Writing and Literacy in Early China
Studies from the Columbia Early China Seminar
Edited by Li Feng and David Prager Branner
- Published: November 2011
- Subject Listing: Asian Studies, Linguistics, History
- Bibliographic information: 480 pp., 41 illus., 8 in color, map, notes, bibliog., index, 6 x 9 in.
- Territorial rights: World
Writing and Literacy in Early China examines a topic of international importance: the emergence and spread of literacy in ancient human society. Writing arose separately in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and China. Modern Chinese orthography preserves logographic principles shared by its most ancient forms three thousand years ago, making it unique among all present-day writing systems. In the past three decades, the discovery of previously unknown texts dating to the third century BCE and earlier as well as older versions of known texts has revolutionized the study of early Chinese writing.
The long-term continuity and stability of the Chinese written language allow for this detailed study of the role literacy played in early civilization. The widely informed and highly respected contributors to this volume inquire into modes of manuscript production, the purposes for which manuscripts were produced, and the ways in which they were actually used. In all these areas, the book carefully evaluates the current evidence and offers groundbreaking new interpretations. Writing and Literacy in Early China illuminates the nature of literacy for scribes and readers.
Li Feng is associate professor of early Chinese history and archaeology at Columbia University. David Prager Branner is a lexicographer of Chinese, retired as a professor of Chinese at the University of Maryland. The other contributors are Anthony Barbieri-Low, William Boltz, Constance Cook, Lothar von Falkenhausen, David Pankenier, Matthias Richter, Adam Smith, Ken-ichi Takashima, and Robin Yates.
"An excellent and multifaceted survey of writing and literacy in ancient China." - Edward Shaughnessy, University of Chicago
"Writing and Literacy in Early China is a major contribution to the study of literacy, not just in China but globally. It presents an abundance of original research and novel interpretations, and is certain to have a significant impact on how we look at the role of Chinese characters in society and government from the Shang dynasty through the Qin-Han period." - Victor Mair, University of Pennsylvania
Early China Chronology
Map of Important Archaeological Sites
Introduction: Writing as a Phenomenon of Literacy / Li Feng and David Prager Branner
PART I: ORIGINS AND THE LINGUISTIC DIMENSION
1. Getting “Right” with Heaven and the Origins of Writing in China / David W. Pankenier
2. Literacy and the Emergence of Writing in China / William G. Boltz
3. Phonology in the Chinese Script and Its Relationship to Early Chinese Literacy / David Prager Branner
PART II: SCRIBAL TRAINING AND PRACTICE
4. Literacy to the South and the East of Anyang in Shang China: Zhengzhou and Daxinzhuang / Ken-ichi Takashima
5. The Evidence for Scribal Training at Anyang / Adam Smith
6. Textual Identity and the Role of Literacy in the Transmission of Early Chinese Literature / Matthias L. Richter
PART III: LITERACY AND SOCIAL CONTEXTS
7. The Royal Audience and Its Reflections in Western Zhou Bronze Inscriptions / Lothar von Falkenhausen
8. Literacy and the Social Contexts of Writing in the
Western Zhou / Li Feng
9. Education and the Way of the Former Kings / Constance A. Cook
PART IV: THE EXTENT OF LITERACY IN THE EARLY EMPIRE
10. Soldiers, Scribes, and Women: Literacy among the Lower Orders in Early China / Robin D. S. Yates
11. Craftsman’s Literacy: Uses of Writing by Male and Female Artisans in Qin and Han China / Anthony J. Barbieri-Low
"Elucidate[s] the origins, early development and structure of the Chinese script, but also discuss[es] material aspects, practical uses, and social contexts of writing up to the second century CE. . . . Fascinating and carefully edited." -Oliver Weingarten, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, October 2012