The Talent of Shu

Qiao Zhou and the Intellectual World of Early Medieval Sichuan

By J. Michael Farmer

Subjects: Chinese Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791471647, 266 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791471630, 266 pages, July 2007

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Terms and Conventions
1. The Intellectual World of Early Sichuan

“Civilizing” the Southwest: Intellectual Activity in the Former Han
Observing the Stars: Intellectual Activity in the Later Han
A Three States “Forest of Classicists”: Intellectual Activity in Shu-Han

2. The Early Life of Qiao Zhou

The Qiao Family in Ba
Youth and Education

3. Scholarship and the State

The Founding of Shu-Han
Educating the Heir and the Province
Debates on Military Policy
The Fall of Shu-Han 

4. Critical Approaches to the Canon

The State of Canonical Studies
Discourse on Truth and Falsehoods in the Five Canonical Texts
Critique of the Ritual Canon The Influence of Qiao Zhou’s Canonical Criticism

5. Critical Approaches to Ancient History

The State of Historical Studies
Investigations of Ancient History
Critique of The Grand Scribe’s Records and Other Ancient Histories
The Influence of Qiao Zhou’s Historical Criticism

6. New Approaches to Local History

The State of Local Historiography
The Local Histories of Qiao Zhou
The Influence of Qiao Zhou’s Local Histories 


Evaluating the Life of Qiao Zhou
Toward an Intellectual History of Third-Century China
Chronology: The Life of Qiao Zhou


Presents the intellectual world of early medieval Sichuan through a critical biography of historian and classicist Qiao Zhou.


The Talent of Shu reconstructs the intellectual world of early medieval Sichuan through a critical biography of Qiao Zhou, a noted classicist, historian, and official of Shu-Han. Countering conceptions of Sichuan as an intellectual backwater, author J. Michael Farmer provides an analytical narrative history of the significant intellectual and scholarly activity in the region during the late second through third centuries CE.

Qiao Zhou stands as an apt figure to represent the intellectual world of third-century Sichuan. An heir to a long-standing regional intellectual tradition, he was trained in political prophesy, canonical studies, and ancient history, and in true Confucian fashion, employed these skills in the service of the state. While some of Qiao's scholarship, as well as his political engagement, was conservative, he also stands as an innovator in the fields of canonical and historical criticism and local history. As such, he embodies not only the scholarly tradition of Sichuan, but also the intellectual transitions of the age.

J. Michael Farmer is Assistant Professor of Chinese History at the University of Texas at Dallas.


"With a detailed study of often fragmentary material, Farmer presents a new account of a neglected area of Chinese intellectual history and has reconstructed much of the work of Qiao Zhou and his contemporaries. It is an impressive contribution, and valuable to anyone concerned with the intellectual world of medieval China. " — China Review International

"This book is crisply written, meticulously researched, and comprehensive. The author astutely draws material from a wide range of sources and threads them into a single, coherent narrative, along the way making reasonable connections and offering interesting conclusions. " — Charles Holcombe, author of The Genesis of East Asia, 221 B. C.–A. D. 907