China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The notion of â€śstandardâ€ť was central to the project of creation of the first Chinese empires and represents an important hermeneutical tool in the historical research on this period. While the evidence for attempts to standardize the production of written artefacts (manuscripts and inscriptions) in early imperial China is abundant, new sources coming to light gradually render the still pervasive picture of all-encompassing unity and standardization simplistic. Moreover, due to the scarcity of evidence for normative rules, it seems problematic to project the existence of standards back into earlier periods.
A new approach to unravel the complex dynamics in the creation and evolution of standards is undertaken in the four papers in this panel. Through the study of repetitive patterns in the production of written artefacts, e.g. with regard to layout, script or punctuation, this panel investigates how these patterns evolved into or prompted the development of standards of production by the early imperial period. The questions addressed by the four panelists include: How did standards come into existence and what were the practical needs behind them? Did they evolve from habitual practices that were â€śinstitutionalizedâ€ť at a later point or were they purposefully modeled against common practices by an authority? What differences can we note between privately and officially produced artefacts? A wide range of written artefacts â€“ bronze inscriptions, seals, and manuscripts â€“ is explored to address these questions and to shed light on the origins, evolution and function of standardization in early China.