Stuck in the Middle? The Third Middle Period China Humanities Conference (220-1600)

By general agreement among American and European scholars, China’s ancient history ended in 220 CE with the passing of the first long-lived dynasty, the Han; similarly, scholars agree that modern China begins in 1600 as the Ming dynasty weakened and the Qing dynasty of the Manchus was taking shape. But does it make sense for scholars to treat the centuries between 220 and 1600 as a single period? Did people living across this time span experience life in the same way? Is it meaningful to think of a single traditional China?

One prevailing paradigm, first proposed a century ago by the Japanese scholar Naitō Torajirō, holds that between the Tang and Song dynasties China underwent a major transformation, passing from the medieval to the early modern period, with changes so great that some have termed them a commercial revolution. At the time, two major dynasties reigned: the Tang from 618 to 910, and the Song from 960 to 1276, when the Mongols invaded and established their own dynasty for nearly a century. China’s greatest poets, thinkers, and scientists produced their life works in these centuries. Buddhist monks succeeded in winning extensive support from commoner and emperor alike, while Confucian and Daoist thinkers also made important breakthroughs that shaped the respective histories of their religions.

But recent research shows that the paradigm is not as convincing as once thought. Few scholars address long-term change; almost all research focuses on a much shorter span of time.

For all its importance, this period receives little attention at the Asian Studies meetings in America and Europe – often just a few panels – while China offers dynasty-specific conferences but nothing devoted to the entire timespace. For this reason American, Chinese, European, and Japanese scholars held the first gathering of Middle Period scholars in 2014 at Harvard and the second in 2017 at Leiden, where everyone agreed that the meeting was so fruitful that it should continue.

The third meeting of this conference, to be held at Yale in June 2020, will provide an opportunity for scholars of Middle Period China to gather in New Haven and exchange views. This conference offers participants a chance to think about the most meaningful ways to divide up this giant expanse of time. We welcome revised seminar papers by PhD candidates and understand that they may not address the questions of periodization directly, but we hope that more established scholars will take advantage of the chance to meet scholars working on various dynasties and in different disciplines to think hard about these definitions of our field and how they affect the ways we pose questions.

The Program Committee

Luke BENDER, Yale University

DENG Xiaonan, Peking University

Eric GREENE, Yale University

Valerie HANSEN, Yale University

LI Yiwen, City University of Hong Kong

Richard SOSA, Yale University

WANG Jinping, National University of Singapore



歐美學者普遍認為  ,中國的古代史終結于公元220年,當統治中國長達400多年的漢朝滅亡之時;中國的近代史則開始于1600年,當明朝衰落、滿清崛起之時。然而,我們能將220年和1600之間的多個世紀當做中古史一個時段來處理嗎?生活在這些世紀中的人們經歷了相似的人生嗎?思考一個傳統中國有意義嗎?

近100年前,日本學者內藤湖南最先提出了影響學界至今的“唐宋變革論”,認為唐宋之間經歷了從中世紀到前近代社會的深刻轉型。其間的變化是如此重大,以至於一些學者甚至以“商業革命”來描述之。在這個變革期,中國經歷了唐 (618-907) 與宋 (960-1276) 兩個主要的王朝。之後,蒙古入侵并建立元朝,統治中國長達一個多世紀。在這個中古時代,中國誕生了最偉大的一批詩人、思想家和科學家 。 佛教徒獲得了上自皇帝下自農夫的廣泛社會支持,儒家和道家的思想家們同樣取得了重要突破,影響了各家宗教的發展歷史。然而,最新的研究顯示,唐宋變革論的解釋模式並非如我們曾經所想的那樣有說服力。儘管少數學者仍然關注長時段的變遷,大部分的研究者已將精力集中到更短的歷史時期。




Luke BENDER (盧本德), 耶魯大學

鄧小南, 北京大學

Eric GREENE (葛利尹), 耶魯大學

Valerie HANSEN (韓森), 耶魯大學

李怡文, 香港城市大學 

Richard SOSA (宋宇德), 耶魯大學