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Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年, the Bamboo Annals


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The Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年 "Bamboo Annals" is a chronicle from ancient China compiled in the state of Wei 魏 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). The name of the book is of later date. It was formerly known as Jizhongshu 汲冢書 "Book from the tomb of Jixian 汲縣" because in 281 CE (or around that date) grave robbers digging out an ancient tomb found bamboo slips which they used as fuel. Only after a great part of the slips had been destroyed the writings inscribed on the slips attracted the attention of an official. The annals of Wei were relatively intact so that Emperor Wu 晉武帝 (r. 265-289) of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420) had them arranged in the proper order and transcribed into contemporary script. This work was done by Xun Xu 荀勗 and He Jiao 和嶠.
The Bamboo Annals describe the history of the Chinese dynasties from the Xia 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE), Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) and Zhou 周 (11th. cent.-221 BCE) down to the Warring States period. From the year 770 on, the beginning of the Eastern Zhou 東周 (770-221 BCE), the Annals use the calendar of the state of Jin 晉, and after Jin was divided into three states in 376, the calendar of Wei. The annals end in the year 20 of the "present king" (jin wang 今王), which Xun Xu interpreted as King Xiangwang 魏襄王 (r. 334-319). According to this interpretation he undertook a correction of the dates rendered in the history Shiji 史記 and the Shiben 世本, a chronicle from the state of Zhao 趙. Two other contemporary scholars, Wei Heng 衛恒 and Shu Xi 束晳, undertook a text-critical study of the surviving bamboo texts, called Jizhong shuchao 汲冢書抄, which seemed to prove that the annals were compiled during the reign of King Anxi 魏安釐王 (r. 276-243). Their arrangement was different from the Xun-He version so that for centuries two versions of the Bamboo Annals were circulating. During the Tang period 唐 (618-907) there was a small book called Zhushu guo yi 竹書國異 pointing out the differences between the two versions. It is unfortunately lost. According to modern research the tomb in which the annals were excavated was not that of a king but only that of a higher official, probably a historiographer.
The existence of the Bamboo Annals is of great importance for the study of ancient Chinese chronology. A lot of data in the tradionally highly estimated Shiji have been proved as wrong when comparing the data in the Zhushu jinian with that of oracle bone or bronze inscriptions.
The old version (guben 古本) of the Zhushu jinian went lost during the turbulences of the later part of the Jin period 晉 (265-420), and what was surviving as manuscripts was lost during the Tang period. Parts of it can, nevertheless, be reconstructed from quotations in other books. In the 14th century a new version (jinben 今本) was printed in which the chronology is oriented towards the calendar of the Zhou kings. The Qing period 清 (1644-1911) historian Qian Daxin 錢大昕 called this version a forgery. It was, according to Yao Zhenzong's 姚振宗 research, fabricated by Fan Qin 范欽, owner of the famous Tianyige Library 天一閣. But these statements can be countered by the fact that a Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) book quotes from the jinben version, which proves that it existed long before the lifetime of Fan Qin, the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644). In the early 19th century Zhu Youceng 朱右曾 started collecting quotations from the Zhushu jinian in older books and was thus able to reconstruct part of the Guben Zhushu jinian which he published in his book Jizhong jinian cunzhen 汲冢紀年存真. Wang Guowei 王國維 (Guben Zhushu jinian jixiao 古本竹書紀年輯校) and Fan Xiangyong 范祥雍 (Guben Zhushu jinian jixiao dingbu 古本竹書紀年輯校訂補) continued this important work. New studies were made by Fang Shiming 方詩銘 and Wang Xiuling 王修齡. Together with Wang Guowei's study on the new version (Jinben Zhushu jinian shuzheng 今本竹書紀年疏證) they published the Guben Zhushu jinian jizheng 古本竹書紀年輯證 in 1981 (latest edition 2005).
The Bamboo Annals were translated by James Legge and are included as appendix to his book James Legge (1960), The Chinese Classics in Five Volumes, vol. 3. The Shoo King. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.


Source: Fang Shiming 方詩銘 (1992), "Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, p. 1614.

July 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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