PhD TPR Seminar: On the Early Life of Chen Jingyuan

Event details

PhD Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 09 June 2022


Australian Centre on China in the World Seminar Room


Linfang Wang


Linfang Wang

With the establishment of the Northern Song dynasty in 960, intellectuals pondered the identity of the newly established dynasty. They looked back to the classics for answers, reinterpreting them in the new context. The reforms of the eleventh century – those of the Qingli慶曆 period (1041-1048) and of Wang Anshi 王安石(1069-1085) – used the education system, with the civil service examination system at its apex, to place authority over interpretation of the classics in the hands of those in power. Although scholar-officials with a Confucian education were undoubtedly in the majority, the category of “classic” itself was extended from the purely Confucian to include Daoist and Buddhist texts as part of the process of intellectual reform.

Linfang's research sets the leading Daoist priest Chen Jingyuan 陳景元 (1024-1094) in the contexts of these intellectual and social developments. He was the only Daoist cleric to compose a commentary on Lao zi among over twenty commentaries on the text that date to this period.

His role in the intellectual life of the mid-eleventh century raises important questions. What were Daoist views of contemporary attempts to reinterpret the classics? Did Daoist clerics participate in the reform movements of the mid-eleventh century or did they opt out? How should Chen Jingyuan’s commentary to Lao zi be understood in the intellectual and commentarial contexts of his time?

In this talk, Linfang will discuss the key considerations of her PhD thesis and make a first attempt at answering these questions by examining Chen’s early life.

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