Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Ethnicity, Orthodoxy, and Policy in Medieval China: The Political Philosophy of Wang Tong (584?-617)

This research project focuses on the thoughts of ethnicity and political orthodoxy in Medieval China by investigating Wang Tong’s works.

Wang Tong (584?-617), a prominent scholar who lived during the Sui Dynasty (581-618), essentially concerns two practical political issues in his works: (1) Was the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557), the first successful nomadic rulership in Chinese history, an “orthodox” regime? (2) Does the Han Dynasty (202 bce-220 ce) offer a political model worthy of emulation as an alternative to the “ideal” model of the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 bce)? These issues were quite new and complicated in his time. How to come to terms with a non-Han Chinese ethnic regime that governed China and its Han Chinese population? How to uphold the belief in an ideal political system in a time of major socio-political upheaval? After careful analysis, Wang Tong formulated a new system, which blended traditional political principles with new creative views, to solve the challenges of his time. As one of the first and most influential Chinese thinkers to reflect upon these issues, Wang Tong and his writings offer a unique opportunity to study conflicts of ethnic identity and state policy—conflicts that were acute in Wang Tong’s days as much as they are today in worldwide.

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