Skip to main content
×
×
Home

On Shu 書 (Documents) and the origin of the Shang shu 尚書 (Ancient Documents) in light of recently discovered bamboo slip manuscripts*

  • Sarah Allan (a1)
Abstract

In light of the recent discovery of Warring States period bamboo slips, now in the collection of Tsinghua University, inscribed with texts described as shu, “documents” or “similar to shu”, this article explores the question of “what were shu?” It suggests that shu can be understood as a literary form apart from the history of the Confucian classic, the Shang shu 尚書 (Ancient Documents) or Shu jing 書經 (Book of Documents) and the Yi Zhou shu 逸周書. Formal characteristics include: shu were – or pretended to be – contemporaneous records; and shu include formal speeches by model kings and ministers from ancient times. Many shu include the expression wang ruo yue 王若曰, which is also found in bronze inscriptions, where it indicates that a royal speech was read aloud by an official. Thus, the literary form originated with the practice of composing speeches in writing before they were read out in formal ceremonies, with a bamboo slip copy presented to the officials addressed. Later shu were fictional compositions, written in the style of these ancient documents.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Sarah.Allan@Dartmouth.edu
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Research for this paper was supported by a Chiang Ching-kuo Senior Research Fellowship, 2009–10. An earlier version, “Shu de laiyuan yu yiyi 書的來源與意義” (The origin and meaning of the Documents), was delivered as the Wang Guowei Lecture, Tsinghua University, 17 December 2010. Some of the ideas were also published in: “Hewei ‘shu’ 何為《書》” (What were the “documents”?), Guangming ribao 光明日報, 20 December 2010; and “What is a shu?” Research essay in the Newsletter of the European Society for the Study of Chinese Manuscripts, April 2011, 1–5.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 See Qinghua Daxue Chutu Wenxian Yanjiu yu Baohu Zhongxin 清華大學出土文獻研究與保護中心, “Qinghua Daxue cang Zhanguo zhujian Bao xun shiwen 清華大學藏戰國竹簡〈保訓〉釋文”, Wenwu文物 2009.6, 73–5; Li Xueqin 李學勤, “Qinghua jian jiu pian zongshu 清華簡九篇綜述”, Wenwu 2010.5, 51–7. The bamboo slips had been looted, presumably from a tomb, and placed on sale in the Hong Kong antiquities market as early as 2006. These manuscripts will be introduced in chapter 1 of my forthcoming book, Written on Bamboo: Political Theory and Pre-Dynastic Legend in Early Chinese Manuscripts, and a previously unknown shu, the Bao xun 保訓, will be discussed in detail.

2 Jingmenshi bowuguan 荊門市博物館, ed. Guodian Chu mu zhujian 郭店楚墓竹簡 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1998).

3 The first volume of the official publication, Xueqin, Li (ed.), Qinghua Daxue cang Zhanguo zhujian 清華大學藏戰國竹簡 (Shanghai: Zhong Xi shuju, 2010), includes nine manuscripts, eight of which are designated shu.

4 See Chen Mengjia 陳夢家, Shang shu tonglun 尚書通論 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), 81–2.

5 The Shi ji 史記 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1973[1959]), juan 61 (“Bo Yi liezhuan 伯夷列傳”), 2121, where the Suoyin 索隱 commentary of Sima Zhen 司馬貞 (Tang dynasty) cites the Shu wei 書緯 as the source for an account that Confucius selected 100 chapters from 3,333, and links Confucius’ selection of the Shi and Shu.

6 Nylan, Michael, The Five “Confucian” Classics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 132–6 and Shaughnessy, Edward L., in Loewe, Michael (ed.), Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California at Berkeley and the Society for the Study of Early China, 1993), 386–9, provide succinct textual histories. For summaries of the scholarship on dating, see Jiang Shanguo 蔣善國, Shang shu zongshu 尚書綜述 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1988), 135–40, and Vogelsang, Kai, “Inscriptions and proclamations: on the authenticity of the ‘Gao’ chapters in the Book of Documents”, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 74, 2002, 140–8. Vogelsang argues against the generally held opinion that these chapters are authentically contemporaneous by means of a statistical analysis comparing their vocabulary with that found in W. Zhou bronze inscriptions. I do not find his methodology convincing because the statistical count is affected by differing subject matter. Moreover, even if these chapters are authentic, they have been copied over a 3,000 year period, most importantly in the standard script of the Han dynasty, so a certain amount of corruption is inevitable but does not prove a later origin. More convincing are the many cases in which terms used in the Shang shu have been convincingly explained in recent years by bronze inscriptions and other archaeological materials.

7 Succinct textual histories of the Yi Zhou shu in English include: McNeal, Robin, “The body as metaphor for the civil and martial components of empire in Yi Zhou shu, chapter 32: with an excursion on the composition and structure of the Yi Zhou shu”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 122/1 (Jan–Mar.), 2002, 4660; Edward L. Shaughnessy in Michael Loewe (ed.), Early Chinese Texts, 229–33 (based on Huang Peirong, Zhou shu yanjiu, see next note).

