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What Is System: Three Research Approaches to the Ancient Chinese Political System

Social Sciences in China Review

No.4, 2019

 

What Is System: Three Research Approaches to the Ancient Chinese Political System (Abstract)

 

Sun Zhengjun

 

Since the 1990s, many approaches have emerged in the study of ancient Chinese political systems in academia, such as the “living” institutional history advocated by Deng Xiaonan, Yan Buke’s institutional history view, and the daily governance study advocated by Hou Xudong. The first of these focuses on a functional system in the political society, and it proposes to concentrate on the path and procedure of system operation from the dimensions of process, relationship and behavior. The second is based on statutory and written systems, and it is devoted to exploring the great significance of the political system in ancient Chinese society and the continuity of the development of Chinese history. The third pays attention to the daily activities of national governance, emphasizing observation from the perspective of cultural anthropology and revealing the institutional phenomena that have been or are ignored. The three research approaches are connected but different mainly in their understandings of the concept of system, so they have different emphases in terms of perspectives and research preferences.