Saturday, March 30, 2019

Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Cook Ding

Roel Sterckx

London: Penguin Books Ltd

Publication date:


We are often told that the twenty-first century is bound to become China's century. Never before has Chinese culture been so physically, digitally, economically or aesthetically present in everyday life in the Western world. But how much do we really know about its origins and key beliefs, especially compared to the many histories of Western philosophy? How did the ancient Chinese think about the world?In this enlightening book, Roel Sterckx, one of the foremost experts in Chinese thought, takes us through centuries of Chinese history, from Confucius to Daoism to the Legalists. With evocative examples from philosophy, literature and everyday life, he shows us how the ancient Chinese have shaped the thinking of a civilization that is now influencing our own.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 China in Time and Space
Chapter 2 The Way (Dao) and Its Ways
Chapter 3 The Art of Government
Chapter 4 The Individual and the Collective
Chapter 5 Behaving Ritually
Chapter 6 Spirits and Ancesters
Chapter 7 The World of Nature
Chapter 8 Work and Wealth
Chapter 9 Food for Thought

Friday, March 29, 2019

Die Geschichte des Alten China (The history of ancient China)

Monique Nagel-Angermann

Publication date:
Oktober 2018

Marix Verlag


Wussten Sie, dass nicht Las Vegas, sondern Macau das mit Abstand größte Glücksspielparadies der Welt ist? Oder, dass nicht amazon und ebay das bei weitem größte Handelsvolumen aufweisen, sondern alibaba? Das heutige China strotzt vor derlei Superlativen. Auch Chinas Vergangenheit steht diesbezüglich nicht hinter der Gegenwart zurück. Die chinesische Mauer, die Terrakotta-Armee oder die Verbotene Stadt sind nur einige der Zeugnisse der einstigen Bedeutung und Macht des Reichs der Mitte. Der neue marixwissen-Band gewährt einen spannenden Einblick in die chinesische Geschichte, von den mythischen Anfängen bis zur Gründung der Volksrepublik China. Zahlreiche Exkurse geben zudem Aufschluss über die wichtigsten kulturellen, religiösen und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklungen im Alten China. Eine packende Reise in die Vergangenheit dieser fremden Kultur erwartet den Leser.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Han Dynasty (206BC–AD220) Stone Carved Tombs in Central and Eastern China

Chen Li

Publication date:

Archaeopress Archaeology


Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) stone carved tombs were constructed from carved stone slabs or a combination of moulded bricks and carved stones, and were distributed in Central and Eastern China. Such multi-chambered stone tombs were very popular among the Han people, but they were entirely new, and were a result of outside stimuli rather than an independent development within China. The stone carved tombs were a result of imitating royal rock-cut tombs, while the rock-cut tombs were stimulated by foreign examples. Moreover, many details of stone carved tombs also had Western features. These exotic elements reflected the desire to assimilate exotica within Chinese traditions. Some details within stone carved tombs showed high level of stone working technologies with Western influences. But in general the level of stone construction of the Han period was relatively low. The methods of construction showed how unfamiliar the Western system was to the Han artisans. Han Dynasty stone carved tombs were hybrids of different techniques, including timber, brick and stone works. From these variations, Han people could choose certain types of tombs to satisfy their specific ritual and economic needs. Not only structures, but also pictorial decorations of stone carved tombs were innovations. The range of image motifs was quite limited. Similar motifs can be found in almost every tomb. Such similarities were partly due to the artisans, who worked in workshops and used repertoires for the carving of images. But these also suggest that the tombs were decorated for certain purposes with a given functional template. Together with different patterns of burial objects and their settings, such images formed a way through which the Han people gave meaning to the afterworld. As the Han Empire collapsed, stone carved tombs ceased being constructed in the Central Plains. However, they set a model for later tombs. The idea of building horizontal stone chamber tombs spread to Han borderlands, and gradually went further east to the Korean Peninsula. In this book, the origins, meanings and influences of Han Dynasty stone carved tombs are presented as a part of the history of interactions between different parts of Eurasia.

