An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡, the Qin-Period Bamboo Texts of Yunmeng

Feb 1, 2020 © Ulrich Theobald

The bamboo texts found in the village of Shuihudi 睡虎地 close to Yunmeng 雲夢 (therefore also known as Yunmeng Qinjian 雲夢秦簡), Hubei, were discovered in one of 12 tombs (no. 11) dated from the late Warring States 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) to the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE). They consist of 1,155 complete and 80 fragmentary slips of bamboo inscribed with texts of different type.

The texts were found inside the inner coffin (guan 棺) of the tomb owner, whose name was Xi 喜, and who held high positions under the Qin dynasty, namely scribe (yushi 御史), then clerk (lingshi 令史) of Anlu 安陸, then of Yan 鄢, and finally prison officer (yuli 獄吏).

The slips belonged to ten different texts, the titles of four of which (Yushu 語書, Xiaolü 效律, Fengzhenshi 封診式, and Rishu 日書 version B) were written on the slips. The others are usually called according to their content.

Table 1. The Texts of the Qin-Period Bamboo Texts of Shuihudi 睡虎地/Yunmeng 雲夢
編年記 Biannian ji Chronicle
語書 (南郡守騰文書) Yushu (Nanshou shou Teng wenshu) Letter of Governor Teng of Nanjun
秦律十八種 Qinlü shiba zhong Eighteen kinds of Qin statutes
田律 Tian lü Statutes on agriculture
廄苑律 Jiuyuan lü Statutes on stables and parks
倉律 Cang lü Statutes on granaries
金布律 Jinbu lü Statutes on currencies
關市[律] Guanshi [] Statutes on passes and markets
工律 Gong lü Statutes on artisans
工人程[律] Gongren cheng [] Statutes on norms for artisans
均工[律] Jungong [] Statutes on equalizing artisans
徭律 Yao lü Statutes on statute labour
司空[律] Sikong [] Statutes concerning the Overseer of Works
軍爵律 Junjue lü Statutes concerning aristocratic rank bestowed for military action
置吏律 Zhili lü Statutes concerning the appointment of officials
效[律] Xiao [] Statutes concerning checks and controls
傳食律 Chuanshi lü Statutes concerning rations for holders of passports
行書[律] Xingshu [] Statutes concerning the forwarding of documents
內史雜[律] Neishi za[] Miscellaneous statutes concerning the Minister of Finance
尉雜[律] Wei za[] Miscellaneous statutes concerning the commandant
屬邦[律] Shubang [] Statutes concerning the dependent states
效律 Xiaolü Statutes concerning checking
秦律雜抄 Qinlü zachao Miscellaneous excerpts from Qin statutes
除吏律 Chuli lü Statute concerning dismissed officials
游士律 Youshi lü Statute concerning itinerant functionaries
除弟子律 Chu dizi lü Statue concerning dismissed retainers
中勞律 Zhonglao lü Statute concerning mid-level (?) service
藏律 Cang lü Statute concerning storing
公車司馬獵律 Gongche sima lie lü Statute concerning the hunting of the commander of public carriages
牛羊課 Niuyang ke [Statute] concerning the tribute from husbandry
傅律 Fu lü Statute concerning registration
敦表律 Dunbiao lü Statute concerning the performance of duties in garrisons
捕盗律 Budao lü Statute concerning the arrest of bandits
戍律 Shu lü Statute concerning garrison service
法律答問 Falü wenda Answers to questions concerning standards and statutes
封診式 (治獄程式) Fengzhen shi (Zhiyu chengshi) Models for sealing and investigating
爲吏之道 Wei li zhi dao How to be a good officer
日書 (甲種, 乙種) Rishu Jia, Yi Daily prognostications A and B

The text Biannianji 編年記 is a kind of chronicle covering the years 306 (first nominal year of King Zhaoxiang 秦昭襄王, r. 307-251) to 217 (reign of the First Emperor Qin Shihuang 秦始皇, r. 246-210). While the first part of the chronicle mains described the warfare of Qin against the other regional states, the part covering the reign of the First Emperor describes the personal affairs of Xi and his family.

