The Mastery of Miscellanea Information Management and Knowledge Acquisition in the “Chu shuo” Chapters of the Hanfeizi

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Heng Du

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The “Chu shuo” 儲說 (Treasuries of illustrations) chapters of the Hanfeizi 韓非 子, attributed to Han Fei 韓非 (d. 233 bce), encompass an extensive collection of anecdotes. The jing 經 (classic, guideline) sections of these chapters are traditionally understood to be a set of “canonical” teachings, to be explicated by the anecdotes in the shuo 說 (discourse, explanation) sections. Eschewing this assumption, my analysis substantiates an alternative hypothesis that sees many of the jing texts as later superimpositions intended to serve as paratexts to existing anecdotal collections. By interpreting the jing and shuo sections as paratexts and main texts, respectively, this study reveals how early compilers sought to organize and inventory information, as well as to guide future users’ understanding and memorization of the anecdotal materials. This approach not only facilitates the reconstruction of early frameworks of information management and knowledge acquisition, but also places the “Chu shuo” chapters in a comparative context. It also proffers new answers to several long-standing philological debates, such as the meaning and function of the label yi yue 一曰 (it is also said). In its conclusion, this study draws attention to potential continuities between the pre-imperial (before 221 BCE) and imperial periods’ textual and bibliographical practices.




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