Western Zhou Group Projects -- Topic Descriptions

For all these issues, think also about: 1) change over time; 2) comparison with the Shiji portrait; 3) unexpected material.

As you and the members of your group think about how to approach the topics designated for your group, consider the following points as a guide.
Do not feel you need to answer all questions -- these are just intended to help you identify materials that may be useful.

GROUP A on LAW:  Evidence of Laws, Punishment, Contractual Forms, Dispute Adjudication:

Traditional accounts say there were no law codes until about the 7th century BC. Some scholars picture their emergence as a transition from a social model based on "family-like" relations to one based on employer-employee structures. Your task is to test this in examining your corpus of inscriptions by all inscriptions that show instances of "rules" (which might be law-like), punishments, adjudication of disputes, and any relationships that seem to be based on patterns that we might call contractual.  

Communicate within the group to determine whether there are identifiable changes or trends that occur over the course of the entire period.

GROUP B on LAND:  Evidence of "Feudalism" and Land Owning Patterns

The model of "Zhou feudalism" is based on the king ruling directly over only a small portion of land, but "possessing" all territory in the Zhou domains, and parceling off control and management to patrician relatives or allies on an hereditary basis. Personal "ownership" of land was a concept emerging only gradually in late Spring-Autumn China.

Communicate within the group to determine whether there are identifiable changes or trends that occur over the course of the entire period.

GROUP C on RELIGION:  Court Ceremony; Religious Beliefs, Prayers, and Practices

The "master narrative" constructed by Confucians claimed that the rites of the Zhou (li) were basically elaborated by the Zhou founders, and were a model held to throughout the Western Zhou.  You should identify all inscriptions in your corpus that show instances of court-related li-like behavior and general religious practices and observe what such behavior and is like, and whether it changes over time when you compare it with the results of your fellow group members. 

GROUP D on AUTHORITY: Patterns in Official Appointment, Political Tensions, Tribute and Taxation:

The traditional view of early Zhou politics was that government was highly personalistic, involving a dynamic centered on the authoritative de of the power holder and the responsive loyalty of the minister or subject. Just what de actually means is a matter for debate, but it is generally thought to involve perceived "virtue," based on exemplary conduct (including proper religious service), generous distribution of resources, or some form of personal charisma.

Communicate within the group to determine whether there are identifiable changes or trends that occur over the course of the entire period.

GROUP A on WAR:  Records of Wars, Military Organization & Leadership, and interaction with non-Zhou peoples:

Your task is to discern which inscriptions refer to war or to warriors, and to characterize the degree of warfare reflected in the inscriptions for your period.  Included in this is the question of the relations of the Zhou people to other peoples.  These are the questions we will be trying to address: 

Communicate within the group to determine whether there are identifiable changes or trends that occur over the course of the entire period.