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China and Inner Asia
In Session: A Rhyme for a Reason: Conceptualizing Euphony and Other Mnemonic Strategies in Pre-Modern Chinese Didactic Texts
3: Pedagogical Pairings in a Dunhuang Text
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Williams College, United States
While such well-known surviving medieval leishu 類書 as Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 and Chuxue ji 初學記 have not been found among the manuscripts discovered in the caves at Dunhuang, those finds have included numerous works that appear to serve related functions. Dunhuang manuscript P.2524 contains the partial text of a work—lacking a title in the manuscript itself but named Yudui 語對 by modern scholars—that consists of parallel terms grouped under topical headings and followed, in most cases, by explanatory text. Similar in form and content to the shidui sections of the Chuxue ji, these entries exploit a range of mnemonic strategies, including parallelism, contextual quotations, categorial groupings, and visual formatting, to help the reader both memorize important terms and learn parts of the texts to which they allude. This talk analyzes examples of these strategies and compares them to examples found in the Chuxue ji. I argue that the goal of works such as Yudui is not to teach readers about the world itself, but rather to convey specifically textual information that was crucial to members of the literate elite or those who hoped to join their ranks.