The texts Yushu and Wei li zhi dao belong to the type of "admonitions to officials" (guanzhen 官箴). The first one reproduces orders sent by a certain Teng 騰, governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Nanjun to district magistrates and "husbanders" or bailiffs (dao sefu 道嗇夫), and reflects the conflict between civilian and military administration under the early years of the empire. The latter is indeed a text including suggestions to local administrators, and explains ways to tell apart "good functionaries" (liangli 良吏) from bad ones (eli 惡吏). The text includes two statutes, one on households (Hu lü 戶律), and one on the duty of military service (Benming lü 奔命律). It shows the influence of Confucian thinking.

The two Rishu "Daybooks" are divination manuals, with some parts containing diagrams.

All other texts deal with judicial matters. The most important of them are the "eighteen laws of the Qin" (Qinlü shiba zhong 秦律十八種) which include regulations for a wide range of affairs, from the organisation of agricultural work to the feeding of government-owned horses, storage of grain, public order, organization of corvée, money, markets, artisans, military, appointment of officials, annual revisions of local governance, to the forwarding of messages and contact between central and local government.

Quotation 1. From the chapter on statute labour (corvée) (Yaolü 徭律)
御中發徵,乏弗行,貲二甲。失期三日到五日,誶;六日到旬,貲一盾;過旬,貲一甲。 When a levy is raised for the Court, to be remiss and not to carry it out is fined two suits of armour; to miss the term by three to five days [results] in a reprimand; from six days to a decade the fine is one shield; beyond a decade the fine is one suit of armour.
其得殹(=也),及詣。水雨,除興。 When [the men] have been obtained, [the levy] quickly proceeds; if it rains, the levy is cancelled.
興徒以為邑中之紅(=功)者,令𥿍(=嫴)堵卒歲。未卒堵壞,司空將紅(=功)及君子主堵者有罪。 When levying conscripts for work inside a settlement, order is given to guarantee the earth walls for a full year. In case the walls collapse before [the year] is over, the Controller of Works who had directed the work, as well as the Master in charge of the wall [building] will have committed a crime.
令其徒復垣之,勿計為䌛(=徭)。 The conscripts concerned will be ordered to build it again: [this work] must not be accounted as statute labour.
Text from Hulsewé 1985a: 63. Image from Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian zhengli xiaozu 1990.

The collection Xiaolü mainly deals with the process of evaluation of efficiency and checking the financial and physical inventory of local governments, including weapons and the analysis of weights and measures. A set of articles called Xiao is also part of the Eighteen Statues, but the Xiaolü section is covering the whole range of checking and controlling and might have had the status of a separate code.

Of the laws quoted in the except text (Qinlü zachao), the titles are not provided. They touch matters of appointment and dismissal, the restriction of the use of "itinerant functionaries" recruited in an ad-hoc modus, the public use of sons and younger brothers of functionaries, the acquisition of military merits related to ranks of honour (see Ershideng jue 二十等爵), arsenals and granaries, penalties for officers who were dismissed because of hunting, the registering of state-owned herds, household registration for the recruitment of troops (fuji zhidu 傅籍制度), military service and rewards, as well as service in garrisons.

The collection Fengzhenshi consists of 25 paragraphs, the first two of which (Zhiyu治獄 and Xunyu 訊獄) deal with the organisation of prisons. The others, consisting of precedent cases, deal with investigations, interviewing and constating guilt.

The find of the Shuihudi law text added substantial information the knowledge about Qin-period law. While historiography holds that the Qin law consisted of four different types of laws, namely xxx 律、令、制、詔, the Yunmeng texts also includes the types of "questions and answers" (wenda 答問), xxx (shi 式), and precedent cases (li 例).

