KANG Lecture Series | Zhi Chen, "Binomes, Idioms and Tetrasyllabic Poetry in Light of Paleography"
From Yihan Zhou
Some of the prominent features of the Old Chinese (archaic Chinese) include set phrases, idioms, binomes and tetrasyllabic poetic lines which can be found in both excavated documents, including bronze inscriptions and bamboo strip writings, and transmitted canons, such as Book of Songs, Book of Documents, Books of Etiquettes, etc. Prof. Chen’s pilot research was conducted on the basis of early Chinese idioms and formulaic expressions concurrently seen in the Book of Songs and contemporaneous excavated manuscripts. Evidently, the tetra-syllabic form, the earliest genre of Chinese poetry, was shaped in mid-Western Zbou times and was derived from liturgical prayers of sacrificial activities among Zhou nobles. This presentation represents a novel perspective from which we understand how binomes are used within received classical texts, bronze inscriptions, as well as bamboo and silk manuscripts, and how the analysis of these binomes can improve the understanding of the inscriptional texts and other excavated manuscripts. Moreover, this approach has the potential to provide new understandings of passages from the received classics that may have previously been misunderstood or misinterpreted. Here Prof. Chen is going to show a few cases of the decomposition of binomes in the versified and rhymed literature, be it transmitted classics or excavated manuscripts. This phenomenon has misled students of early Chinese studies, both traditional and modern, both Chinese and non-Chinese, in their reception and interpretation of these texts. The methodological approach that Prof. Chen is going to demonstrate here can thus bring a new degree of linguistic rigor to the study of ancient Chinese documents, and will shed a new light on the field of early China, including paleography, philology, and most importantly, manuscript studies.
Professor Zhi Chen is a scholar of ancient China. His main interests are in early Chinese classics, and the intellectual history of late Imperial China. Currently he is a Chair Professor and Director of Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology of Hong Kong Baptist University, and Provost of UIC (Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College) in Zhuhai.
This lecture is one of the serial events of the 2022 Chi Lung Kang Endowed Lecture Series. The Chi Lung Kang Endowment was established to honor the memory of Chi Lung (Charles) Kang, a PhD graduate of UIUC’s electrical engineering program. Its purpose is to promote dialogue and understanding about China, within the University and in the wider community.