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Introduction: questions and remarks. Questions: What is historical fact or truth? Is truth-seeking possible? Can new researches, studies, and writings help us understand history better? What can we learn from new studies if they only repeat old views?

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Introduction questions and remarks l.jpg
Introduction: questions and remarks

  • Questions:

    • What is historical fact or truth?

    • Is truth-seeking possible?

    • Can new researches, studies, and writings help us understand history better?

    • What can we learn from new studies if they only repeat old views?

    • Does objectivity exist in historical writing?

    • Is an objective understanding of a foreign culture and history an achievable goal?

    • What can Chinese history and culture offer us?


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On Chinese history

Long recorded history

Immeasurable historical events

Numerous historical personages who were important players of historical theater/drama

Complex development and vicissitude

Full of unsolved puzzles, mixes of logos and mythos

Controversies abound

Idealization of some particular time periods

Records about the remote past are not necessarily less factual than that of the immediate past

Some General Remarks


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Historical writing and study

  • Previous:

    • Moralism and didacticism prevail

    • Focus on dynasties

    • Compartmentalization led to misinterpretation

    • Political

  • Modern:

    • Reassessment, rewriting, and reinterpreting

    • Interdisciplinary: social, economic, literary, intellectual, religious, art…


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Literary and historical writings

  • On Chinese culture

    • Culture finds its expressions in classical, historical, philosophical, and literary works

    • A wide array of these works are available for studying Chinese history and culture

    • Literary and historical works often contradict or complement each other

    • Historical works treat history as theatrical stage where “men” are protagonists and women subordinates

    • Literary works do the same, but make women much more visible, often as leading characters


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literary memory

  • Elevation of historical memory in literature

    • Literary works used as historical texts

    • Literary works supply information otherwise not found in historical sources


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The Center Stage

  • The Composition of the Stage

    • time, space, and characters

    • Early historical stage:

      • The Warring States Period

      • Xianyang (Xi’an), Lishan

      • Qin Shi Huangdi

    • Early Dynasties:

      • Xia, Shang, Zhou: the Three Dynasties

      • First imperial dynasty: Qin


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The Zhou Dynasty

  • Western Zhou (1027 or 1122 BCE to 771 BCE

  • Eastern Zhou (771BCE to 221BCE)

    • Spring and Autumn Period (721-481 BCE)

      • Duke of Zhou, Laozi, Master Kong (Confucius), Jin

    • The Warring States Period (403-221 BCE): a multi-state system

      • Master Meng (Mencius), Zhuangzi, Xunzi

      • Legalists: Guan Zhong, Han Fei, Li Si

  • The Nomad and China

    • Reconciliation of the differences

    • War or Peace? Attack or defend?