The primary research focus of Prof. Yuri Pines is political thought and political culture of early China. He is specifically interested in the formative age of Chinese political tradition, namely the five centuries preceding the imperial unification of 221 BCE, i.e., the Springs-and-Autumns period (Chunqiu 春秋, 770-453 BCE) and the Warring States period (Zhanguo 戰國, 453-221 BCE).
Ideas, ideals, and values formed during these centuries shaped the political trajectory of the Chinese empire for millennia to come and some of them remain relevant well into our days. How these ideas were formed, debated, and modified, what was their transformative value and how they were adapted to the realities of pre-imperial and imperial ages are the questions Prof. Pines explores in most of his studies. His most recent project in this regard (ISF grant 511/11) was translation cum study of the Book of Lord Shang, one of the most controversial texts from early China. Visit here for a sample of related articles.
Prof. Pines's second research focus of is early Chinese historiography. Historical and quasi-historical texts created during the Springs-and-Autumns and the Warring States periods provide important clues to the political, social, economic, and military realities that shaped ideological choices of that age. But how reliable our sources are? To answer these questions we should ask: how were historical records produced, by whom, and for which audience? What were the goals of recording history and how were historical records used and abused in political controversies of that age? Prof. Pines's exploration of these topics started with the study of the Zuo zhuan 左傳—the largest and by far the most important historical text of pre-imperial era—and continues through analysis of other historical and quasi-historical texts. His current research (ISF grant 240/15) focuses on the unearthed historigraphical manuscripts from the state of Chu that shed a new light on our understanding of early Chinese history writing. For a sample of publications, see here and here.
Prof. Pines's third research interest is analyzing strengths and weaknesses of Chinese empire from a comparative perspective. Manifold similarities between Chinese empire and those of other large continental empires in Eurasia both in terms of challenges faced and in replies to these challenges are undeniable. How then Chinese empire did attain much higher longevity than any comparable polity worldwide and what was the price of this achievement? In his earlier studies, Prof. Pines emphasized the empire’s exceptional ideological prowess: its fundamental ideological orientations were shaped long before it was formed, and their hegemonic position was never challenged prior to the end of the 19th century. Currently Prof. Pines is participating in a collaborative project co-organized by Michal Biran, Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum, Jörg Rüpke and himself that focuses on a systematic analysis of Eurasian imperial entities.
In addition to these grand questions, Prof. Pines explores from time to time issues in political history of early China; the impact of regional ethno-cultural identities on political dynamics of pre-imperial and early imperial age; topics related to early Chinese religion; the impact of early Chinese ideology on subsequent intellectual trajectory of imperial and post-imperial China; and so forth.