Table of Contents:

Chapter One:

Chapter Two:
The Construction of Stone Carved Tombs

Chapter Three:
The Imagery of Stone Carved Tombs

Chapter Four:
The Origins of Stone Carved Tombs

Chapter Five:
The Legacy of Stone Carved Tombs

Chapter Six:

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Early Medieval North China: Archaeological and Textual Evidence

Shing Müller, Thomas O. Höllmann, and Sonja Filip

Publication date:

Harrassowitz Verlag · Wiesbaden


The Xianbei from southeast Mongolia were the first foreign sovereignty over North China since the 4th century. During the 200 years of Xianbei rulership, the cultures of old and new inhabitants – the Han-Chinese, the Xianbei and diverse steppe peoples, the Sogdians and other Central Asians from the west – confronted and competed with one another.

This volume is one of the first in Europe that concentrates on the cultural conflicts and the emergence of new traditions in North China during the Early Medieval period. Topics include archaeological evidence of the early Fuyu culture in southern Manchuria and early traces of Sogdians in Qinghai, impacts of Buddhism in the formation of new funerary cults and new city planning, the hybridization of diverse funerary traditions such as the use of head rests and stone beds and house-shaped sarcophagi, the emergence of a multiple identity for denizens as an adaptation to a fast changing world, and the militarization of the northern society as seen in murals and in defense lines. Also included are new insights on the Chinese sabao and Sogdian s’rtp’w titles, and discussions on Sogdian slaves in the Kocho Kingdom as well as on “multi-culture” in Chinese historiographical works.

Table of Contents:


Monique Nagel-Angermann 丁慕妮
Cultural Diversity in Early Medieval Northern China from the Perspective of Chinese Historiography (從史籍看中古世紀早期中國北方的文化多樣性)

Annette Kieser 安然
Eastern Jin Society from the Perspective of the Archaeological Evidence:  A Preliminary Survey (從考古角度看東晉社會)  

田立坤 Tian Likun 
四世紀夫餘史蹟鈎沉 (Exploring the Forgotten History of the Fuyu 夫餘of the 4th Century: An Archaeological and Textual Survey)

張志忠 Zhang Zhizhong 
大同北魏墓葬佛教圖像淺議 (On the Buddhist Imagery of a Northern Wei Tomb in Datong) 

林聖智 Lin Sheng-chih 
反思北魏的宗教與墓葬圖像 (Rethinking the Religious and Funerary Iconography of the Northern Wei Dynasty)

Chin-Yin Tseng 曾慶盈 
Imagining the Self in Northern Wei: Case Studies of Shaling M7 and Yanbei Shiyuan M5 (北魏時代的自我畫像: 以沙嶺M7與雁北師院M5為例)

羅豐 Luo Feng 
固原北魏漆棺畫年代的再確定 (The Painted Northern Wei  Lacquer Coffin of Guyuan: Dating Revised)

魏堅 Wei Jian
牛川古城與北魏六鎮 (The Niuchuan Fortress and the Six Garrisons of the Northern Wei Dynasty)

張慶捷 Zhang Qingjie 
忻州九原崗北朝壁畫墓軍事內容窺探 (Military Themes in the Murals of the Northern Dynasties Tomb in Xinzhou)

王銀田 Wang Yintian
北朝時期的獸面紋: 以鋪首銜環為例 (Animal Masks of the Northern Dynasties) 


錢國祥 Qian Guoxiang
北魏洛陽宮城的勘察研究新進展 (The Imperial City of the Northern Wei Luoyang in Light of Recent Archaeological Studies)

朱岩石 Zhu Yanshi 
東魏北齊鄴城皇家佛寺遺跡考古發現與研究 (Buddhist Temples in the Eastern Wei/Northern Qi City of Ye: An Archaeological Study)

Dorothy C. Wong 王靜芬
Buddhist Transformation of Chang’an’s Architectural and Cultural Landscape, ca. 650–720 (佛教對長安建築與文化的改造, 約 650 年至 720 年)


