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Early Confucian philosophy in the light of the Guodian manuscripts

Final Report Summary - GUODIAN MANUSCRIPTS (Early Confucian philosophy in the light of the Guodian manuscripts)

The research project funded by the EU through the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships Program was focused on a bundle of bamboo-slip manuscripts unearthed in a tomb in a village named Guodian 郭店, near the city of Jingmen in Hubei province, China, in 1993. The palaeographical materials from Guodian give us a glimpse of philosophical texts before they might have been altered by later hands. The project funded by the Marie-Curie IEF on these manuscripts had as its main goal to explore this early period of the history of early China providing a comprehensive philosophical reading and a full annotated translation into Spanish of this invaluable new written source concerning the development and evolution of the ancient intellectual history.
The research project, focused on the reexamination of some of the essential questions about the classical Chinese thought by contrasting them with the theoretical assumptions to be found in the recently recovered manuscripts of Guodian, has been organised around the following themes:
(i) the different conceptions on human beings’ inherent characteristics (xing 性)
(ii) the debates on the morally ambivalent orientation of human natural condition
(iii) the links between natural conditions and virtuous accomplishments
(iv) the evolution and the internal tensions concerning self-cultivation
(v) the relationship between human inherent characteristics and external things or events
(vi) the dispute on the height of music and ritual in the formation of a morally accomplished person (vii) the role of the heart-mind (xin 心) as the chief mechanism of control in the human body
(viii) the controversy on emotions and their crucial role in affect regulation and consequently in social control.
The objectives of this research project were to provide a deep analysis and discussion on some of the most important key issues in the intellectual history of early China in the light of this newly discovered manuscript materials as well as to complete a critical edition and a full translation into Spanish of the Guodian manuscripts.
During the period of the fellowship, a number of tasks related to the development of the planned objetives have been carried out. Among these task, we can mention the following:
(i) a critical re-examination of the problems arising from the manuscript transcription into modern characters.
(ii) An examination of the sequence alternatives of the slips in some of the manuscript unities.
(iii) A synchronic and diachronic intertextual analysis of the materials.
(iv) Finally, a tentative translation into Spanish, with critical apparatus and explanatory notes, of the main manuscript unities which is still in the process of being accomplished.
This research project on the Guodian manuscripts has proven to be very useful and fertile in order to throw a new light on the intellectual history of pre-imperial China. However, far from being merely an “archaeological” study only relevant for early China scholars, this research has an undeniable present-day component since the ethical, political and philosophical approaches of ancient Chinese thought are now at the core of an intellectual debate presently underway among some of the most outstanding and influential authors of the western world. Spain has recently adopted a policy of strategic investments into research in East Asian Studies and, from this perspective, the funded research project, in sinergy with these efforts, has contributed to meet the needs of Spain in a globalization context where the influence of China is becoming more and more important.