The first concerted attempt to analyze how the histories Shiji and Hanshu described the technical arts as they were applied in vital areas of the administration of pre-Han and Han China.
While cultural literacy in early China was grounded in learning the Classics, basic competence in official life was generally predicated on acquiring several forms of technical knowledge. Recent archaeological finds have brought renewed attention to the use of technical manuals and mantic techniques within a huge range of discrete contexts, pushing historians to move beyond the generalities offered by past scholarship. To explore these uses, Technical Arts in the Han Histories delves deeply into the rarely studied "Treatises" and "Tables" compiled for the first two standard histories, the Shiji (Historical Records) and Hanshu (History of Han), important supplements to the better-known biographical chapters, and models for the inclusion of technical subjects in the twenty-three later "Standard Histories" of imperial China. Indeed, for a great many aspects of life in early imperial society, they constitute our best primary sources for understanding complex realities and perceptions. The essays in this volume seek to explain how different social groups thought of, disseminated, and withheld technical knowledge relating to the body, body politic, and cosmos, in the process of detailing the preoccupations of successive courts from Qin through Eastern Han in administering the localities, the frontier zones, and their numerous subjects (at the time, roughly one-quarter of the world's population).
Mark Csikszentmihalyi is Marjorie Meyer Eliaser Chair of International Studies and Professor of Chinese at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include Material Virtue: Ethics and the Body in Early China. Michael Nylan is Sather Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley. In addition to her works devoted to Han history, she is the translator of several classics of early China, including The Art of War, ascribed to Sunzi, and Yang Xiong's Exemplary Figures and Canon of Supreme Mystery.