Organizer: Sarah A. Queen, Connecticut College
Chair: Wei-Ming Tu, Harvard University
Discussants: Wei-Ming Tu, Harvard University; Benjamin I. Schwartz, Harvard University
The ideological creation of empire during the Han dynasty involved competing attempts to synthesize the rich traditions of the pre-Han period to construct a cosmological, political, religious, and ethical order that could sustain and perpetuate unification and stability. Various scholars and technical specialists vied for political influence and competed for literary patronage, giving rise to a pluralistic atmosphere which promoted the cross-fertilization and confluence of philosophical ideals, cosmological principles, and technical knowledge. The proposed panel seeks to cast light on the dynamics of this rich exchange of ideas during the first century of the Han. More specifically, the panel will explore the ways in which Confucian scholars appropriated various kinds of technical knowledge to construct ethical, political, and cosmological theories germane to their ideal of emperorship and empire. Csikszentmihalyi's paper explores how Chia Yi utilized aspects of Huang-Lao technical discourse to locate the Confucian virtues within the emerging syncretic cosmology of the Han. Queen's paper discusses how Tung Chung-shu reconfigured the Huang-Lao political technique of non-action to address the pressing concerns among early Han scholars to redefine the ruler's authority and power. Puett's paper highlights the cosmological debates in the early Han concerning the extent to which techniques could and should be used to manipulate natural processes.
Jia Yi's (200-168 B.C.E.) "Techniques of the Dao" and the Han Confucian
Appropriation of Technical Discourse
Mark Csikszentmihalyi, Davidson College
Using the relationship between the "Way" (Dao) and "technique" (shu) as defined in Jia Yi's "Techniques of the Dao" (Daoshu, section 8.3 of the Xinshu) as a starting point, this paper seeks to outline the way assumptions about the relationship between Heaven (tian) and human beings in the Han technical discourse sometimes known as Huang-Lao were appropriated into the discussion of Confucian virtues in the second-century B.C.E. In particular, it will be shown that the seeds of this borrowing were sown in the third-century B.C.E. with the acceptance of the idea of "Heaven's algorithm" (tianshu) in texts like the Xunzi, Lüshi chunqiu and Han Feizi. The more widespread incorporation of these cosmological assumptions in texts like "Techniques of the Dao" and the Mawangdui text known as the "Essay on the Five Phases" (wuxinapian) show that Han Confucian essayists increasingly depended on theories of natural cycles developed in other genres to explain nuances in their ethical theory.
Tung Chung-shu on the Technique of Non-Action
Sarah A. Queen, Connecticut College
This paper examines the concept of non-action in the writings of Tung Chung-shu to explore the Confucian appropriation of Huang-Lao discourse in the early years of the Han dynasty. It will discuss how Tung Chung-shu reconfigured the Huang-Lao political technique of non-action as part of his reformist platform to redefine the ruler's authority and power. It suggests that Tung Chung-shu's writings on non-action belie both an author and an audience steeped in Taoist practices of inner cultivation and devoted to the Taoist ideal of non-active rulership. These characteristics suggest that Tung authored the vast majority of these essays when he served Emperor Ching, a ruler clearly committed to Huang-Lao learning who wielded power in the decades when the Confucian scriptures did not yet enjoy the prestige of imperial patronage or the authority of a canon. Thus, they provide another perspective from which to consider the rich interplay between the Taoist and Confucian traditions that characterizes not only the first centuries of the Han dynasty, but so much of China's intellectual history as well.
Cosmology and Control: The Debate Over Techniques and Formulas in Early China
Michael Puett, Harvard University
The growing predominance of cosmological thinking in the late Warring States and early Han periods generated an important debate concerning the extent to which human action could and should be used to manipulate natural processes and the question of which realm, the human or the natural, should be granted normative priority. In other words, should one comply with the changing processes of nature, or should one manipulate such processes for one's own advantage? And, if the latter, how could such manipulation be undertaken, and under what circumstances and in what ways could it be presented as legitimate?
This paper addresses one aspect of such concerns by illuminating the specific debate concerning the nature and correct uses of techniques (shu) and formulas (fang). I will analyze why techniques and formulas became such a prominent topic of debate during this period, discuss some of the differing ways that techniques and formulas were defined, and explicate how this debate was connected to the larger concerns of the time concerning the relationship between humanity and the natural world.