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Yanzi chunqiu 晏子春秋

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Yanzi chunqiu 晏子春秋 "Spring and Autumn of Master Yan" is a collection of stories around Yan Ying 晏嬰 (578-500 BCE), a minister of the dukes of the regional state of Qi 齊 during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE).

The book, although ascribed to himself, is of later date and was compiled during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BC). The book Yanzi chunqiu consists of 215 stories arranged in 8 chapters. In the stories Yan Ying acts as advisor to Duke Jing of Qi 齊景公 (r. 547-490), and therefore the greatest part of the book consists of direct speech. Although the Yanzi chunqiu is a vivid description of a concerted action between a ruler and his dauntless and level-headed chief counsellor the book has never attracted greater attention among literati. Not even the Confucian comments added by the compiler(s) at the end of some of the stories were able to attract attention. For this reason no ancient commentary has been written.

The language of the Yanzi is short and concise, with a lot of aphorisms. The stories around Master Yan have been collected by the Former Han-period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) scholar Liu Xiang 劉向 (79-8 or 77-6 BCE), in 8 so-called "inner" and "outer" chapters and 215 stories.

The earliest commentaries were written by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Su Yu 蘇輿 (1874-1914, Yanzi chunqiu jiaozhu 晏子春秋校注) and Zhang Chunyi 張純一 (1871–1955, same title). The first modern commentary was compiled by Wu Zeyu 吳則虞 (1913-1977, Yanzi chunqiu jishi 晏子春秋集釋).

There is an English translation by Olivia Milburn (2016), The Spring and Autumn Annals of Master Yan (Leiden/Boston: Brill).

Table 1. Contents of the Yanzi chunqiu 晏子春秋
內篇 Neipian Inner Chapters
1.-2. Jian A-B Remonstrances
3.-4. Wen A-B Questions
5.-6. Za A-B Miscellaneous tales
外篇 Waipian Outer Chapters
7. 重而異者 Zhong er yi zhe Stories that are similar to others told of Master Yan
8. 不合經術者 Bu he jing shu zhe Stories that do not accord with classical accounts
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