Nicola Di Cosmo Discusses New Dimensions of Early Chinese Historiography
The Chinese historical tradition is an extremely rich reservoir of ethnographic and political knowledge of foreign (non-Han) peoples, but fundamental questions about its nuances, influences and characteristics have not been fully explored. Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, will provide insights on this fertile area of research in his talk, The History of Others: Foreign Peoples in Early Chinese Historiography. The lecture will take place on Wednesday, October 17 at 4:30 p.m. in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute's campus.
Most are familiar with the ancient characterization of Herodotus as a fabulist and a liar. Indeed, controversies about the truthfulness of historical accounts, but in particular of the history of others, began almost as soon as the first histories were produced. The Chinese historical tradition can be traced back to the first historian Sima Qian and to his magnum opus, The Grand Historian's Records, yet the question of alien history in Chinese sources has barely begun to be discussed and has certainly not entered the lively debates on "barbarian" histories in Greco-Roman historiography. Professor Di Cosmo's lecture will provide an overview of the production and characteristics of alien history in the Chinese tradition, while acknowledging and attempting to gauge the cultural influence of these accounts among the alien people themselves, as "consumers" of histories they did not produce, but were used politically and in other ways. These reflections may also serve as a fist step towards a comparative discussion, across the historiographic traditions of literate civilizations, about the fundamental issues of who wrote alien histories, why and for whom.
Nicola Di Cosmo works on the history of the relations between China and Inner Asia from prehistory to the modern period. He specializes in the cultural, political and military history of China's northern frontiers and in the traditions of Inner Asian peoples, in particular ancient nomads, Mongols and Manchus. His current projects include the study of the historiography of Inner Asian peoples and cultural contact in ancient China, the political and economic history of the early Manchu state, and questions of historical method in the study of Chinese dynasties of foreign origin. Recent publications include Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Powers in East Asian History (2002); Manchu-Mongol Relations on the Eve of the Qing Conquest (2003); and The Diary of a Manchu Soldier in Seventeenth-Century China (2006).
For further information about this event, which is free and open to the public, please call (609) 734-8175, or visit the Public Events page on the Institute website, www.ias.edu