The “Chinese” Rhetorical Curriculum and A Transcultural History of Political Thought, ca. 1250–1650
This dissertation provides a new narrative of the history of early modern political thought by examining a rhetorical curriculum that flourished in East Eurasia. This rhetorical curriculum trained individuals to write official documents in literary Sinitic, a lingua franca of the regions. Using documents in Chinese, Mongolian, Manchu, and Persian, among other languages, I trace how the curriculum took its shape under Mongol-ruled China, flourished in post-Mongol East Eurasia, until it was finally restructured under the Manchu Empire. Employing a large number of previously untapped sources that have survived in different parts of the world, I contend that this education gave rise to new and compelling political theories. It enabled individuals thus trained to conceptualize their rights vis-à-vis the throne, re-problematize the proper shape of the government, and conceive alternative possibilities in history. Despite its importance in the early modern world, the curriculum of writing documents in literary Sinitic has sunk into complete oblivion since the late eighteenth century. Against this background, my dissertation is ultimately an archaeology of a discipline as well as an excavation of the ideas, imaginations, voices, and aspirations that once constituted this curriculum.
1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021
PhD defended at
University of California, Berkeley
Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)
International Relations and Politics
Art and Culture