History of a project

This blog is meant to document the story and development of a project. I will begin by recalling the few steps that changed the directions and methodology of my research.

In 2017, my understanding of the Shijing 詩經 [Classic of Poetry] was deeply transformed by the discovery of the Mao Shi caomu niaoshou chongyu shu 毛詩草木鳥獸蟲魚疏 [A Commentary on the plants, trees, birds, beasts, insects and fish of the Poems in the Mao tradition] by a certain Lu Ji 陸璣. I was expecting a commentary that would shed light on the meaning of the poems. Instead I found a list of plants and animals completed by explanations on their appearance, characteristics and use.

From then on, not only did I try to see the influence of the Shijing poems on the ways Chinese literati of the medieval period composed poems. I also looked into the different commentaries associated with the Shijing poems. And more than once, I could trace the influence of a specific commentary on a later poem.

At that moment, I wondered if my discoveries were accidental or if they revealed the importance of commentaries. How many poems and commentaries would I need to skim to find resemblances?

Moreover, was I really efficient looking for resemblances? I had been looking for specific words and cooccurrences in medieval anthologies, and I was conscious of the fatigue that most probably made me miss interesting cases.

And finally, if I was to look into commentaries, how could I leave aside other didactic and pedagogical tools that literati would also use to understand and memorize canonic texts — i.e. lexicons, encyclopedias, treatises?

With such a large body of text on my shoulders, I could not continue exploring it based on traditional philological tools only. In other words, I needed to lean on computational tools. Of course, such a change in methodology meant to develop new competences.

As many others might walk the same line, I guess it could be useful to tell what I learnt (and am still learning) from this experience.

My posts will explain some choices to gather, produce, archive and publish a corpus. I will also show what I expect from text mining and the methods I use to explore this corpus.

Cite this blog post
Marie Bizais-Lillig (2021, November 3). History of a project. CHI-KNOW-PO. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from

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