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Dubious Facts

The Evidence of Early Chinese Historiography

Garret P. S. Olberding

Publication Year: 2012

An innovative approach to historical records assesses how evidence claims and policy arguments were put forth in the royal courts of early China.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Many hands have stirred the pot of this work over the years it has been in the making. The members of my doctoral committee at the University of Chicago—Donald Harper, Edward Shaughnessy, and Danielle Allen—deserve profound thanks for their incisive remarks, without which the fl aws of the work would have been that much greater. ...

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CHAPTER ONE Introduction

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pp. 1-11

Of the many problems surrounding the study of early Chinese historiography, one of the most troubling is the conspicuous tension between the narrator’s moralizing commentary and the description of events. The earliest works of historiography—such as the ...

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CHAPTER TWO The Subversive Power of the Historian

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pp. 13-20

As stated previously, the singular commitment of premodern Chinese historians to moral didacticism, to their use of historical tales or anecdotes to recommend a particular moral (or immoral) vision, deeply influences modern scholars’ estimations of early Chinese historiography.1 In his study ...

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CHAPTER THREE Politicized Truth and Doubt

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pp. 21-38

In general, for any persuasive argument, political or otherwise, the end is by definition the broaching and overcoming of certain doubts assumed on the part of the audience relating to the issues at hand.1 To attempt to investigate the qualities of such doubts requires a careful consideration ...

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CHAPTER FOUR Interactive Constraints at Court

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pp. 39-46

Between parties as uneasy and often mutually distrustful as the monarch and his advisors, political persuasion is always complicated by competing and at times contradictory interests and personal idiosyncrasies. In the classical Chinese corpus, monarchs are repeatedly and severely warned against the seductions of a glib tongue, of ministers too ambitious or ...

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CHAPTER FIVE Salient Formal Characteristics of the Addresses

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pp. 47-70

Addresses regarding military campaigns usually touch on many, if not all, of the following considerations: obstacles of climate or of terrain; the military preparedness of the enemy’s forces; the openness of the enemy to negotiation and the likelihood that they will take advantage of negotiations to gather their forces; the preparedness of the Han forces and the ...

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CHAPTER SIX Rhetoric in Opposition

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pp. 71-98

... Much of the material was clearly invented, not only its addresses but its representation of historical events. Nevertheless, Sima Qian clearly saw some of the stories it contains as suffi ciently illustrative of a Warring States ethos that he included several ...

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CHAPTER SEVEN Commitment to the Facts

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pp. 99-110

As mentioned earlier, because the executive’s response recorded in the Intrigues is usually laconic, it is almost impossible to be sure of the influence of the epistemic aspects of the addresses presented to him. In other words, it is not clear that his beliefs about the truth of the matter were, ...

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CHAPTER EIGHT Moral Norms as Facts

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pp. 111-136

Though the moral voice becomes more prominent in Han addresses, the format of the use of nonmoral strategic concerns is still quite similar to their use in the persuasions of the Intrigues. Relating to nonmoral strategic concerns we thus can naturally draw sympathetic comparisons in our analysis of the early Han addresses and exchanges to the opposed addresses ...

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CHAPTER NINE How Did Ministers Err?

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pp. 137-153

Facing the onerous task of judging the merits of each address, the monarch was at a supreme disadvantage, for the information he received was almost inevitably adulterated. Officials habitually supervised, and, if they thought it prudent, censored the information the emperor received. If the emperor wished to obtain unfiltered reports ...

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CHAPTER TEN A Diversity of Evidence

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pp. 155-175

So where do these analyses lead us? How do these investigations into the rhetorical quality of the evidence employed in the addresses help us to better understand the nature and quality of the early Han historical project? I insist that they assist us, at the very minimum, to assess in what manner ...


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pp. 177-214


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pp. 215-265


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pp. 267-273


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pp. 275-278

Back Cover

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p. 290-290

E-ISBN-13: 9781438443911
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438443898

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2012