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Bureaucracy and the State in Early China
Governing the Western Zhou


  • Author: Li Feng, Columbia University, New York
  • Date Published: December 2008
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from October 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521884471

£ 82.00

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About the Authors
  • Ancient Chinese society developed a sophisticated and complex bureaucracy which is still in operation today and which had its pristine form in the government of the Western Zhou from 1045 to 771 BC. Li Feng, one of the leading scholars of the period, explores and interprets the origins and operational characteristics of that bureaucracy on the basis of the contemporaneous inscriptions of royal edicts cast onto bronze vessels, many of which have been discovered quite recently in archaeological explorations. The inscriptions clarify the political and social construction of the Western Zhou and the ways in which it exercised its authority. The discussion is accompanied by illustrations of the bronze vessels and their inscriptions, together with full references to their discovery and current ownership. The book also discusses the theory of bureaucracy and criticizes the various models of early-archaic states on the basis of close reading of the inscriptions.

    • Redefines the bureaucracy of Ancient Chinese society during the Western Zhou period
    • Includes high-quality new images of Western Zhou bronzes and their inscriptions
    • Contains full bibliographical data for 230 of the most important bronzes, including information on discovery, current ownership and a summary of their inscriptional content
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A significant study of systematic government in pre-imperial China that adds greatly to our understanding not only of Western Zhou but also of the early imperial period. The book fills what has been a serious gap in our knowledge in an impressive way.' Michael Loewe

    'Li Feng has written a path-breaking book on Western Zhou government that is based on meticulous analysis and translation of primary sources, bronze inscriptions, most of which he introduces to a Western audience for the first time. I am especially impressed with his new and highly original theory on the evolving nature of the state in Western Zhou times, a theory which will surely excite the interest of historians and anthropologists studying the development of state formation in a comparative framework. It is a brilliant achievement.' Robin D. S. Yates, McGill University

    '… Bureaucracy and the State in Early China will become a standard reference book for Western Zhou studies in the West for years to come.' The Journal of Asian Studies

    'The core of Li's project is the description of early government in China based predominantly on archaeologically recovered source materials, avoiding the problems of a historiography based on questionable received texts, above all Zhouli. This is an ambitious, important and difficult undertaking, and its success deserves great respect … Li also gathers and translates much primary material not previously available in English, and in an Appendix he provides a useful list of Zhou offices, including translated titles and brief description of each post. His work will thus be of interest for students and scholars of early Chinese history both for its arguments and as resource.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2008
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521884471
    • length: 400 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 182 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.95kg
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from October 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. The historical context
    2. Structural development of the Zhou central government
    3. The administrative process of the Zhou central government
    4. Managing the core: local society and local administration in the royal domain
    5. Official service and career development during the Western Zhou
    6. The regional states and their governments
    7. Reconceptualizing the Western Zhou state: reflections on previous theories and models

  • Author

    Li Feng, Columbia University, New York

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