An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Kaogubian 考古編

Nov 7, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Kaigubian 考古編 "Investigations into antiquity" is a collection of historiographical essays written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Cheng Dachang 程大昌 (1123-1195). Apart from some studies on the Confucian Classics, Cheng also wrote the local-history books Yonglu 雍錄 and Beibian baidui 北邊備對, as well as the essay collection Yanfanlu 演繁露.

In the 10-juan-long Kaogubian Cheng Dachang mainly discusses errors and contradictions in the Classics and historiographic books. His text-critical investigations are very detailed and done with care. He points out errors in a lot of commentaries and writings from all ages, from the philosopher Xunzi 荀子 (who writes Zigong 子弓 instead of Zhonggong 仲弓), the history Hanshu 漢書 (where the district of Bijing 比景 should be written Beijing 北景), to the institutional history Tangliudian 唐六典 that neglects important information on court music provided by the writer Bai Juyi 白居易 (772-846) in his poetry collection Yuefushi 樂府詩. Cheng also shows that the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇帝 (r. 246-210 BCE) was not the first to have stone inscriptions created and that the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) continued to use the calendar of the Xia dynasty 夏 (17th-15th cent. BCE) although the first month was shifted to a month earlier.

Quotation 1. Argument from the Kaogubian 考古編
《秦已前已會刻石》 Stone inscriptions already existed before the Qin period
始皇二十六年,刻石瑯瑯臺其文曰:「古之帝者地不過千里[...]刻金石以自為紀 [...] 奉[=今]皇帝[并]一海內 [...] 以為郡縣 [...] 群臣相與誦皇帝功德,刻于金石 [...] 。」 In the 26th year of his reign, the First Emperor had a stone erected on Langya Terrace, inscribed with the words: "Those who were emperors in antiquity had a territory of no more than a thousand li; they made inscriptions in metal and stone to preserve their own memory. The sovereign emperor was granted all the interior of the seas; he has divided it into commanderies and prefectures. All his subjects relate each other the merits of the sovereign emperor; they have engraved inscriptions on metal and stone."
夫秦既引古帝紀刻金石者,以為其時刻石本祖秦以前,不耑銘功鐘鼎,其必有入石者矣。第金可久,石易磨泐,故古字之在後其有得到諸鍾鼎而無得之石刻者,其堅脆不同理間然也。 The fact that the Qin dynasty corroborates that inscriptions had been written in metal and stone in ancient times shows that the custom began before the Qin period, and that hymns of praise were not only engraved on bells and tripods but definitely also on stone. Metal, however, is very durable, whereas stone weathers easily. The fact that inscriptions were only found on bells and tripods and not on stones is due to the fact that one material is solid, while the other is brittle.
Note: The text quotes fragments from the inscription quoted in the annals-biography of the First Emperor in the history book Shiji 史記 (6 Qin Shihuang benji 秦始皇本紀). One phrase differs from the original. Omissions and differences are indicated in brackets.

Yet there are also disputable chapters, like that on the songs of the Shijing 詩經, in which Cheng Dachang only speaks of genres and not of the different states in which the ancient songs were popular.

The Kaogubian is included in the series Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Ruxue jingwu 儒學警悟, Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Hanhai 函海 and Jiangshi juzhenban congshu 江氏聚珍版叢書.

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, 1919.