張建林, 才洛太 Zhang Jianlin, Tshelothar (Cai Luotai) 
青海藏醫藥文化博物館藏彩繪棺板 (Painted Wooden Coffins in the Tibetan Medical Culture Museum) 

Jonathan Karam Skaff 斯加夫
Slavery and Foreign Slaves at Turfan during the Gaochang Kingdom (442–640) (高昌國(442–640)時期吐魯番地區的奴隸制與胡奴)

Albert E. Dien 丁愛博
Consideration of Some Aspects of the Sogdian Experience in China: From sabo to s’rtp’w (入華粟特人的生命歷程: 從“薩薄”到“s’rtp’w”)


倪潤安 Ni Run’an 
北魏平城灰枕葬俗考 (Funerary Headrests in the Northern Wei Pingcheng Burials) 

韋正 Wei Zheng 
五世紀中後期的平城: 以墓葬資料為中心的觀察 (Pingcheng in the  Second Half of the Fifth Century as Seen fromBurial Materials)

Shing Müller 宋馨
Funerary Beds and Houses of the Northern Dynasties (北朝的石床與石室) 

白雲翔 Bai Yunxiang 
北朝時期民族文化交流與融合的宏觀考察: 以北朝墓葬遺存為中心(The Confluence of Cultures during the Northern Dynasties Period from the Aspect of Tomb Findings)

齊東方 Qi Dongfang 
生與死——兩個世界的徘徊 (Life and Death – Pondering the Two Worlds) 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

From Liturgy to Pharmacology: Christian Sogdian texts from the Turfan Collection

Nicholas Sims-Williams


Turnhout: Brepols Publishers


Containing a variety of texts ranging from liturgy to pharmacology via hagiography, calendars and ascetical works by Isaac of Nineveh, this volume completes the publication of all known Christian Sogdian texts. This volume completes the publication of the Christian Sogdian texts of the Berlin Turfan Collection begun by F. W. K. Müller in 1907. Several Syriac texts are also included, in particular a series of liturgical texts in Syriac with Sogdian rubrics (edited in collaboration with J. F. Coakley). 

The texts edited here are mostly short but extremely varied and interesting. The Syriac liturgical fragments are some of the earliest surviving witnesses to the liturgy of the "Church of the East", though the Sogdian rubrics which accompany them show that those who performed them were not native speakers of Syriac. Other texts connected with the liturgy include a Sogdian version of the Gloria in excelsis and a text explaining how to calculate the date of Easter or Lent. Hagiographical texts include fragments of the martyrdoms of St George and of Cyriacus and Julitta as well as part of the so-called "Six Books" on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Two pharmacological fragments (edited in collaboration with Dieter Maue) show familiarity with Indian medicine, while a "prayer-amulet" belongs rather to a Syriac tradition. Finally, a chapter contributed by Adrian Pirtea contains the re-edition of a well-preserved folio identified by him as a Sogdian version of a work by Isaac of Nineveh. 

The edition and translation of the texts is accompanied by a detailed commentary. The volume is completed by a full glossary, a bibliography, and a word-index covering all five of the author’s volumes of Christian Sogdian texts in the series BTT.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to "Religion" and Empire in Ancient China

