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Writing and the Ancient State
Early China in Comparative Perspective

  • Date Published: May 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107028128


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About the Authors
  • Writing and the Ancient State explores the early development of writing and its relationship to the growth of political structures. The first part of the book focuses on the contribution of writing to the state's legitimating project. The second part deals with the state's use of writing in administration, analyzing both textual and archaeological evidence to reconstruct how the state used bookkeeping to allocate land, police its people, and extract taxes from them. The third part focuses on education, the state's system for replenishing its staff of scribe-officials. The first half of each part surveys evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Maya lowlands, Central Mexico, and the Andes; against this background the second half examines the evidence from China. The chief aim of this book is to shed new light on early China (from the second millennium BC through the end of the Han period, ca. 220 AD) while bringing to bear the lens of cross-cultural analysis on each of the civilizations under discussion.

    • Side-by-side comparisons and a global perspective make this a far-reaching study
    • Vividly illustrated with over 100 images and a color insert
    • Imaginative scenarios for the invention of writing bring the story to life for both the specialist and the student
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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107028128
    • length: 427 pages
    • dimensions: 261 x 186 x 25 mm
    • weight: 1.1kg
    • contains: 69 b/w illus. 26 colour illus. 15 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Writing and the Legitimation of the State: History as King List:
    1. The Near East and the Americas
    2. China
    Part II. Writing and the Wealth of the State: People and Land, Census and Land Register:
    3. The Near East and the Americas
    4. China
    Part III. Writing and the Perpetuation of the State: Scribal Education, Lexical Lists, and Literature:
    5. The Near East and the Americas
    6. China
    Part IV. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Haicheng Wang, University of Washington
    Wang Haicheng is an assistant professor in the School of Art, University of Washington, Seattle. His research centers on the art and archaeology of ancient China and the comparative study of early civilizations. Recent and forthcoming publications include a book chapter on the material record of the Erligang civilization, a chapter on urbanization and writing in The Cambridge World History, and papers on calligraphy and the archaeology of agency. He has lectured widely in the United States and China.

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