The Wenzi: creation and manipulation of a Chinese philosophical text

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The Wenzi: creation and manipulation of a Chinese philosophical text

Type: Doctoral Thesis
Title: The Wenzi: creation and manipulation of a Chinese philosophical text
Author: Els, Paul van
Publisher: Department of Languages and Culture of China, Faculty of Arts, Leiden University
Issue Date: 2006-05-29
Keywords: Daoism
Han dynasty
Wenzi (Wen-tzu);
Text creation
Reception history
Abstract: The Wenzi is a Chinese philosophical text that is traditionally ascribed to a disciple of Laozi, the alleged founder of Daoism. The text was read, discussed, quoted and admired by the lettered class in imperial China for centuries, until the Northern Song dynasty. From the Southern Song dynasty, however, the Wenzi was branded a forgery and consigned to near oblivion. The recent discovery of an age-old Wenzi manuscript, inked on bamboo strips, refueled interest in the text. In this combined study of the bamboo manuscript and received text, Van Els argues that the Wenzi was written in the early Former Han dynasty and thoroughly revised after the Latter Han dynasty. He also maintains that, given the drastic revision, the two Wenzi’s should be seen as distinct texts, not as different versions of one text, and he subsequently studies the date, authorship and philosophy of each Wenzi. The study is concluded with an analysis of the reception history of the revised text, with an emphasis on the dramatic change in its evaluation: from an admired authentic work to a worthless forgery. This analysis sheds light on changing views on authorship, originality, authenticity and forgery in Chinese history, both past and present.
Description: Promotor: M. van Crevel, Co-Promotor: C. Defoort
With Summary in Dutch
Faculty: Faculteit der Letteren
Citation: Els, P. van, 2006, Doctoral Thesis, Leiden University

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