Filippo Marsili

Publication date:
December, 2018

SUNY Press


Heaven Is Empty offers a new comparative perspective on the role of the sacred in the formation of China’s early empires (221 BCE–9 CE) and shows how the unification of the Central States was possible without a unitary and universalistic conception of religion. The cohesive function of the ancient Mediterranean cult of the divinized ruler was crucial for the legitimization of Rome’s empire across geographical and social boundaries. Eventually reelaborated in Christian terms, it came to embody the timelessness and universality of Western conceptions of legitimate authority, while representing an analytical template for studying other ancient empires. Filippo Marsili challenges such approaches in his examination of the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han (141–87 BCE). Wu purposely drew from regional traditions and tried to gain the support of local communities through his patronage of local cults. He was interested in rituals that envisioned the monarch as a military leader, who directly controlled the land and its resources, as a means for legitimizing radical administrative and economic centralization. In reconstructing this imperial model, Marsilire interprets fragmentary official accounts in light of material evidence and noncanonical and recently excavated texts. In bringing to life the courts, battlefields, markets, shrines, and pleasure quarters of early imperial China, Heaven Is Empty provides a postmodern and postcolonial reassessment of “religion” before the arrival of Buddhism and challenges the application of Greco-Roman and Abrahamic systemic, identitary, and exclusionary notions of the “sacred” to the analysis of pre-Christian and non-Western realities.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: An Empire without a “Religion”

1. Readings of the “Sacred”: Chinese Religion, Chinese Religions, and Religions in China

2. Writing the Empire: Ex Pluribus Plurima

3. Narrating the Empire: Metaphysics without God, “Religions” without Identity

4. Time, Myth, and Memory: Of Water, Metal, and Cinnabar

5. Place and Ritual: From Templum to Text

Conclusions: The Importance of Getting Lost

Friday, March 15, 2019

Cultural interactions during the Zhou Period (c. 1000-350 BC): A Study of Networks from the Suizao Corridor

Beichen Chen

Archaeopress Archaeology

Publication date:
February 28, 2019


Cultural Interactions during the Zhou Period (c. 1000-350 BC): A study of networks from the Suizao corridor’ examines cultural interactions during the Zhou period of China (c. 1000- 350 BCE) between the Suizao corridor (near the present-day Yangtze River region) and its contemporaries within or outside the Zhou realm. It concentrates mainly, but not exclusively, on bronze ritual vessels from the Suizao corridor, and discusses the underlying social and political relations between the dominant cultures and the regional ones in this particular area (the Zeng state for example), which are central to understanding the ways in which the dominant cultures joined their disparate territories into a whole. Newly excavated archaeological evidence show that there were at least three periods when people in the corridor learned about the current traditions employed elsewhere, which are: 1) Yejiashan period (from the 11th to the 10th century BCE); 2) post-Ritual Reform period (from the mid-9th to the mid-7th century BCE); and 3) Marquis Yi’s period (from the mid- 6th to the mid-4th century BCE). In these periods, local people were involved in networks of enormous and constantly changing complexity, in which people, objects, practices, and ideas were mixed together through inter-regional contacts. The choices of local people in adopting foreign materials and ideas from either the dominant cultures or other places depended heavily on the subjective view of their social identity, which can be constructed, maintained, or transited to adapt to different social and political environments.

Table of Contents:

Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: Yejiashan Period

Chapter Three: Post-Ritual Reform Period

Chapter Four: Marquis Yi’s Period

Chapter Five: Conclusion

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

[Dissertation] Isotopic Analysis of Dietary Patterns in Northern China from the Proto-Shang Period to the Qin Dynasty

MA, Ying


Leiden University


The stable isotope ratios of carbon (d13C), nitrogen (d15N) and sulphur (d34S) are measured to examine human diet, social stratification, mobility and animal husbandry practices. Three locations comprising four sites from the Yellow River Valleys of north China are investigated: Nancheng (Hebei Province), Xishan (Gansu Province), Liyi and Shanren (Shaanxi Province), and this work represents one of the largest and most detailed isotopic research projects ever conducted in China. This thesis focused on time periods and cultures that were previously underrepresented, in the literature such as the early Bronze/Iron Ages to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). Further, this thesis found new evidence concerning dietary patterns, social stratification (or lack thereof), animal husbandry practices and human mobility during these formative pre-Qin Empire periods.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 – Introduction 

Chapter 2 – Paleodiet Reconstruction and Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis

Chapter 3 – Introduction to the Cultural Prehistory and History of China

Chapter 4 – Isotopic Perspectives (d13C, d15N, d34S) of Diet, Social Complexity, and Animal Husbandry during the Proto-Shang Period (ca. 2000 – 1600 BC) of China

