Aims and objectives

There has been no attempt to analyse any aspect of medieval Byzantine or Chinese cultures systematically and in-depth from a cross-cultural vantage point. In this respect, PAIXUE enters literally uncharted territory. It is an ambitious project that is prepared to take risks, with considerable potential utility for Byzantinists, Sinologists, classicists, and medievalists, as well as for intellectual historians, comparative historians, and historians of empire. If successful, PAIXUE will open up the field of classicising learning (and empire) in Byzantium and China – so far only accessible to classicists, Byzantinists, and Sinologists – to scholars of medieval and pre-modern cultures in general by creating a sharable terminology and framework that can be adapted by other disciplines. It is designed to propel scholarship on education and empire in both Byzantine studies and Sinology, and to close existing gaps. At the same time, it creates the promising new field of comparative Sino-Byzantine studies and raises novel questions by exploring, in the field of classicising learning, structurally analogous mechanisms of centralised empire in the formation of institutions, practices, and values. It promotes innovative ways of cooperation in the humanities, such as publications co-authored across the two disciplines, and the creation of a project database that will provide Byzantinists with advanced research tools on the sociology of paideia, and both disciplines with quantitative/‘typological’ surveys of imperial literati performance culture to facilitate further qualitative analysis. PAIXUE’s focus on classicising learning reflects the PI’s long-standing research interest in the societal relevance of Byzantine paideia. Undoubtedly, there are many other aspects of Byzantine and medieval Chinese culture that could be fruitfully compared, such as court culture and ceremonial , attitudes towards historiography and the past, administration/taxation, or warfare, and the project will intersect with these in the format of a workshop.

PAIXUE examines pepaideumenoi and shi from two major angles. The first strand of the project, Classicising learning and governance – performance of empire, analyses literati interaction with the imperial/aristocratic elites through the prism of ritualised communication and (social) performance of classicising learning, showing how the social ramifications of classical learning culminate in performative situations. The second strand, Classicising learning and the literatus – ethics, emotions, mimesis, places the individual literatus centre-stage and looks at the role of learning and memorising classicising texts in the ethical and emotional configuration of a Byzantine and Tang/Song learned subject – in the former case, in competition with Christian ideas –, ultimately empowering literati to withdraw from the pressures of the imperial system. The project takes into account a core period that ranges, for the Byzantine empire, from late antiquity to c.1350, with a focus on the tenth through twelfth centuries, and for China, from the Tang through the Song periods (618–1279), with a focus on the later Tang and Song.