China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Historiography occupies paramount importance in Classical Chinese literature. It not only represents a source of fairly reliable historical information. It also assumes a strategic role in promoting political agendas. History-writing is a sophisticated rhetorical tool, employed to superimpose ideas and ideals of legitimacy, rulership, shared cultural memory (Meyer 2012) and intellectual lineage identity (Nylan 2001). In light of recent archaeological findings and consequent reconceptualizations of the early Chinese intellectual landscape, increasing attention has been paid to the influence of historiography in establishing and consolidating power structures in pre-imperial and early imperial China (Pines/Goldin/Kern 2015; Durrant/Li/Schaberg 2018; Leung 2019). The panel explores the instrumental uses of historiography as a means to (re-)write history. It brings together both senior and junior experts in different disciplines – historiography, rhetoric, philosophy, literature, and intellectual history. The panelists contribute their original perspectives approaching the issue from different angles. Michael Nylan problematizes the concept of “cultural memory” against competing narratives on the pre-dynastic ruling houses in the Five Classics. David Schaberg studies the use of history and the modalities of argument construction in Yantielun. Wai-yee Li explores the relationship between the basis of political power and notions of authorship and the tension between the principle of rule by virtue and hereditary right in foundational stories in Shiji. Lisa Indraccolo analyzes (pseudo)historical narratives as framing devices in argumentative politico-philosophical texts. It is hoped that the panel will shed light and bring fresh insights into our understanding of the politicized use of history in early Chinese literary practices.