About Maddalena Poli

Maddalena Poli

Contributor for Sinology

Maddalena Poli

Contributor for Sinology

My research explores manuscript culture in early China (5th –2nd century BCE). I work primarily with bamboo and silk manuscripts from the fourth and third century BCE, of which a great number has been discovered in the last decades. I study criteria and methodological issues to explore this new material. As an intellectual historian, I look at how texts were used to shape knowledge for early Chinese thinkers, and how at the same time they modify our representations of the history of ideas and knowledge of early China. The now abundant collections of bamboo manuscripts present an invaluable source of data to explore the material shape of knowledge. If, on the one hand, the technical potential of the written form was used to various degrees to organize knowledge by numbering strips or marking the sequence by drawing lines on the verso of the strips, on the other hand the production of these manuscripts affected how knowledge was transmitted.

My link with the digital world comes from my daily work routine. These manuscripts can only be accessed as pictures and digital files. New websites promoted by universities appear every year. This enables all scholars to research manuscripts from anywhere in the world, but the websites’ design constrains access in different ways. Learning how to navigate these websites properly is key to manuscript research.