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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 840813
Project Title(English) : Inspirations and Challenges from Silk and Bamboo-slip Texts: Philosophical Investigation Based on Interdisciplinary Researches (Phase 2) 
Project Title(Chinese) : 簡帛文獻與思想史第二期 
Principal Investigator(English) : Prof Cheng, Kat Hung Dennis 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Literature and Cultural Studies
Institution : The Education University of Hong Kong
E-mail Address : dkhcheng@eduhk.hk 
Tel : 2948 7245 
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr Tang, Pui Ling
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Humanities and Arts
Exercise Year : 2013 / 14
Fund Approved : 339,000
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 30-11-2016
Project Objectives :
To demonstrate the practice of synchronizing two approaches, philological and philosophical, to study the key words/terms in traditional and excavated texts in early Chinese intellectual history.
To re-examine the development of early Chinese intellectual history based on the new understandings derived from “two-approach” studies of key words/terms.
To re-examine certain methodological issues discussed by scholars in the studies of silk manuscripts and bamboo slips in the past decades. This re-examination will be carried out in the form of workshops/symposiums to encourage public and open discussions with scholars from the East and the West.
To write detailed articles on the key words/terms mentioned above. The final goal is to author a book containing 8-10 chapters , and to edit a volume on the discussion of ideas in early Chinese intellectual history.
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):
This project aims to examine the method and methodology of philology and philosophy, and to search for the possibility of merging these two approaches in order to apply them to the study of newly excavated Chinese silk manuscripts and bamboo slips in light of early Chinese intellectual history. Our goal is to benefit from these two approaches by applying them to the study of excavated texts and early Chinese thought. Our research will re-examine important ideas (key words/terms) in ancient classics/cannons including “天,” "仁," "義," “性,” “情,”"道," "德" which were also broadly used in the silk manuscripts and bamboo slips excavated in recent decades, so as to help scholars to rethink the connections of these ideas to the grand picture of early Chinese intellectual history. Besides, as these ideas are set forth within the context of the Chinese language, the particularities of the language structure involved should be seriously considered. One single word in the Chinese Classics often contains multiple meanings connected to an unbelievably complicated intellectual background. This is why the PI emphasizes the synchronization of both the philological and philosophical approaches to avoid bias or blind spots in our research. Professor Cheng Kat Hung Dennis, the PI of this project proposes to write one detailed article for each idea, elaborating on its etymological meanings and philosophies. He will also work with the co-investigators and international scholars of different disciplines in editing a research volume in which these seven ideas and related problems are discussed.
Realisation of objectives: Objective 1: To demonstrate the practice of synchronizing two approaches, philological and philosophical, to study the key words/terms in traditional and excavated texts in early Chinese intellectual history. Realization of objective 1: One of the five refereed journal article “On Tian [Heaven]”(釋「天」) originally presented at an international conference on “經典、經學與儒家思想的現代詮釋” (Contemporary interpretation on Chinese Classics and Confucianism, held at the Shenzhen University [深圳大學] on 24th January, 2015) should be a model representing how the project objectives were achieved. In gist, the ancient character “Tian” (天) is an image of a human body highlighting the head to represent the sky, the Heaven as well as the celestial space. The philosophical meaning of the character was actually developed from the philological structure. The nature of “Tian” reflected by the celestial phenomena is a never ending cycle, the name of the ten “tian-gan” (heavenly stems) and celestial phenomena are used by the Yin people to name their Emperors, while the Emperors burn the sacrifices to show their respect to the “Tian”. The Zhou people inherits part of the philosophy of “Tian” by the Yin people but switch the focus to the