Abstract

Writers in the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) apparently experienced writing in weaving terms. Such an imaginaire of writing as weaving was probably fully manifested in the first or second century BCE and crystallized in the coining of literary terminologies such as classics (jing), weft-writings (weishu), and literature/texts (wen). Situating the Huainanzi and its intertextual writing practice within this imaginaire enables us to reassess both the Huainanzi's widespread dismissal as a miscellaneous, encyclopedic behemoth in the first half of the twentieth century and its reappreciation over the last few decades. According to the Huainanzi's self-depictions, Liu An and his erudite courtiers apparently created the scripture in such an intertextual way in order to textually mimic the process of weaving. Since the Huainanzi commonly associates weaving with the Way's connective powers, the text's extraordinary design might be the result of a literary attempt to create an efficacious, textual artifact that embodies the Way by incorporating the act of weaving in its textual design.

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