The question-and-answer type can be seen as a supplement to formal laws (), yet with full jurisdictional rights. In later ages, this type transformed into "commentaries" (lüshu 律疏). The shi type fixes procedures of investigation. The fields covered by the Qin legal texts ranges from penal law to administration, economy, policy, and civilian law suits. Even if the penal law knew nearly 200 different types of crimes, the suppression of banditry seems to have been the focus of local judicial administration. There was a clear distinction between intention and accidental crime, the offense of persuading other to do crimes, multiple crime, collective punishment for gangs, and mitigation of punishment for those surrendering to the police.

It can be seen that around 200 BCE, the comprehension of "law" was much deeper than two hundred years earlier, as in the codes Fajing 法經 of Li Kui 李悝 (455-395 BCE) and the (supposed) Qin Code Qinlü 秦律 of Shang Yang 商鞅 (390-338 BCE).

Excerpts of the legal texts were first published by Ji Xun 季勛 (1976), "Yunmeng Shuihudi Qinjian gaishu 雲夢睡虎地秦簡概述", Wenwu 文物, 1975 (5). The issues 6-8 in Wenwu presented all texts apart from the two Rishu parts. The complete texts were published in 1978 by the Wenwu Press 文物出版社 with the title Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡. This publication presents photographs of each slip, transcriptions of the texts, annotations, a translation into modern Chinese, and an index. A downscaled version, including all texts plus additional texts found in other Shuihudi tombs was published in 1981 with the title Yunmeng Shuihudi Qinmu 雲夢睡虎地秦墓.

Beck, B.J. Mansvelt (1987). "The First Emperor's Taboo Character and the Three Day Reign of King Xiaowen: Two Moot Points Raised by the Qin Chronicle Unearthed in Shuihudi in 1975", T'oung Pao, 73/1-3: 68-85.
Bodde, Derk (1990). "The Idea of Social Classes in Han and Pre-Han China", in Wilt L. Idema, Erik Zürcher, eds. Thought and Law in Qin and Han China: Studies Dedicated to Anthony Hulsewé on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday (Leiden/New York: Brill), 26-41.
Cao Lüning 曹旅宁 (2001). "Qinlü zhong suo jian zhi zi jiadun wenti 秦律中所見之貲甲盾問題", Qiusuo 求索, 2001 (12).
Cao Lüning 曹旅宁 (2002). "Lun Qinlü zhong suo jian de jiazu fa 論秦律中所見的家族法", Xueshu yanjiu 學術研究, 2002 (4).
Cao Lüning 曹旅宁 (2002a). "Shuihudi Qinlü yanjiu zongshu 睡虎地秦律研究綜述", Zhongguo shi yanjiu dongtai 中國史研究動態, 2002 (8).
Cao Lüning 曹旅宁 (2002b). "Qinlü gongxing fei yinxing bian 秦律宮刑非淫刑辨", Shixue yuekan 史學月刊, 2002 (6).
Cui Yongdong 崔永東 (1997). "Rujia xingfa sixiang dui Qinlü yingxiang zhi guanjian 儒家刑法思想對秦律影響之管見", Zhongguo faxue 中國法學, 1997 (10).
Gao Heng 高恆 (1980). "Qinlü zhong de yao, shu wenti: Yi du Yunmeng Qinjian zhaji 秦律中的徭、戍問題——一讀雲夢秦簡札記", Kaogu 考古, 1980 (11).
Gao Heng 高恆 (1983). "Qinlü zhong de xingxi ji qi xingqi wenti 秦律中的刑徒及其刑期問題", Faxue yanjiu 法學研究", 1983 (12).
Gao Min 高敏 (1981). "Qinlü suo fanying de songsu, shenxun he liangxing zhidu 《秦律》所反映的訴訟、審訊和量刑制度", Zhengzhou Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 鄭州大學學報(哲學社會科學版), 1981 (6).
Gernet, Jacques (1990). "Quelques notes de Wang Fuzhi sur le droit des Han", in Wilt L. Idema, Erik Zürcher, eds. Thought and Law in Qin and Han China: Studies Dedicated to Anthony Hulsewé on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday (Leiden/New York: Brill), 79-88.
Goldin, Paul R. (2005). "The Laws of Qin Before the Empire", in Victor H. Mair, Nancy S. Steinhardt, Paul R. Goldin, eds. Hawaii Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), 147-150.
Goldin, Paul R. (2012). "Han Law and the Regulation of Interpersonal Relations: 'The Confucianization of the Law' Revisited", Asia Major, 3rd Series, 25/1: 1-31.
Gong Chengwei 宮長為 (1995). "Shilun Qinlü zhong de shougongye guanli: Du Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian zhaji 試論《秦律》中的手工業管理——讀《睡虎地秦墓竹簡》札記", Xueshu xuekan 學術月刊, 1995 (9).
Hao Tiechuan 郝鐵川 (1996). "Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Zhengzhi falü 政治法律卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 102.
Huang Zhanyue 黃展岳 (1980). "Yunmeng Qinlü jianlun 雲夢秦律簡論", Kaogu xuebao 考古學報, 1980 (1).
Hulsewé, Anthony F.P. (1978). "The Ch'in Documents Discovered in Hupei in 1975", T'oung Pao, 64: 175-217.
Hulsewé, Anthony (1985). "The Influence of the Legalist Government of Qin on the Economy as Reflected in the Texts Discovered in Yunmeng County", in S.R. Schram, ed. The Scope of State Power in China (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London/Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong), 211-235.
Hulsewé, Anthony F.P. (1985a). Remnants of Ch‘in Law: An Annotated Translation of the Ch‘in Legal and Administration Rules of the 3rd Century B.C. Discovered in Yün-meng Prefecture, Hu-pei Province, in 1975 (Leiden: Brill).
Idema, Wilt L., Erik Zurcher (1990). Thought and Law in Qin and Han China: Studies Dedicated to Anthony Hulsewé on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday (Leiden/New York: Brill).
Kalinowski, Marc (1986). "Les traités de Shuihudi et l'hémérologie chinoise à la fin des Royaumes-Combattants", T'oung Pao, 72/4-5: 175-228.
Kalinowski, Marc (2008). "Les livres des jours (rishu) des Qin et des Han: la logique éditoriale du recueil A de Shuihudi (217 avant notre ère)", T'oung Pao, 94/1-3: 1-48.
Korolkov, Maxim (2011). "Arguing About Law: Interrogation Procedure under the Qin and Former Han Dynasties", Études chinoises, 30: 37-71.
Kroll, J.K. (1990). "Notes on Ch'in and Han Law", in Wilt L. Idema, Erik Zürcher, eds. Thought and Law in Qin and Han China: Studies Dedicated to Anthony Hulsewé on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday (Leiden/New York: Brill), 63-78.
