Early Chinese Daybooks and the Question of Textual Genre


Early Chinese Daybooks and the Question of Textual Genre

Talk by Ethan Harkness, NYU


Thursday, February 05, 2015
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche Hall 10383


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Recently excavated early Chinese manuscripts have revealed that texts known as rishu (“daybooks”) circulated widely in the Chinese cultural sphere during the late Warring States, Qin, and Western Han periods (ca. 3rd – 1st centuries BCE).  While primarily concerned with practical methods of selecting auspicious times and places for a variety of activities in daily life – activities such as travel, marriage, planting crops, seeking an audience, or burying the dead – the manuscripts also tended to incorporate a range of other miscellaneous contents with the result that no two daybooks are precisely alike.  In this talk, I will introduce select passages from daybook manuscripts with an emphasis on the links and divisions between different forms of knowledge circulating in the formative years of the Chinese Empire, and I will consider aspects of the historical context which may help to explain how daybooks manifest as a coherent textual genre.
Ethan Harkness teaches at NYU Gallatin and writes about early Chinese culture with an emphasis on technical topics that inform the histories of science and religion. In his methodological approach to research, he also makes extensive use of excavated manuscripts to supplement historical perspectives derived from the transmitted textual tradition. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “Cosmology and the Quotidian: Day Books in Early China,” analyzes a type of almanac that circulated widely in the Chinese cultural sphere between the late fourth century and the late first century BCE. For over ten years, Professor Harkness lived in Taiwan, where in addition to academic research, he actively pursued a number of interests, including bicycle touring and the Chinese strategy game of weiqi.









Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies