Canonical Text List 150 - Analysis (2)

I looked at the list of 150 texts based on putative date (trying to be timing of text "completion" but of course in many case, especially for early text, it would have been lucky if the right century is actually represented). Based on the distribution of the dates, I am able to "periodize" the history of canonical text formation - and the results are very surprising to me!


Period 1: 1000B.C. to 14A.D.; duration 1014 years; 22 texts; starts with Rg Veda ending with Livy's History of Rome; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 48 years; 76 years before next period starts


Period 2: 90A.D. to 531A.D.; duration 441 years; 26 texts; starts with Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita ending with Xiao Tong's Wenxuan; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 18 years; 70 years before next period starts (2 generations' lapse when the average is half a generation!)


Period 3: 601A.D. to 850A.D.; duration 249 years; 16 texts; starts with Zhiyi's/Guanding's Fahua Xuanyi ending with Bhagavata Purana; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 17 years; 50 years before next period starts


Period 4: 900A.D. to 1122A.D.; duration 222 years; 18 texts; starts with Manikkavachakar's Tiruvacakam ending with Maqamat al-Hariri; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 13 years; 48 years before next period starts


Period 5: 1170A.D. to 1408A.D.; duration 238 years; 27 texts; starts with Chongyang Quanzhen Ji ending with Tsong Kha Ba's Ocean of Reasoning Commentary on Mulamadhyamakakarika; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 9 years; 105 years before next period starts (3 generations' lapse!!)


Period 6: 1513A.D. to 1706A.D.; duration 193 years; 19 texts; starts with Machiavelli's The Prince ending with Matsuo Basho; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 11 years; 42 years before next period starts


Period 7: 1748A.D. to 1907A.D.; duration 159 years; 22 texts; starts with Hume's Essay Concerning Human Understanding ending with William James' Pragmatism; average years lapsed between texts in this period is 8 years


As one can see, this periodization makes general sense as each period has a similar number of texts (between 16-27), and as one can expect the later the period the duration and average years lapsed between texts trend down (with an exception between Period 5 and 6.) The "blank period" duration is always at least 1+ generations before the next period starts, with the most conspicuous blank durations between Periods 2 & 3 and between Periods 5 & 6.


So, what is surprising about this periodization? Well, I started the text selection by considering only influence and "balance" of the list in terms of representativeness, but when I do periodization based on the dates presented by the 150 texts, I came to a periodization that is mostly aligned with typical periodization in world (and European) history!!! (maybe that is not so surprising as Western texts occupy slightly over 1/3 of the list; but nevertheless quite surprising!) In more common language, these periods are:


Period 1: Classical Antiquity (1000B.C. to ~50A.D.)

(marker is end of classical civilization and beginning of christianity)


Period 2: Late Antiquity (~50A.D. to ~550A.D.) 

(2 generations' lapse; marker is end of "antiquity" in the West, end of Gupta in South Asia, beginning of Islam, and beginning of Sui/Tang "second empire" in China)


Period 3: Early Medieval (~550A.D. to ~850A.D.)

(marker is less clear as the two texts the bookend this blank period are Indian texts of obscure dating, but more or less Tang-Song transition and decline of Abbasids which marked the golden age of Islamicate canon formation) 


Period 4: Central Medieval (~850A.D. to ~1150A.D.)

(marker is end of Northen Song, and beginning of Mongolian phase of world history)


Period 5: Late Medieval (~1150A.D. to ~1450A.D.)

(3 generation's lapse; marker is medieval / modern transition, whether you put it at end of Byzantine Empire or discovery of Americas)


Period 6: Early Modern (~1450A.D. to ~1750A.D.)

(marker is Enlightenment and beginning of industrialization)


Period 7: Modern (~1750 to now) 

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