Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Paul R. Goldin


This dissertation is focused on communities of people in the Han dynasty (205 B.C.-A.D. 220) who possessed the knowledge of a corpus of texts: the Five Classics. Previously scholars have understood the popularity of this corpus in the Han society as a result of stiff ideology and imperial propaganda. However, this approach fails to explain why the imperial government considered them effective to convey propaganda in the first place. It does not capture the diverse range of ideas in classicism. This dissertation concentrates on Han classicists and treats them as scholars who constantly competed for attention in intellectual communities and solved problems with innovative solutions that were plausible to their contemporaries. This approach explains the nature of the apocryphal texts, which scholars have previously referred to as shallow and pseudo-scientific. It also reveals the root of the Scripture of the Great Peace in Han classicism and apocryphal texts. This dissertation explores how the study of the classics increasingly came to shape the literati culture and communities of the Han Empire and Early Medieval China. It shows that classicism led to innovations in solving crises of the empire as well as envisioning an ideal empire. The popularity of classicism gave birth to a peripatetic and epistolary scholarly culture marked by the use of calligraphy and poetry in the social life of newly mobile teachers and disciples throughout imperial China. These men strove to be erudite advisors to the destined emperor who would work to achieve the Great Peace, the utopian goal of a human society fully in accordance with Heaven.

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