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Zhou History and Historiography: Introducing the Bamboo manuscript Xinian

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Xinian is a recently published bamboo manuscript from the collection of Qinghua (Tsinghua) University. It is the lengthiest, most detailed historical text unearthed in recent decades. The text narrates major events from the history of the state of Chu, its rivals, and its allies from the beginning of the Western Zhou period to the early fourth century bce. In this introductory article I argue the following: first, both the language and the content of Xinian indicate that this text was based on earlier historical sources from the states of Chu and Jin, in addition to sources from within the Zhou royal domain; second, the authors’ utilization of their primary sources differs markedly from those observable in Zuo zhuan (with which Xinian has many overlapping parts) and in later collections of anecdotes; and third, Xinian may represent a heretofore unknown genre of “informative history.” In addition, I explore the new perspectives that Xinian sheds on early Qin and Chu history.
Le Xinian est un manuscrit sur bambou récemment publié, appartenant à la collection de l’Université Qinghua (Tsinghua). Il s’agit du texte historique le plus long et le plus détaillé exhumé au cours des dernières décennies, relatant les événements importants de l’histoire de l’État de Chu, de ses rivaux et de ses alliés depuis le début des Zhou Occidentaux jusqu’au début du ive siècle avant notre ère. Cet article introductif propose les conclusions suivantes: d’abord, la langue comme le contenu du Xinian indiquent que le texte est basé sur des sources historiques plus anciennes provenant des États de Chu et de Jin, auxquelles s’ajoutent des sources du domaine royal des Zhou ; ensuite, l’usage que font ses auteurs de leurs sources diffère notablement de ce qui peut être observé dans le Zuo zhuan (avec lequel le Xinian se recoupe en de nombreux endroits) et dans les collections d’anecdotes postérieures ; enfin, le Xinian pourrait être représentatif d’un genre jusqu’ici inconnu d’“histoire informative”. L’article explore par ailleurs certaines perspectives nouvelles suggérées par le texte sur l’histoire du début du Qin et celle du Chu.

Affiliations: 1: (Beijing Normal University, School of History, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


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