Research Project


Time, Diction, Human Agency: the Mantic Foundations of Philological Practice

Dr. Jan Vihan

In my project I looked at the ways in which classical Chinese philology as exemplified by the Han primer-cum-dictionary of Chinese characters Shuowen Jiezi was shaped by a particular philosophy derived from the mantic tradition of the Book of Changes, most explicitly elaborated in the Xici Zhuan, or Appended Verbalizations. I explored how the way of perceiving the world in terms of categories was rooted in the Yi and extended by the Shuowen. The type of categorization encountered in these two texts differs substantially from the Aristotelian model, finding instead surprising parallels in the more recently formulated paradigms of cognitive linguistics. I also examined topics such as the interaction of genuine and spurious as the determinant of fortune, synchronicity vs. succession of time factors in a situation, and the extension of the logic of specific line statements to an abstract philosophy. Moving beyond the Yi I examined the ways in which the ritual tradition affected philology, specifically the notion that ritual created an idealized world. I consequently approached the work that classifies and defines Chinese characters as creating a normative order rather than mirroring the world. Finally, I looked at the interaction between the practice of divination and textual exegesis, for the moment a particular hexagram and its line statement is linked to an uncertain life situation new ways of interpretation open up. I extended this influence of practice on interpretation to philology, asking how the way a character primer was used determined its meaning

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