This talk is organised under the auspices of the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme
When Wan Zhang asked Mencius about how Yi Yin sought an introduction to Tang, Mencius replied that he had done so by “plowing the wilderness of the Youxin Clan, delighting in the principles of Yao and Shun.” Mencius also responded to Zhou Xiao’s question, “Did superior men of old take office?” by quoting a passage on plowing from the Book of Rites: “A prince plows himself, and is assisted by the people, to supply the millet for sacrifice. His wife keeps silkworms, and unwinds their cocoons, to make the garments for sacrifice.” Later, still in discussion with Zhou Xiao, Mencius drew a direct parallel between plowing and governing: “An officer’s being in office is like the ploughing of a husbandman.” Shun’s ploughing on Mount Li caused Yao to notice and the prefer him. Moreover, famous figures such as Sima Qian, Wu Zixu, and Chen She all began or restarted their careers behind a plow. This paper will therefore attempt to examine the use of the motif of plowing in early Chinese texts, examining the scenario of “plowing in the wilds” 耕於野 and other tropes, and stressing especially the close relationship between plowing and politics.
ABOUT PROFESSOR WILLIAM H. NIENHAUSER, JR.
William H. Nienhauser, Jr., is Halls-Bascom Professor of Classical Chinese Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (two volumes, Indiana University Press, 1985, 1998), (as translator) Chinese Literature, Ancient and Classical by André Lévy (Indiana University Press, 2000), and (as editor and translator) the six volumes of The Grand Scribe’s Records a collection that aims to eventually translate and annotate Sima Qian’s Shiji. He is a founding editor of the journal Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR).
THE TAN CHIN TUAN FOUNDATION
The Tan Chin Tuan Professorship in Chinese Studies and the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme were established to honour Tan Sri Dr Tan Chin Tuan, whose legacy of philanthropy is transforming lives even today through the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. Yale-NUS has appointed Professor Scott Cook, an expert in Chinese history, as our inaugural Tan Chin Tuan Professor of Chinese Studies.
Under the auspices of the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme, which aims to increase the understanding of China and Chinese culture amongst the students at Yale-NUS College, the Foundation has supported the Chinese Language Scholarship Programme and cocurricular activities, which help deepen our students’ knowledge of China.
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