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date: 18 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay traces the notions of text, authorship, and commentary in the early Chinese literary tradition, exploring how the notions were debated and redefined from the fourth century bce to the fourth century ce in an endless process of accretion, in which poetic lines were utilized in new ways and stories were constantly varied according to context. The analysis shows how the texts of the classical period emerged together with the commentaries to them and literary production in the early period developed out of contested visions of how to define text and commentary, author and interpreter; it opens up comparative possibilities for thinking through the development of other early literary traditions as well.

Keywords: early China, text, commentary, authorship, hermeneutics

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