solar/masculine/positive power as well as the political morality of “Tian” which reflects the main spirit of the mandate of heaven. This paper attempts to rebuild the meaning system of “Tian” especially its development in the Yin Zhou transition by incorporating the ancient people’s knowledge of astronomy and calendar to reinterpret the historical records in early Chinese classics and canons and excavated texts. By revisiting the philological research on the character “Tian” by leading scholars including Wang Guo-wei (王國維) and Herrlee G. Creel (顧立雅) of the early 20th century, I further reexamines the theory of “five meanings of Tian” declared by Feng Youlan (馮友蘭). I consequently explains how and why the multi layers of meaning of the character “Tian” were developed. This paper justifies that it would be crucial for scholars to apply philological approach as well as philosophical approach simultaneously to study key words/notions in ancient classics. In the conference on key words held by this project and co-organized by the Jao-Tsung-I Academy of Sinology of the HK Baptist University in 2014, I published a paper "釋天(續)" which is an extending study of the "釋天". Objective 2: To re-examine the development of early Chinese intellectual history based on the new understandings derived from “two-approach” studies of key words/terms. Realization of objective 2: One conference article “Early Chinese Intellectual History in Language Discourses” (語言陳述中的先秦思想史芻議) which is also directly related to the project was presented in an international conference held in 11-12 June 2016 at the Academia Sinica, and in the process of revision. This paper reexamines how linguistic elements play a crucial role in early Chinese intellectual history. “Language” should not be a factor which affects the development of intellectual history but more accurately it should be a method of representation of the thoughts of the ancient philosophers. Objective 3: To re-examine certain methodological issues discussed by scholars in the studies of silk manuscripts and bamboo slips in the past decades. This re-examination will be carried out in the form of workshops/symposiums to encourage public and open discussions with scholars from the East and the West. Realization of objective 3: In my book chapter “易學與校勘學” contributing to the editing volume 《經典與校勘論叢》authored by Liu Yucai (劉玉才) and Mizukami Masaharu (水上雅晴) (北京: 北京大學出版社, 2014) I give a series of examples to elaborate the “multiplicity of meanings” (多義性) of Chinese characters in ancient Chinese classics. This paper echoes to other publications by me in rebuilding the inner logic embedded in ancient texts, which helps clarifying the development of ancient Chinese intellectual history. Objective 4: To write detailed articles on the key words/terms mentioned above. The final goal is to author a book containing 8-10 chapters , and to edit a volume on the discussion of ideas in early Chinese intellectual history. Realization of objective 4: Except for my discussion of 天, 人, 仁, in my published papers, a paper “論「群」、「獨」與清代儒學思潮” presented at an international symposium “Revisiting Intellectual History of the Ming-Qing Transition” held by the Institute of Modern History of the Academia Sinica on 23-25 June 2016. Other several key words/terms have also been discussed in my paper “Early Chinese Intellectual History in Language Discourses” (語言陳述中的先秦思想史芻議). Readers may also note that objective 4 should be a long term goal which I have been pursuing for quite some years.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.To demonstrate the practice of synchronizing two approaches, philological and philosophical, to study the key words/terms in traditional and excavated texts in early Chinese intellectual historyYes100%
2.To re-examine the development of early Chinese intellectual history based on the new understandings derived from “two approach” studies of key words/terms.Yes100%
3.To re-examine certain methodological issues discussed by scholars in the studies of silk manuscripts and bamboo slips in the past decades. This re-examination will be carried out in the form of workships/symposiums to encourage public and open discussions with scholars from the East and West.Yes100%
4.To write detailed articles on the key words/terms mentioned above. The final goal is to author a book containing 8-10 chapters, and to edit a volume on the discussion of ideas in early Chinese intellectual history.Yes80%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: The focus of the project was to reexamine the integration of philological approach and philosophical approach in studying key words/notions in early Chinese intellectual history. Upon the completion of the project, five articles (試論子思遺說, 先秦經典「中」字字義分析──兼論《保訓》「中」字 were published in the same year the RGC granted me this GRF project. 易象新議, 釋天, 歸藏平議 were completed afterwards) in refereed journals and one book chapter (易學與校勘學) which are directly related to the project and attached to the completion report have been published. Besides, six conference papers (one for a distinguished guest lecture) are also produced. Sponsored by the GRF project budget, I had held two international conferences: 1. The 2nd International Conference on the Art of Interpretations of Chinese Canonical Texts (第二屆中國經典文獻的詮釋藝術國際學術研討會) was held on 17-18 October, 2014 in the then HKIEd. 2. The International Conference on the Interpretation of Key Words in the Pre-Qin Classics (先秦經典字義源流) collaborated by the HKSAR government GRF -2013/16 Project “Inspirations and Challenges from Silk and Bamboo-slip Texts: Philosophical Investigation Based on Interdisciplinary Researches (Phase II)” and the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (饒宗頤國學院) on 3-4 October 2015. In the meanwhile I am working with the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology in editing the conference proceeding which will address objective 3.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
I will kick start another plan on rewriting the History of Chinese Intellectual History volume one focusing on the early period covering 10 century BCE to AD 2 century. The aforementioned article “Early Chinese Intellectual History in Language Discourses” (語言陳述中的先秦思想史芻議) will be the major part of the first draft.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
This project reexamines the key notions which bridge up the study of excavated texts and the study of early Chinese philosophy. Scholars working on excavated texts use to focus on the linguistic elements of the texts and pay little attention to philosophy, while experts of Chinese philosophy may ignore the linguistic elements. By highlighting on key words/characters, the PI attempts to revisit the philosophical meanings of these key words/characters by studying their philological background and structure. The integration of philology and philosophy, the bridging up of the study of ancient Chinese texts and ancient Chinese philosophy are the two major intellectual merits. Take one of the research outcomes, a top journal article “On ‘Tian’ (Heaven)” as an example, it analyses previous research views on the key notion “Tian” (Heaven) by leading scholars in the past century and breaks new ground by incorporating background knowledge of ancient calendar to broaden the scope and depth of meanings of “Tian”. The two international conferences organized by the PI imposed impacts to the field. Leading scholars in studying ancient Chinese texts and philosophies contribute to this research and support the PI to establish a research network facilitating the pursuance of further studies.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2015 鄭吉雄  Title: 易象新議 Journal: 人文中國學報 22 (上海: 上海古籍出版社), pp. 171-202  No 
2013 鄭吉雄  Title: 先秦經典「中」字字義分析──兼論〈保訓〉「中」字 Book: 簡帛經典古史 (上海: 上海古籍出版社), pp.181-207  No 
2015 鄭吉雄  Title: 釋天 Journal: 中國文哲研究集刊 46 (台北: 中央研究院, 中國文哲研究所), . 63-99  No 
2013 鄭吉雄  試論子思遺說, in 文史哲 335 (濟南: 山東大學), pp. 63-79.  No 
鄭吉雄  Title: 《歸藏》平議 Journal: 文與哲 29 (高雄: 國立中山大學中國文學系), printing  No 
2014 鄭吉雄  Title: 易學與校勘學 Book: 經典與校勘論叢  No 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
10/2015/Hong Kong 釋天(續)  The International Conference on the Interpretation of Key Words in the Pre-Qin Classics (先秦經典字義源流國際學術研討會) 
06/2016/Taipei 試論語言陳述中的早期中國思想史  「離詞辨言聞道:古典研究再出發」國際學術研討會 
04/2016/HK Beyond Confucianism and Daoism: Reexamining the Yizhuan Philosophy  Singapore-HongKong-Macau Symposium on Chinese Philosophy 
03/2014/HK 《周易》經傳詮釋及閱讀方法——兼評榮格心理學詮釋  《嶺南學報》復刊學術會議「經學之傳承與開拓」國際學術會議暨「聲音與意義——古典詩歌新探」國際學術研討會 
12/2013/Taipei 隱士逸民與出處進退:清代儒學的「隱」  台灣大學中文系學術薪傳講座 
11/2015/Atlanta(US) "Tian" (天, Heaven) and Yijing Philosophy  AAR(American Academy of Religion) Annual Meeting 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):
The international conference in Taipei in which I presented my paper "試論語言陳述中的早期中國思想史" was initiated and organised by my student Professor 范麗梅 of the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy of the Academia Sinica. The theme of the conference directly and explicitly echoed to the theme of my project, linking up philology with philosophy in a methodological level.

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542