Li Guofeng 李國鋒 (2005). "Lun Qinlü dui guanli guanli de cuoshi 論秦律對官吏管理的措施", Henan Sheng Zhengfa Guanli Ganbu Xuexuan xuebao 河南省政法管理干部學院學報, 2005 (2).
Li Junfang 李俊方 (2005). "Qinlü zhong jiazufa de shehui jichu 秦律中家族法的社会基礎", Shehui kexue zhanxian 社會科學戰綫, 2005 (3).
Li Piqi 李丕祺 (1996). "Cong Qinlü kan Qin lizhi de tedian 从秦律看秦“吏治”的特點", Xibei Di Er Minzu Xueyuan xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 西北第二民族學院學八平(哲學社會科學版), 1996 (8).
Liu Hainian 劉海年 (1992). "Shuihudi Qinjian 睡虎地秦簡", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Vol. Faxue 法學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 544.
Lu Jialiang, Li Jing, David J. Lebovitz (2019). "Summary of Research Published in 2015 on Bamboo and Wood Manuscripts from the Qin through the Jin Dynasties", Bamboo and Silk, 2/1: 104-140.
Luo Aihua 羅愛華 (2009). "Qinlü de zhidu fenxi 秦律的制度分析", Gansu shehui kexue 甘肅社會科學, 2009 (9).
Mittag, Achim (2003). "The Qin Bamboo Annals of Shuihudi: A Random Note from the Perspective of Chinese Historiography", Monumenta Serica, 51: 543-570.
Poo, Mu-chou (2005). "How to Steer Through Life: Negotiating Fate in the Daybook", in Christopher Lupke, ed. The Magnitude of ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), 107-125.
Pu Jian 蒲堅, Li Li 李力 (1990). "Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡", in Yang Chunxi 楊春洗 et al., ed. Xingshi faxue da cidian 刑事法學大辭書 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 465.
Sanft, Charles (2010). "Law and Communication in Qin and Western Han China", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 53/5: 679-711.
Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian zhengli xiaozu 睡虎地秦墓竹簡整理小組, ed. (1990). Shuihudi Qinmu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡 (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe).
Sterckx, Roel (1996). "An Ancient Chinese Horse Ritual", Early China, 21: 47-79.
Sun Yingmin 孫英民 (1986). "Cong Yunmeng QInjiankan Qinlü lianzuofa 從雲夢秦簡看秦律“連坐”法", Zhongyuan wenwu 中原文物, 1986 (7).
Sun Ming 孫銘 (2014). "Jiandu Qinlü zhong de tianzu zhengshou shiwu 簡牘秦律中的田租征收事務", Nongye kaogu 農業考古, 2014 (12).
Tian Jing 田靜 (2000). "Yunmeng Shuihudi Qinmu (1) 雲夢睡虎地秦墓(一)", in Zhonghua Qin wenhua cidian bianweihui 《中華秦文化辭典》編委會, ed. Zhonghua Qin wenhua cidian 中華秦文化辭典 (Xi'an: Xibei Daxue chubanshe), 242.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 884.
Wu Shuchen 武樹臣, ed. (1999). Zhongguo chuantong falü wenhua cidian 中國傳統法律文化辭典 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 426.
Xu Jin 徐進 (1989). "Qinlü zhong de jiangli yu xingzheng chufa 秦律中的獎勵與行政處罰", Jilin Daxue Shehui Kexue Yuan xuebao 吉林大學社會科學學報, 1989 (4).
Yan Xiaojun 閆曉君 (2005). "Lüelun QInlü dui Hanlü de yingxiang 略論秦律對漢律的影響", Gansu Zhengfa Xueyuan xuebao 甘肅政法學院學報, 2005 (10).
Yates, Robin D.S. (2009). "Law and the Military in Early China", in Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture in Imperial China (Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press), 23-44.
Yates, Robin D.S. (2018). "Evidence for Qin Law in the Qianling County Archive: A Preliminary Survey", Bamboo and Silk, 1/2: 403-445.
Yau, Shun-Chiu (2012). "The Political Implications of the Minority Policy in the Qin law", Early China, 35-36: 277-289.
Yu Zhenbo 于振波 (2010). "Qinlü zhong de jiadun bijia ji xiangguan wenti 秦律中的甲盾比價及相關問題", Shixue jikan 史學集刊, 2010 (9).
Zhang Xinchao 張新超 (2014). "Qindai chengdanchong kaobian: Jian lun Qinlü de yi xie tedian 秦代“城旦舂”考辨——兼論秦律的一些特點", Shixue yuekan 史學月刊, 2014 (10).
Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥 (ed. 1998), Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), p. 123.
Zhu Yan 朱彦 (2013). "Qinlü zhong de guanli guanli zhidu gouchen 《秦律》中的官吏管理制度鈎沉", Lantai shijie 蘭台世界, 2013 (5).
Zou, Dahai (2007). "Shuihudi Bamboo Strips of the Qin Dynasty and Mathematics in pre-Qin Period", Frontiers of History in China, 2/4: 632-654.
Zou Dahai 鄒大海 (2009). "Guanyu Suanshushu, Qinlü he shanggu liangmi jiliang danwei de ji ge wenti 關於《算數書》、秦律和上古糧米計量單位的幾個問題", Neimenggu Shifan Daxue xuebao (Ziran kexue Hanwen ban) 内蒙古師範大學學報(自然科學漢文版), 2009 (9).