Most of my career has been devoted to the cultural and literary history of China’s Zhou dynasty (c. 1045-249 B.C.), the period that has served all subsequent Chinese intellectuals as the Golden Age of Chinese civilization; after all, it is not only the period founded by the sage kings Wen (d. 1050 B.C.) and Wu (r. 1045-1043 B.C.), but also that during which Confucius (551-479 B.C.) lived. Much of my work has focused on archaeologically recovered textual materials from this period, from inscriptions on ritual bronze vessels cast during the first centuries of the first millennium B.C. through manuscripts written on bamboo and silk during the last centuries of the millennium. These manuscripts, which have been unearthed in breathtaking profusion during the last two or three decades, have come to absorb more and more of my attention. At the same time, I remain fascinated with the received literary tradition of the period, especially the three classics: Zhou Yi or Zhou Changes (Better known in the West as the I Ching or Classic of Changes), Shang shu or Exalted Scriptures (also known as the Shu jing or Classic of History) and Shi jing or Classic of Poetry. Indeed, I find it most rewarding when it proves possible to use these archaeological materials to explicate the classics, and vice versa.
Within this general scholarly agenda, I have found myself returning over and over again to the Zhou Changes, the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation (1983). Although I never published the dissertation itself, I have published translations and studies of several manuscripts of the text that have been unearthed in recent decades. I have recently completed a comprehensive study of how the text was first composed and how it was used and understood before the time of Confucius, and how it was transformed after that time from a more or less simple divination manual into China’s most important book of wisdom.
An important aspect of my scholarly work has been my attempt to bridge western and Chinese traditions of scholarship. To this end, I have written most of my technical scholarship in Chinese, having published seven volumes of essays in Chinese, as well as three other books devoted to specialized topics. For instance, in 2018, I published a 650-page book entitled Xiguan Han ji: Xifang Hanxue chutu wenxian yanjiu gaiyao 西觀漢記：西方漢學出土文獻研究概要 (Chinese annals in the Western observatory: An overview of Western Sinologists’ studies of Chinese excavated documents), which—as the title suggests—provides an overview of western studies of Chinese paleography, including especially scholarship devoted to oracle-bone and bronze inscriptions as well as that on manuscripts written on bamboo and silk. Ironically enough, after publishing this book in Chinese, I was persuaded to produce an English translation of it, which will be published in the autumn of 2019. I also serve as co-editor, together with colleagues at Wuhan University in China, of a journal entitled Bamboo and Silk, which publishes primarily English-language translations of articles originally published in Chinese.
Videos of various public lectures are available. For instance, in June, 2013, I gave a series of lectures at the College de France entitled “Unearthing the Chinese Classics” (Zhou Yi, Shang shu, Shi jing, Laozi), which are available on their website.
Also, in September, 2013, at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing I gave a lecture entitled “The Birth of China at Chicago: The University of Chicago and the Archaeology of Ancient China,” a video of which is available through UChicago News, Youtube, and iTunes U.
Gu shi xin sheng: Jianqiao Zhongguo shanggu shi bianji guozheng yu duzhe fanying 古史新聲：劍橋中國上古史編輯過程與讀者反應 (New Sounds of Ancient History: The Editorial Background and Readers Reaction to The Cambridge History of Ancient China). Beijing: Sanlian yinshuguan, 2019, in press.
Gu shi yi guan, san ji: Xia Shang Zhou duandai ji qita 古史異觀三集：夏商周斷代及其他 (A different view of ancient history, Vol. 3: The Chronology of the Xia, Shang and Zhou and other studies). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji chubanshe, 20019, in press.
Qi yu jiagu: Xifang jiagu buci xueshu wenji 契于甲骨：西方甲骨卜辭學術文集 (Carved into shell and bone: Western scholarship on oracle-bone inscriptions), general editor. Shanghai: Zhong Xi shuju, 2019, in press.
Xiguan Han ji: Xifang Hanxue chutu wenxian yanjiu gaiyao 西觀漢記：西方漢學出土文獻研究概要 (Chinese annals in the Western observatory: An overview of Western Sinologists’ studies of Chinese excavated documents). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji chubanshe, 2018. English translation: Chinese Annals in the Western Observatory: An Overview of Western Sinologists’ Studies of Chinese Excavated Documents, Jao Tsung-i Academy of Sinology Monograph (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019).
Imprints of Kinship: Studies of Recently Discovered Bronze Inscriptions from Ancient China, editor. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2017.
Haiwai Yijianzhi: Gu shi yi guan er ji 海外夷堅志：古史異觀二集 (Firm-and-Even’s Records from Beyond the Seas: The Second Collection of a A different View of Ancient History). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji chubanshe, 2016.
Unearthing the Changes: Recently Discovered Manuscripts of and Relating to the Yi Jing. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.
Xing yu xiang: Zhongguo gudai wenhua shi lunwenji 興與象:中國古代文化史論文集 (Arousals and Images: Essays on Ancient Chinese Cultural History). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji chubanshe, 2012.
- Confucius and the Analects (Winter)
- The Da xue and Zhong yong (Spring)
- The Yijing (Spring)