An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Fuyang Hanjian 阜陽漢簡, the Han-Period Bamboo Texts of Fuyang

Feb 13, 2020 © Ulrich Theobald

The bamboo texts of Fuyang 阜陽 belonged to a "tomb library" of the Marquis of Ruyin 汝陰 from the Western Han period.

The tomb (no. 1) was excavated in 1977 in the village fo Shuanggudui 雙古堆 near Fuyang, Anhui. The tomb owner can perhaps be identified with Xiahou Zao 夏侯灶, who died in 165 BCE. The slips had been stored in a lacquered chest inside the outer coffin of the Marquis, but grave robbers in earlier times destroyed the outer coffin and brought disorder into the burial objects and destroyed part of the "useless" bamboo slips.

The Fuyang texts are very important because they include quite a few copies of transmitted texts. The slips bear no titles, but the books can be identified from the text. Books corresponding to transmitted texts are the primer Cangjiepian 蒼頡篇, the Classics Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs" and Zhouyi 周易 "Changes of the Zhou", as well as the philosophical book Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋. The bamboo texts are not complete, but only constitute part of these larger books.

Elementary learning was the aim of the text Cangjiepian, of which 540 characters survive, with whole sentences, along with the beginning of the part Yuanlipian 爰歷篇, authorship of which is commonly attributed to Zhao Gao 趙高 (d. 207 BCE) , while that of the Cangjie is attributed to Li Si 李斯 (d. 208 BCE), Counsellor-in-chief of the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇帝 (r. 246-210 BCE). Humu Jing 胡毋敬 is believed to have written a third part, Boxue 博學. The text seems to be in original condition and is not polished by Han-period editors.

Of the "Book of Songs", the fragments of 65 airs and 4 "minor odes" survive. More than 100 characters differ from the the transmitted version (the Mao 毛 version), and also seem to deviate from the Qi 齊, Lu 魯, and Han 韓 versions of the Shijing. It seems that in the region of Chu (where the site is located), another version of the Shijing was prevalent than in the Central Plain.

Another particularity of the southern region is the short length of bamboo slips, which was 1.1 or 1.2 chi 尺 "foot" (see weights and measures) in case of Fuyang, but 2.4 chi for classical texts in later Han-period bamboo texts.

Of the 64 hexagrams of the transmitted "Changes", the surviving Fuyang text included 40, including hexagram statements (guaci 卦辭) and line statements (yaoci 爻辭). About 400 line statements differ from the transmitted version. Other differences are the shape of the broken yin line as 八, not ⚋, and a different shape of the hexagrams Dayou 大有, Lin 臨, and Li 離.

The fragments of the Lüshi chunqiu correspond to part of the twelve "almanacs" (ji 紀) of the transmitted text, with about 20 parts. Two more wooden tablets survive inscribed with titles of Lüshi chunqiu chapters.

In addition to these already known texts, there are 20 fragments of the Daoist book Zhuangzi 莊子.

The book Wanwu 萬物 "The ten thousand things", with 130 fragments, was a medical treatise. The 170 fragments of a text called Zuo wu yuan cheng 作務員程 provided information on artisanal work, and three dozen of badly preserved fragments of a text called Suanshu 算術 constituted support for calculation.

Some fragments can be identified as parts of the chapter Quli 曲禮 "Summary of the rules of propriety" of the ritual classic Liji 禮記 "Records of rites", and as fragments of southern rhapsodies and various texts like Xianggou(jing) 相狗經 (physiognomy of dogs?), Xingqi 行氣 "Circulation of energy", Ganzhibiao 干支表.

There are furthermore sparse fragments of two chronicles, Nianbiao 年表 covering the late Warring States 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) and the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE), and DashijiHanchu shuorun biao 漢初朔閏表), both arranged in tabular shape.

A last group of texts, Xingde 刑德, Rishu 日書, and Xingzhang 星占, deals with astrology and other mantic methods.

Apart from the bamboo slips, the finds of Fuyang include 47 wooden tablets (mudu 木牘), inscribed with matters concerning Confucius and his disciples (set 1), historiographical themes like Chunqiu shiyu 春秋事語 (set 3), and (說類雜事) Zuozhuan左傳, (set 2) used for chapter titles like Shuoyuan 說苑, Xinxu 新序, Kongzi jiayu 孔子家語, and Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳, but the corresponding bamboo text have not survived.

Many slips bear text fragments of just a few characters and can barely be attributed to certain texts like Xunzi 荀子 or Guanzi 管子.

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