Writing and Literacy in Early China

Writing and Literacy in Early China : Studies from the Columbia Early China Seminar

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The emergence and spread of literacy in ancient human society an important topic for all who study the ancient world, and the development of written Chinese is of particular interest, as modern Chinese orthography preserves logographic principles shared by its most ancient forms, 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 contributors to Writing and Literacy in Early China inquire into modes of manuscript production, the purposes for which texts were produced, and the ways in which they were actually used. By carefully evaluating current evidence and offering groundbreaking new interpretations, the book illuminates the nature of literacy for scribes and readers.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 157.48 x 226.06 x 43.18mm | 725.74g
  • University of Washington Press
  • Washington, United States
  • English
  • 1 maps, 1 map
  • 0295991526
  • 9780295991528
  • 1,256,473

Review quote

... 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 Studiesshow more

About Feng Li

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.show more

Table of contents

AcknowledgmentsEarly China ChronologyMap of Important Archaeological Sites Introduction: Writing as a Phenomenon of Literacy / Li Feng and David Prager Branner PART I: ORIGINS AND THE LINGUISTIC DIMENSION1. 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 PRACTICE4. 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 CONTEXTS7. The Royal Audience and Its Reflections in Western Zhou Bronze Inscriptions / Lothar von Falkenhausen 8. Literacy and the Social Contexts of Writing in theWestern Zhou / Li Feng 9. Education and the Way of the Former Kings / Constance A. Cook PART IV: THE EXTENT OF LITERACY IN THE EARLY EMPIRE10. Soldiers, Scribes, and Women: Literacy among the Lower Orders in Early China / Robin D. S. Yates 11. Craftsmans Literacy: Uses of Writing by Male and Female Artisans in Qin and Han China / Anthony J. Barbieri-Low AbbreviationsBibliographyContributorsIndexshow more