SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Hidden Binomes in Chinese Canonical Texts: Both Transmitted and Excavated

IMG - Chen Zhi
Professor Chen Zhi (BNU-HKBU United International College)

Date: 23 April 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 23 April 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre (BGLT)

Type of Event: Lecture

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One of the most important, but still under-investigated, features of the Old Chinese lexicon is its large number of alliterative binomes (i.e., compounds of two characters that regularly appear together with distinctive meaning). Lianmian ci 連綿 詞/聯緜詞 or “binome” (borrowed from the French word binôme) is a sound- correlated (alliterative or rhyming) disyllabic compound that carries meaning only when it is used as a single word. A binome consists of two relevant morphemic units, but in most cases, cannot be decomposed in meaning and pronunciation, as scholars have believed since the time of philologist Wang Niansun (1744–1832). While this is undoubtedly true in a general sense, there are texts found among the received Classics or inscribed on excavated documents, especially in verse, which exhibit particular applications of rhyming binomes that do not necessarily follow the principle of non-separation.

My article published in Jianbo yanjiu 簡帛研究 (Journal of Bamboo Strip and Silk Writings) examined the variegated uses of some binomes, such as enuo 婀娜, xiaoyao 逍遙 and shuyi 舒遲, exemplifying the initial exploration of how these binomes hidden behind the extent texts, both transmitted and excavated. On the basis of, whereas apparently different from, what I contributed in the research of early Chinese idioms and formulaic expressions concurrently seen in the Book of Odes and contemporaneously excavated manuscripts, such as bronze inscriptions and bamboo strip manuscripts, this study shifts to a unique angle, the analysis of how the binomes are used within received classical texts, bronze inscriptions, as well as bamboo and silk manuscripts, and demonstrated how the analysis of these binomes can help us better understand the inscriptions uncovered on recently excavated manuscripts. Moreover, they can provide new understandings of passages from the received classics that had previously been misunderstood or misinterpreted.


Chen Zhi (Chinese: 陳致; pinyin: Chén Zhì; born 1964) is a Chinese scholar and researcher in classical Chinese Studies, the Vice President (Academic Affairs) of Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College (UIC) and Director of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (JAS) at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Chen was born in 1964 in Beijing. In 1981, he was admitted to Peking University with a major in History. After graduation, he furthered his study and received his M.Phil. in Chinese Literature from Nanjing University in 1988 and Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1999.

His diverse interests in Chinese Studies range from classical studies, early Chinese culture and history, historiography, traditional Chinese poetry, excavated documents such as bronze inscriptions and bamboo and silk writings, and paleography to the intellectual history of the Ming and Qing dynasties. He was the founding editor of the Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology, and one of the two editors of the Jao Tsung-I Library of Sinology book series.

In addition to his prolific scholarship in various fields of Chinese Studies, which has made him one of the leading figures in the studies of the Confucian classic Shijing (Book of songs) and bronze inscriptions, Chen is also an experienced university administrator. After serving as the Head of Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) between 2010 and 2013, he was appointed Acting Dean of the university's Faculty of Arts between 2015 and 2017. From 2012 to 2014, he was appointed Acting Director of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology and has been its founding Director since 2014.


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration

Chair: Prof. Bernhard Fuehrer

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823

Sponsor: Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT)