An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Duduan 獨斷

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Duduan 獨斷 "Definitions [in government and administration]" is a short handbook on the political institutions and rules of government ("constitution") of ancient China until the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220). It is traditionally attributed to the scholar Cai Yong 蔡邕 (132-192) from the very end of the Han period. The compilers of the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, however, were aware that the received version cannot have been written by Cai Yong but must be of a somewhat later date.

The information provided in the Duduan corresponds to descriptions in the contemporary ritual classic Liji 禮記, and not to that in the Zhouli 周禮, which allegedly reflects administrative rules of the government of the Western Zhou period 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE). Exceptions are some minor differences like the size of official caps. It can also be seen that sources quoting from the Duduan, like the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) encyclopaedia Chuxueji 初學記, present sentences not included in the received version. The latter nevertheless seems to be a complete overview of the most important ceremonial aspects of the central government. The Song-period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296) reconstructed the Duduan from the literary fragments he could obtain. His Xinding duduan 新定獨斷, a revised version of the Duduan, is lost, and the version compiled for the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 is thus only fragmentary.

The Duduan begins with definition of a lot of terms centering around the emperor, personal pronouns used by himself and by others, imperial carriages, the palace, seals, and documents issued by the emperor and submitted to him. It goes on to define the different terms for the imperial consorts, the princely establishments, the hereditary states, ancestors and gods, and the various sacrificial spots. It describes the ritual activities of the emperors through the year, like offerings or hunts. The last part of the Duduan deals with names of ceremonial caps and posthumous honorific titles for emperors and dignified persons.

Quotation 1. Definition of different types of edicts
制書:帝者制度之命也,其文曰制詔,三公赦令贖令之屬是也。刺史太守相劾奏申下土遷書文亦如之。其徵為九卿,若遷京師近宮,則言官具言姓名,其免若得罪無姓。凡制書有印使符下,遠近皆璽封。尚書令印重封。唯赦令贖令,召三公詣朝堂受制書。司徒印封,露布下州郡。 Documents issued by the sovereign are standardized as decrees (zhi) and ordinances (zhao). [Decrees] are, for instance, orders to the Three Dukes, orders of amnesty, or orders of transmuting punishments into financial payment. The term is also used when regional inspectors or commandery governors check and submit to the court documents from subordinates. For the identification of the Nine Chamberlains, if they approach the imperial capital and palace, their titles and full names are indicated in the document, but not the name, if they are involved in a trial. All decrees bear the imperial seal as a token for transmission. If the Imperial Secretariat double-seals its decrees. Only for amnesties and orders of transmuting punishments, the Three Dukes are ordered to instruct the court to accept such documents. The Minister of Education seals decrees to pronounce military orders to the provinces and commanderies.
詔書者:詔誥也,有三品,其文曰告某官。官如故事,是為詔書。羣臣有所奏請,尚書令奏之,下有制曰天子答之曰可。若下某官云云。亦曰詔書,羣臣有所奏請,無尚書令奏制之字,則荅曰已奏。如書本官下所當至,亦曰詔。戒書戒勅,刺史太守及三邊營官被勅文曰有詔勅某官,是為戒勅也。世皆名此為策書,失之遠矣。 Ordinances are "explanative instructions", with three degrees. The text goes "announcement to the official NN". xxx. If any minister desires to submit a petition, the Imperial Secretariat shall allow him to do so, and the petition shall be answered positively by a decree of the Son of Heaven. Documents with the formula "Sent down to officer NN" are also called ordinances. If any minister desires to submit a petition but no notification for a decree is made by the Imperial Secretariat, [the sovereign's] answer includes the words "already submitted [at an earlier point of time]". xxx

The Duduan is included in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Gujin yishi 古今逸史, Gezhi congshi 格致叢書, Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Congshu jicheng 叢書集成, Sibu congkan 四部叢刊. These editions are based on several prints, one from the Baojing Studio 抱經堂, one facsimile of a Song print by the Ming-period scholar Liu Xun 劉遜, and one from Jin Weiyuan 金維垣.

Cheng Guangzhi 盛廣智 (1996). "Duduan 獨斷", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, eds. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 323.
Dai Guoxi 代國璽 (2015). "Cai Yong Duduan kaolun 蔡邕《獨斷》考論", Wenxian 文獻, 2015 (1): 154-166.
Hong Yilin 洪一麟 (2011). "Lun Cai Yong Duduan de yuliao jiazhi 論蔡邕《獨斷》的語料價值", Wenjiao ziliao 文教資料, 2011 (32): 4-6.
Li Nan 李楠 (2009). "Duduan yu Handai zouyiwen 《獨斷》與漢代奏議文", Hunan Wenli Xueyuan xuebao (Shehui kexue ban) 湖南文理學院學報(社會科學版), 34 (6): 105-107.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1914.
Liu Houbin 劉後濱 (2002). "Cong Cai Yong Duduan kan Handai gongwen xingtai yu zhengzhi tizhi de bianqian 從蔡邕《獨斷》看漢代公文形態與政治體制的變遷", Guangdong shehui kexue 廣東社會科學, 2002 (4): 103-108.
Liu Jiafeng 劉加鋒 (2017). "Cai Yong Duduan yin Shi kaolun 蔡邕《獨斷》引《詩》考論", Mingzuo xinshang 名作欣賞, 2017 (33): 58-61.
Loewe, Michael (1993). "Tu tuan", in Michael Loewe, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China/Institute of East Asian Studies), 467-470.
Lü Shenggao 呂升高 (2005). "Duduan xinxing mingwu ci li ju qianxi《獨斷》新興名物詞理據淺析", Tianfu xinlun 天府新論, 2005 (2): 285-286.
Meng Qingyang 孟慶陽, Chen Jiannong 陳建農 (2012). "Cai Yong Duduan de zouyi wentiguan ji qi chuangzuo shijian zhuzhi 蔡邕《獨斷》的奏議文體觀及其創作實踐主旨", Shidai wenxue 時代文學(下半月), 2012 (7): 161-162.
Ma Xin 馬昕 (2017). "Cai Yong Duduan suo zai Zhousong xushuo bianyi: Jian lun Duduan de cuanluan jixiang 蔡邕《獨斷》所載《周頌》序說辨疑——兼論《獨斷》的竄亂跡象", Guangxi Shifan Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 廣西師範大學學報(哲學社會科學版), 53 (1): 44-49.
Pan Ce 潘策 (1988). "Duduan 獨斷", in Zhao Jihui 趙吉惠, Guo Hou'an 郭厚安, eds. Zhongguo ruxue cidian 中國儒學辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 452.
Wang Zhaotang 王召棠, Chen Pengsheng 陳鵬生, eds. (1988). Jianming fazhishi cidian 簡明法制史詞典 (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe), 191.
Xing Peishun 邢培順 (2021). "Cai Yong Duduan zhengli zhaji 蔡邕《獨斷》整理札記", Guji zhengli yanji xuekan 古籍整理研究學刊, 2021 (1): 35-40.
Yue Jin 躍進 (2002). "Duduan yu Qin-Han wenti yanjiu 《獨斷》與秦漢文體研究", Wenxue yichan 文學遺產, 2002 (5): 11-25+142.
Zeng Xianfei 曾獻飛 (2000). "Cai Yong Duduan jiaojian 蔡邕《獨斷》校箋", Xiangfan Xueyuan xuebao 襄樊學院學報, 2000 (6): 68-70.