You are here

The Song Is You: Histories of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) in the United States

University of Michigan's Center for Chinese Studies features a talk by Professor Christan de Pee.

March 9, 2010 12:00am

The founders of Song history in the United States—E. A. Kracke, Jr., James T. C. Liu, and Robert M. Hartwell—abandoned the philological tradition of European sinologists in favor of the social sciences. Following the example of Chinese and Japanese scholars of the 1920s and 1930s, they used statistical methods and a sociological vocabulary to examine social mobility, factional politics, and economic development. The second generation of Song historians tested the hypotheses of their teachers at the local level, preferring county gazetteers and funerary inscriptions to dynastic histories and imperial edicts. In recent years, a third generation of Song scholars has deemed the positivist social-science approaches of both preceding generations unsuited to Song-dynasty sources and has returned to some of the methods and topics preferred of pre-War sinologists, such as philology, historiography, literati culture, and the religious aspects of imperial government. Histories of the Song dynasty in the United States have contributed to the knowledge of the Chinese past, but they also illustrate the political and academic history of the post-War United States.

Christian de Pee
is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Writing of Weddings in Middle-Period China: Text and Ritual Practice in the Eighth through Fourteenth Centuries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007). His current research examines the emergence of the city into writing during the eleventh century.