Local Communities in Context: Case Studies in Early China

Part of the Shuihudi Qin bamboo texts, in the China Audit Museum in Nantong

Year: 2022-2023
Research Team Type: Faculty-led
Team Organizer: Michael Nylan
Disciplines: Comparativist history, political science

The problem of local communities and associations is both understudied and ill-studied in the Early China field. This faculty-led Matrix Research Team will conduct an in-depth study of recently excavated manuscripts, focusing on five sites, where the site reports and transcriptions suffice to sketch the operations of local communities that are part of the administration of the early empires, in regions far from the capital with mixed ethnicities.

The goal of the project is to produce a small handbook of translations, each equipped with brief background essays explaining the document’s significance, that will be as useful for non-specialists in the class and conference rooms, as for fellow China experts. Few people can even read such documents, let alone explain them in light of local conditions, and so the team’s goal in the first semester is to translate as many of them as possible, with due care. The team’s work will be a first-of-its-kind effort to correlate findings across the geographic map of the early empires in China, contrasting and comparing evidence culled from the “outer provinces” of the northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest.

Image: Part of the Shuihudi Qin bamboo texts, in the China Audit Museum in Nantong. Image by 猫猫的日记本