China and Inner Asia
The aim of this panel is to use both excavated and received texts to rediscover topics such as childhood education, literacy acquisition by different social groups, and more broadly investigate how users actually interacted with these kinds of texts on the ground in pre-Modern Chinese society. “Primary education” (xiao xue 小學) and didactic works are often treated as reference texts for mining data to be used in the interpretation of other sources. Lacking the narrative structure of essays, histories, and other genres, accessing these texts presented users with a formidable challenge: on one side, they were word-list works full of archaic and rare terminology, on the other side, they were didactic texts that had to be thoroughly learned and mastered. In this panel, we problematize the organizational principles underlying the often-overlooked category of “primary education” and rhymed didactic texts, paying special attention to euphony, rhyming patterns, polysemy, semantic clustering, and similar phenomena, which may have aided in the texts’ memorization and reference. Such rhetorical devices were indispensable to transmit the multifaceted graphic, semantic and phonetic characteristics of early Chinese writing. Anne Kinney discusses the complex relationship between rhymed summaries and prose narratives in the Lienüzhuan; Christopher Nugent examines the Dunhuang pedagogical manuscript Yudui and its mnemonic techniques;Christopher Foster contextualizes the Cang Jie pian as a core text of Western Han scribal education; Federico Valenti analyses the function of the Erya as a fundamental tool to master the language of the Classics.