The Category of Everything: Ordering and Circulating Knowledge in Early Modern China


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Languages and Cultures


This study examines how early modern Chinese readers coped with an overabundance of texts and information following the sixteenth-century publishing boom. Drawing on a wide body of extant reference works, from encyclopedias to dictionaries, it traces the emergence of new scholarly working methods and analyzes how such texts were put to use by readers. These reference works played a central role in the formation of a new relationship between author and reader that underpinned the period’s intellectual and literary activity. By shifting its analysis from the better-documented role of such works in the early modern West, this project highlights practices of knowledge production that can be more broadly generalized to the early modern world.