An Alternative View of Classical Chinese Philosophy: A Computational Approach to The Concepts and Writing Styles Across Philosophical Schools
Student Leader & Project Manager: Junyi Tao
Distant reading team: Xiaoyin Chen, Youzhang He
Close reading team: Meichen Liu, Jiaming Li
This project is funded by the 2022 Data Plus Grant, Data Science Center, Duke Kunshan University.
Classical Chinese philosophy, marked by its enigmatic language, features cryptic texts that often rely on obscure foundational concepts such as ziran (nature), dao (the Way), and de (virtue). The myriad interpretations by different authors and schools further complicate these texts. Combining close and distant reading methods, this study aims to reveal hidden connections within philosophical discourses by analyzing contextual associations between concepts across schools, traditions, and time periods. We employ natural language processing techniques, such as topic modeling and embedding, tailored to classical Chinese to analyze associations between philosophical terms. Our pilot study validates this approach, highlighting the differing interpretations of “nature” (ziran) in Daoism and Confucianism: Daoist texts relate it to cosmic laws and harmony, while Confucian texts connect it to virtues and societal well-being, focusing on moral development. Our future goal is to expand this analysis to encompass longer timeframes, such as the Ming and Qing dynasties, to trace the evolution of these concepts and the interplay between philosophical schools.
Announcement on the website of Humanities Research Center, Duke Kunshan Univeristy
Cover image source: How Yin Yang Promotes Harmony and Balance by Milan Loiacono, 2019