July 13, 2018

From Columbia UP:

Ori Sela, China’s Philological Turn: Scholars, Textualism, and the Dao in the Eighteenth Century (Columbia University Press, 2018), 328 pages, ISBN: 978-0231183826, $65 / £50.

In eighteenth-century China, a remarkable intellectual transformation took place, centered on the ascendance of philology. Its practitioners were preoccupied with the reliability of sources as evidence for restoring ancient texts and meanings and with the centrality of facts and truth to their scholarship and identity. With the power to construct the textual past, philology has the potential to shape both individual and collective identities, and its rise to prominence consequently deeply affected contemporaneous political, social, and cultural agendas.

Ori Sela foregrounds the polymath Qian Daxin (1728–1804), one of the most distinguished scholars of the Qing dynasty, to tell this story. China’s Philological Turn traces scholars’ social networks and the production of knowledge, considering the texts they studied along with their reading practices and the assumptions about knowledge, facts, and truth that came with them. The book considers fundamental issues of eighteenth-century intellectual life: the tension between antiquity’s elevated status and the question of what antiquity actually was; the status of scientific knowledge, especially astronomy, mathematics, and calendrical studies; and the relationship between learned debates and cultural anxieties, especially scholars’ self-characterization and collective identity. Sela brings to light manuscripts, biographies, letters, handwritten notes, epitaphs, and more to highlight the creativity and openness of his subjects. A pioneering book in the cultural history of intellectuals across disciplinary boundaries, China’s Philological Turn reconstructs the history of eighteenth-century Chinese learning and its long-lasting consequences.

Ori Sela is an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University.


Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Way and Its Crossroads

Part I | The Way of Man: Scholarly Networks and the Social History of Scholarship
1  Learning to Be a Scholar
2  Official Scholars and the Growing Philologists’ Networks
3  Private Scholars, Private Academies, and the Community of Knowledge

Part II | The Way of Antiquity: Searching for the True Way in the Past
4  The Way of Ancient Learning: Philology, Antiquity, and Ru Identity
5  Philology and the Message of the Sages: The Classics and the Four Books
6  Historical Philology: Navigating the Sources

Part III | The Way of Heaven and Earth: The Mandate of Scholarship and the Search for Order
7  Astronomy, Mathematics, and Calendar: Historical Perspective
8  Ancient Learning Encounters Western Learning: Scientific Knowledge and Its Cultural Baggage
9  Fate, Ritual, and Ordering All Under Heaven

Conclusion: The Consequences of the Eighteenth-Century Intellectual Turns

Appendix A: Selections from Qian Daxin’s 1754 Palace Examination Answer
Appendix B: Major Shuowen and Erya Studies of the Qian-Jia Period (and Related Works)
Appendix C: Qian Daxin’s Letter to Dai Zhen
Appendix D: Questions and Answers About Astronomy
Appendix E: Essay on the Value of Pi Π
Appendix F: Qian Daxin’s Writings on Mathematics, Astronomy, and Divination
Appendix G: On Saṃsāra
Appendix H: Sources for the Works of Qian Daxin

Note on Abbreviations and Citations
Selected Bibliography of Chinese and Japanese Titles


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