Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Paul R. Goldin


Since the 20th century, Chinese institutions have been recovering a growing number of ancient objects, among which figure manuscripts produced during the Warring States (453–221 BCE) era. These are the protagonists of this dissertation. Chapter 1 articulates the overarching goal of my study: the importance of rigorous philological and intellectual engagement to promote the significance of these manuscripts in and beyond the study of early Chinese history. In Chapter 2, I analyze manuscripts produced around 300 BCE as what I call “performance supports,” rather than self-contained philosophical and historical essays. My notion of "performance supports" incorporates observations about the composite nature of early Chinese manuscripts, but better accounts for other textual features, such as errors, abrupt endings, list-like passages, etc. Chapter 3 discusses the implications of my thesis. I show how performance supports were used in practices of knowledge management that relied on, but went beyond, the written medium. I explore oratory, recitation, literary compositions, and writings used to organize and retrieve knowledge. Second, I compare performance supports to other Warring States texts, so as to highlight the peculiarities of both groups and confirm that the concept of performance support is not an ad-hoc solution. Chapter 4 focuses on the performance support *Natural Dispositions Come from Endowment 性自命出, and reconstructs ways in which this manuscript functioned as the basis for central philosophical debates on human nature during the Warring States period. The dissertation is completed by a new philological study of *Natural Dispositions.

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