Chapter 5 – Reconstructing Diet of the Early Qin (ca. 700 – 400 BC) at Xishan, Gansu Province, China (Article published in International Journal of

Chapter 6 – Tracing the Locality of Prisoners and Workers at the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang: First Emperor of China (259-210 BC) 

Chapter 7 – Conclusions and Future Work

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mind and Body in Early China: Beyond Orientalism and the Myth of Holism

Edward Slingerland

New York, NY : Oxford University Press

Publication date:
December 2018


Mind and Body in Early China critiques Orientalist accounts of early China as the radical, "holistic" other. The idea that the early Chinese held the "strong" holist view, seeing no qualitative difference between mind and body, has long been contradicted by traditional archeological and qualitative textual evidence. New digital humanities methods, along with basic knowledge about human cognition, now make this position untenable. A large body of empirical evidence suggests that "weak" mind-body dualism is a psychological universal, and that human sociality would be fundamentally impossible without it.

Edward Slingerland argues that the humanities need to move beyond social constructivist views of culture, and embrace instead a view of human cognition and culture that integrates the sciences and the humanities. Our interpretation of texts and artifacts from the past and from other cultures should be constrained by what we know about the species-specific, embodied commonalities shared by all humans. This book also attempts to broaden the scope of humanistic methodologies by employing team-based qualitative coding and computer-aided "distant reading" of texts, while also drawing upon our current best understanding of human cognition to transform our basic starting point. It has implications for anyone interested in comparative religion, early China, cultural studies, digital humanities, or science-humanities integration.

Table of Contents:


Chapter One: The Myth of Holism in Early China

PART I: Qualitative Approaches to Concepts of Mind and Body

Chapter Two: Soul and Body: Traditional Archeological and Textual Evidence for Soul-Body Dualism

Chapter Three: Mind-Body Dualism in the Textual Record

PART II: Quantitative Approaches to Concepts of Mind and Body

Chapter Four: Embracing the Digital Humanities: New Methods for Analyzing Texts and Sharing Scholarly Knowledge

PART III: Methodological Issues in the Interpretation of Textual Corpora

Chapter Five: Hermeneutical Constraints: Minds in Our Bodies and Our Feet on the Ground

Chapter Six: Hermeneutical Excesses: Interpretive Missteps and the Essentialist Trap

Conclusion: Naturalistic Hermeneutics and the End of Orientalism

Friday, March 8, 2019

Early Chinese Jades in the Harvard Art Museums

Jenny F. So

Publication date:
February 2019

Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press

Jade has long played a major role in Chinese social, cultural, and political life. From personal ornamentation to funerary practice, from palace decoration to private devotion, this exquisite material has been revered by commoners and rulers alike. This book charts that vast story, beginning with an in-depth exploration of the stone itself—its unique material qualities and the challenges they raise for workmanship—and then moving chronologically to reveal exactly how jade developed its special moral, ritual, and political significance over millennia in China. The book draws particular attention to the peoples and the communities who quarried and worked the material, passing on their knowledge in a tradition that now spans Neolithic times to the present day.

This sweeping narrative is told in part through high-quality examples selected from Harvard’s Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, which includes some of the finest examples of ancient or archaizing jades outside China. The volume highlights around one hundred of these jades, carefully chosen for the ways in which they help advance the broader historical narrative the book provides. Interwoven through the book’s main chapters, the Winthrop objects are further explored through engaging catalogue entries that detail the latest available information based on conservation analysis and archaeological finds.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Blossom on the Run: A Han Dynasty Adventure

