Displaced Men, Historiography, and Humanism in Early China

Activity: Talks or PresentationsOther Invited Talks or Presentations


In the extant corpus from the Warring States and the early imperial period (ca.453 BCE – 220 CE), there was a curious proliferation of narratives about individuals and their exploits. In particular, there was a growing interest in the history of displaced individuals – men who were exiled from home or banished from the state. In this presentation, I take this phenomenon as a starting point, and will provide a historical genealogy for the surge of interest in past individuals and their deeds in this period. Drawing primarily on three sets of materials, namely the Western Zhou bronze inscriptions, the Confucian Analects, and the Mozi, I will suggest that this humanistic turn in early Chinese historiography was intimately related to a radical transformation in the conception of the past, one that was promoted by the collapse of the Zhou aristocratic order. Notion of displacement, assertion of historical agency of men, and the writing of history were all inextricably, contentiously linked in the history of early China.
Period16 Jun 2020
Event title2019-20 School of Chinese Seminar, The University of Hong Kong
Event typeSeminar
LocationHong KongShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal