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Controversy Over the "Modern Text" Bamboo Annals and its Relation to Three Dynasties Chronology

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In the ongoing effort to define the exact nature of the Bamboo Annals and its relation to ancient Chinese chronology, scholars both Chinese and Western have debated the authenticity of this chronicle. The purpose of this paper is to present some of the ideas generated in an ongoing study of the Bamboo Annals by David Nivison and myself in the context of its textual history and dating information. The paper will begin with an account of recent scholarship on the "Modern Text" and an introduction to new directions of research, and recent discoveries and controversies relative to this work. While many Chinese scholars have basically treated the "Modern Text" as a forgery,new studies by American scholars suggest that these Chinese scholars may have neglected intriguing aspects of the "Modern Text." The thorough studies of the "Modern Text" by Chinese scholars have been supplemented by Nivison and Shaughnessy,whose findings require the reconsideration of the importance of the "Modern Text." Such studies allow claims for a close relationship between the two-chapter "Modern Text"—often held to be inauthentic—and the various collections of fragments known as the "ancient text" and that the "Modern Text" can actually give us important information for reconstructing chronologies of ancient China. This suggests a need to reconsider prevailing views of the "Modern Text." The paper concludes with an assessment of the need for future work on the analysis of the Bamboo Annals.


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