Michael Nylan & Robert J. Litz

Metron Publications

Publication date:
July 21, 2016


This is Volume One of a planned trilogy. One morning in Han dynasty China (206 BC - 220 AD), a girl of eleven is waking up... The day Meike grew up started out like most. She woke to the songs of mockingbirds in the camellia tree. She could hear Ahmei, the cook, in the forecourt bang a pot over the stove. She could smell smoke from Ahmei’s fire and from a hundred others in their crowded district. If she concentrated, she could smell other things too – earth still damp from last night’s rain, peppers soaking in a vat, and something she couldn’t quite name riding the breeze that stirred the bamboo in the courtyard and trickled in through her latticed window. The first light that peeked over the roof-tiles of the east wing of the family compound made the soft green of the spring bamboo almost glow. A softer light caressed the petals of the plum blossom sprig in the vase on the table beneath her window. Her name, Meike, with its soft “may” and harder “kuh,” meant Plum Blossom – soft petals, hard branch – and every Spring, on Meike’s birthday, her mother placed a cutting in her room. In a few minutes, Ahmei would call her name, then call again when Meike didn’t hop out of bed as ordered. She knew that if she waited, her father would creep in, slowly lift her cover, then grab her belly in a tickling claw. But then, all of a sudden, she had this unsettling feeling that today would be different.

ATTN: This is Volume One of a planned trilogy, which was interrupted by the sudden demise of Robert J. Litz.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Chu Silk Manuscripts from Zidanku, Changsha (Hunan Province): Volume One: Discovery and Transmission

Li Ling

Translator and editor: 
Lothar von Falkenhausen

The Chinese University Press

Publication date:
March 2019


The Silk Manuscripts from Zidanku 子彈庫, Changsha (Hunan) are the only pre-imperial Chinese manuscripts on silk found to date. Dating to the turn from the fourth to the third centuries BC (Late Warring States period), they contain several short texts concerning basic cosmological concepts in a diagrammatic arrangement and surrounded by pictorial illustrations. As such, they constitute a unique source of information complementing and going beyond what is known from transmitted texts.

This is the first in a two-volume monograph on the Zidanku manuscripts, reflecting almost four decades of research by Professor Li Ling of Peking University. While the philological study and translation of the manuscript texts is the subject of Volume II, this first volume presents the archaeological context and history of transmission of the physical manuscripts. It records how they were taken from their original place of interment in the 1940s and taken to the United States in 1946; documents the early stages in the research on the finds from the Zidanku tomb and its reexcavation in the 1970s; and accounts for where the manuscripts were kept before becoming the property, respectively, of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York (Manuscript 1), and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution (Manuscripts 2 and 3). Superseding previous efforts, this is the definitive account that will set the record straight and establish a new basis for future research on these uniquely important artifacts.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

[Dissertation] Shaping the Formless: Debates over Buddhist Images in Medieval China, Ca. 300-700

Lee, Kwi Jeong

Princeton University

Degree date:

Teiser, Stephen F.


This dissertation explores how and why Buddhist cultic images fueled controversy among literati circles from the fourth through seventh centuries in China. This study draws on a wide range of sources in classical Chinese, including essays, letters, memorials, edicts, and court debates, as well as Buddhist texts translated from Indian languages and authored in Chinese, to uncover the points of debate and the debaters’ shifting presuppositions. These sources are used to show that both proponents and critics believed that Buddhist cultic objects were vital, complicated components of what they thought was notable about Buddhism. The dissertation also argues that while the ostensible subject of the debates may have been the role of cultic objects in Buddhist practice, nevertheless the discussion covered other important points of contention, including Buddhahood, the material and institutional foundations of Buddhism, the tenet of emptiness, and the dynamics of Buddhist practice. This dissertation analyzes this multivocality of cultic objects and discusses pre-Buddhist and Buddhist conceptions of images (xiang 象). Within this framework, the dissertation suggests that proponents of Buddhist positions were keenly aware of the distinction between cultic images and the formless referents of those images. This study notes the historical continuities between indigenous, pre-Buddhist discourses and the later Buddhist conceptualization of images, while also underlining understandings based on the newly imported religion. It argues that interreligious debates over Buddhist images prompted Buddhist apologists to formulate a fuller soteriological account about the meaning and function of cultic images, resulting in a more extensive, sophisticated theory than that supplied by earlier Chinese Buddhist canonical traditions.