The China That Could Have Been: Rhetorical Learning and Political Thought of the Early Modern World


Thursday, November 9th, 2023


6:00 - 7:30 PM ET


Hybrid | Calder Lounge, Uris Hall (first floor) (Directions)

Event Co-Sponsor(s)

Institute for Comparative Literature and Society; Weatherhead East Asian Institute

This event is free and open to the public.


What could a person speak, do, and aspire to be within a complex political society? By the beginning of the seventeenth century, millions of individuals in China and other parts of the Sinitic world were ruminating over this question as a part of the rhetorical training they received. This talk is devoted to the educational experiences and intellectual activities of those individuals living in modern-day China, Korea, and Vietnam, with a particular focus on the transformative period from the late eleventh to the early seventeenth centuries. It excavates their efforts in search of lost, alternative, and better ways of speaking, acting, and existing within a political society they deemed as “China.” Overall, employing a wide array of documents and manuscripts in Sinitic, Mongolian, Persian, and various European languages, this talk explores how the history of political thought could have been written and how it might be rewritten.


Shoufu Yin is an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia. His recent projects and publications explore three directions of inquiry: (1) rewriting Sinitic intellectual and literary histories with a focus on seemingly formulaic official documents; (2) rethinking global intellectual history and political thought through the lens of Manchu and other Inner Asian language writings; and (3) retracing the development of democratic ideas and practices with the long-overlooked Sinitic and Inner Asian documents.