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Introduction: The Enigmatic Case of the Zhongshuo

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Chapter Summary

This introduction provides an overview of the concepts discussed in this book Transmitting Authority: Wang Tong (ca. 584-617) and the Zhongshuo in Medieval China's Manuscript Culture. It discusses earliest stages of the Zhongshuo's compilation and its subsequent transmission through the Tang and early Song Xian dynasties is foremost a story of personalities and of the politics of social positioning within literati circles. It takes up the Zhongshuo to illustrate how the rise and fall of a text's cultural prestige is in part propelled by, transmission practices that are themselves driven by ideological, political, social and professional self-interest. The Zhongshuo is a posthumous work purportedly comprising notes recorded by Wang Tong's former disciples as they culled their master's wisdom from his lectures, and quotidian conversations. The features of the Zhongshuo attest to its historical fluidity, including the discrepancies, errors, and apparent interpolations that have supplied the grounds for past scholars' judgments of its corruption or forgery.

Keywords: Song Xian dynasty; Tang dynasty; Wang Tong; Zhongshuo



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