The Bamboo Texts of Guodian
A Study and Complete Translation
Cornell University East Asia Program 2012
It’s always a joy when I have the opportunity to talk with the author of a book that is clearly a game-changer for its field. In The Bamboo Texts of Guodian: A Study and Complete Translation (Cornell University East Asia Series, 2012), Scott Cook has given us a work that will change the possibilities of researching, writing about, and teaching the history of early China and beyond. The book is a massive two-volume study, transcription, and translation of the bamboo texts recovered in 1993 from a tomb in the village of Guodian in Hubei Province. In an extensive introduction to the volumes and the project, Cook discusses the challenges and processes of sorting and arranging the texts, reading and interpreting the characters in Chu script, transcribing and interpreting the graphs, and translating the texts for Anglophone readers. The book considers some of the ways that the texts (individually and collectively) contribute to the history of Chinese philosophy in some exciting ways. It offers both a detailed transcription, translation, and introduction to each text complete with an extensive scholarly apparatus that situates the text in its intellectual and textual context, as well as a running translation of all of the Guodian texts (unencumbered by the extensive scholarly apparatus) for ease of use in an undergraduate classroom or for a casual reader. It’s an incredible accomplishment and a tremendously useful resource. Over the course of our conversation, we talked about the project as a whole, many of the individual texts, and the relationship between music (one of the themes emerging from some of the texts) and language. Enjoy!