An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Dingxian Hanjian 定縣漢簡, the Han-Period Bamboo Texts of Dingxian

Feb 13, 2020 © Ulrich Theobald

The bamboo texts of Dingxian 定縣 (today's Dingzhou定州), Hebei, were excavated in a Western Han-period 西漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) tomb (no. 40) in the village of Bajiaolang 八角廊 in 1973.

The tomb had been looted in earlier times, and a great part of the bamboo slips was burnt and characters of the surviving parts barely readable. The bamboo slips were mainly inscribed with literary texts, but there were also practical documents among them, like the royal diary of the prince of Liu'an of the year 56 BCE (Liu'an wangchao Wufeng er nian zhengyue qijuji 六安王朝五鳳二年正月起居記) which describes a travel of Prince Liu Ding 劉定 (Liu'an Muwang六安繆王) to the imperial court in Chang'an 長安 (today's Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi).

The text of the mantic "daybook" (Rishu 日書) is in very bad condition.

There were Confucian texts like Lunyu 論語 "Confucian Analects", Rujiazhe yan 儒家者言 "Words of the Confucians", Aigong wen wu yi 哀公問五義 "Duke Ai asked about the five comportments", and Bao fu zhuan 保傅傳.

The Lunyu fragments constitutes about half of the transmitted version of the Analects, but there are some differences in the arrangement of the texts over the chapters. This is the oldest version of the Lunyu ever discovered so far. The text Rujiazhe yan consists of 27 chapters, of which some are seen in transmitted texts like Xunzi 荀子, Shuoyuan 說苑 or Xinxu 新序. The two other Confucian texts correspond to paragraphs in the transmitted semiclassic Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記.

Two other important texts of the Dingxian bamboo slips are Taigong 太公and Wenzi 文子. The former, with 13 chapters, corresponds in some parts to the military treatise Liutao 六韜, while other parts (Zhi luan zhi yao 治亂之要) are quoted in the encyclopaedia Qunshu zhiyao 群書治要. Wenzi is a Daoist text which is also transmitted, but partially with different wording. Most interesting is the fact that the name Laozi 老子 in the transmitted version replaced the name Wenzi of the (original) Dingxian version.

Li Junming 李均明 (1992). "Dingxian Hanjian 定縣漢簡", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Vol. Wenwu bowuguan 文物•博物館 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 128.
Ma Yumeng 馬玉萌 (2009). "Dingxian Hanjian yanjiu zongshu 定縣漢簡研究綜述", in Wenjiao ziliao 文教資料, 2009 (3).