8 See Huang Peirong 黃沛榮, “Zhou shu yanjiu 周書研究”, PhD. dissertation presented to the Taiwan University, Taibei, 1976, 83.

9 Li Xueqin 李學勤, preface to Huang Huaixin 黃懷信, Zhang Maorong 章懋鎔 and Tian Xudong 天旭東 (eds), Yi Zhou shu huijiao jizhu 逸周書彚校集注 (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1995); Xueqin, Li, Gu wenxian conglun 古文獻叢論 (Shanghai: Shanghai Yuandong, 1996), 6995 (the original articles were published in 1984, 1994, and 1993).

10 Huang Peirong, “Zhou shu yanjiu”, 83 ff.

11 Lun yu jishi 論語集釋 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1990), juan 14, 475 (7.18). The term I translate as “formal speech” here is ya yan 雅言. I suspect that this was a form of “Mandarin” or “common speech” which was used on formal occasions and in court from Shang times on. This language was the basis of all written works and is the reason why there is so little evidence of regional languages or dialects in the writing system.

12 Lun yu jishi, juan 23, 795 (11.25).

13 Lun yu jishi, juan 30, 1036 (14.40).

14 Gu Jiegang 顧頡剛 and Liu Qiyu 劉起鈺 (eds), Shang shu jiaoshi yilun 尚書較釋譯論 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2005), vol. 3, 1532 ff.

15 Lun yu jishi, juan 4, 121 (2.21)

16 Lau, D.C., Analects (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1992), 17.

17 See Chen Mengjia, Shang shu tonglun, 11–35. The forged “old script” text makes use of early quotations, so only the “modern script” version can be validly compared.

18 See Allan, Sarah, The Heir and the Sage: Dynastic Legend in Early China (San Francisco: CMC, 1981), 125–31 where I discuss the manner in which Confucius and Mozi transformed historical legend for their own ends.

19 Chen Chusheng 陳初生, Jinwen Changyong Zidian 金文常用字典 (Xi'an 西安: Shanxi Renmin 陝西人民, 1989), 485–6. Feng, Li, Bureaucracy and the State in Early China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 17, notes that the term was used in bronze inscriptions as a verb to refer to the archival purpose of the inscriptions in recording a contract.

20 Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1981), 200.

21 For rubbings and direct transcriptions see: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Yuan Kaogu Yanjiusuo 中國社會科學院考古研究所 ed., Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng 殷周金文集成 (Beijing: Zhonghua 中華, 1984), 5, 2837; Yan Yiping 嚴一萍 ed., Jinwen zongji 金文總集 (Taibei: Yiwen, 1983), no. 1328.

22 As reprinted in Chen Mengjia, Shang shu tonglun, 146–70. The first publication of this article was in 1939.

23 For the Mu gui see Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng, 8, 4343, Jinwen zongji 4, 2857. For reconstructions of this ceremony see Mengjia, Chen, “Wang ruo yue kao” and Feng, Li, Bureaucracy and the State in Early China, 105–10.

24 Ni zhong 逆鐘: Yin Zhou Jinwen Jicheng, 1, 61; Shi Hui gui 師毀簋: Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng, 8, 4311.

25 Li Feng, Bureaucracy and the State in Early China, 112; See also Feng, Li, “‘Offices’ in bronze inscriptions and Western Zhou government administration”, Early China 2627 (2001/2), 50.

26 Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng 8, 4240; Jinwen zongji 4, 2762. The graph read here as shu 書 is written as: 者. This loan is unusual, but there are many examples in excavated texts in which zhu 箸 is used as a loan for shu. See Wang Hui 王輝 (ed.), Guwenzi tongjia zidian 古文字通假字典 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2008), 108–9.

27 Since the discovery of oracle bones, many scholars have considered the Pan Geng to be an authentic text, though linguistically it is very different from oracle bone inscriptions.

28 Lun yu jishi, juan 13, 431 (7.1).

* Research for this paper was supported by a Chiang Ching-kuo Senior Research Fellowship, 2009–10. An earlier version, “Shu de laiyuan yu yiyi 書的來源與意義” (The origin and meaning of the Documents), was delivered as the Wang Guowei Lecture, Tsinghua University, 17 December 2010. Some of the ideas were also published in: “Hewei ‘shu’ 何為《書》” (What were the “documents”?), Guangming ribao 光明日報, 20 December 2010; and “What is a shu?” Research essay in the Newsletter of the European Society for the Study of Chinese Manuscripts, April 2011, 1–5.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
  • ISSN: 0041-977X
  • EISSN: 1474-0699
  • URL: /core/journals/bulletin-of-the-school-of-oriental-and-african-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed