Rethinking the Literati: a New Paradigm for Song Dynasty History

Rethinking the Literati: a New Paradigm for Song Dynasty History

Charles Hartman - Professor of Chinese Studies, State University of New York at Albany

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 211, Hall of Graduate Studies See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT

In the conventional understanding of Chinese history, the Song dynasty (960-1279) appears as a period during which civil officials, fortified by a renewal of Confucian values and recruited through an expanded civil service system, inaugurated a period of civilian rule that led to a domination of literati over military officials in the administration of the dynasty. This view derives ultimately from the official Song History (Songshi) of 1345. Based on an examination of the dynasty’s financial administration, my present research challenges this assumption and proposes that the deeper structure of Song government was based upon two contrasting political visions of how government should function. Against the formal political structures advocated by literati such as Ouyang Xiu and Sima Guang (institutionalism), coalitions within the monarchy and the military allied themselves with financial interests to govern through fluid, ad hoc administrative units (functionalism). My lecture will suggest that Song civil officials fought a losing battle for control of dynastic resources, yet, through their control of the state historiographic function, were able to create an enduring historical image to the contrary

Professor Charles Hartman received his PhD in Chinese literature from Indiana University and published Han Yu and the Tang Search for Unity in 1986. Over the past fifteen years, his articles on Song dynasty historiography in HJAS, T’oung Pao, and the Journal of Song-Yuan Studies have prepared the way for his current research on how political decision making influenced Song historical writing. He explains how Song politics shaped the contours of the surviving historical record and how historiographical praxis and overt censorship have affected our modern understanding of Song history.  He is Professor of Chinese Studies in the Department of East Asian Studies, the University at Albany.