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Some Issues Concerning the Phenomenon of Ancient Script Forms Being Preserved in Warring States Bamboo Manuscripts

有關戰國竹書文字存古現象的幾個問題

In: Bamboo and Silk
Authors:
Shengjun Feng Jilin University, Institute of Ancient Classics, Changchun, “Paleography and Chinese Civilization Inheritance and Development Program” Collaborative Innovation Platform (長春,吉林大學古籍所、“古文字與中華文明傳承發展工 程”協同攻關創新平台)

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Mengxin Yu Wuhan University, Department of History, Center for Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts, Wuhan, “Paleography and Chinese Civilization Inheritance and Development Program” Collaborative Innovation Platform (武漢,武漢大學歷史學院、武漢大學簡帛研究中心、 “古文字與中華文明傳承發展工程”協同攻關創新平台)

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Abstract

The phenomenon of preserving ancient character forms (wenzi cungu xianxiang 文字存古現象) can be observed in certain recently unearthed bamboo slip manuscripts from the Warring States. These characters have preserved early character structures or word usage habits, thus reflecting an interactive relationship between the copyist and the source text. Based on the number of early characters observed in a copied manuscript, Warring States bamboo manuscripts can largely be divided into three categories. One category containing relatively more words with early word forms can be dubbed as “transcripts containing characteristics of ancient text preservation,” with the Tsinghua manuscripts *Xinian 繫年, *Hou fu 厚父, *Sheming 攝命, and *Si gao 四告 being the most emblematic of this category. The value of research into ancient character forms preserved in Warring States bamboo-slip manuscripts is important in many ways, such as providing evidence for character identification; helping to determine the origins of ancient manuscript source texts and their time of transcription; and demonstrating how documents may have been transmitted. All these aspects are evident in the relevant Tsinghua manuscripts. However, in assessing whether ancient character forms were indeed preserved in Warring States manuscripts, two problems must be accounted for: first, some characters that have previously been identified as having characteristics of different scripts may have earlier origins or lack any obvious script-specific features; second, some ancient-looking characters cannot necessarily be used as a standard to determine the occurrence of ancient script forms.

摘要

戰國竹書文字的存古現象,即出土古書類戰國竹書文獻中的一些文字保留了早期的字形或用字習慣,其反映的是抄寫者和底本之間的互動關係。根據抄本中包含早期文字的數量,可以將戰國竹書大致分爲三類,其中保留較多早期文字形體特征的一類可稱之爲“具有文字存古特點的抄本”,以清華簡《繫年》《厚父》《攝命》《四告》等篇最具代表性。戰國古書文字存古現象的研究價值體現在多個方面,如爲文字考釋提供證據;幫助判斷古書底本來源和抄寫年代;佐證書面形式的文獻流傳方式。這些在清華簡相關篇目中皆有體現。戰國古書文字存古現象的判定需要注意兩個方面的問題:一是一些被認爲有他系特徵的文字可能有較早的來源,或不具備明顯的系別特徵;二是一些看起來古老的文字並不一定能作爲存古特徵的判定標準。

1

The phenomenon of preserving ancient character forms (wenzi cungu xianxiang 文字存古現象) can be observed in certain characters from recently unearthed bamboo slip manuscripts from the Warring States. These characters exhibit character structures or word usage habits that temporally differ from the rest of the transcribed manuscript, and instead preserve earlier character structures or word usage habits. The phenomenon of ancient character preservation in unearthed Qin , and Han bamboo and silk manuscripts has long captured the attention of the academic community. For example, in his “Newly Unearthed Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts and Chu Culture,” Li Xueqin 李學勤 pointed out that for the *Yinyang wuxing jiapian 陰陽五行甲篇 (otherwise known as the *Zhuanshu yinyang wuxing 篆書陰陽五行) silk manuscript unearthed from the Mawangdui 馬王堆 Han tomb, its “writing contains large amounts of Chu script.”1 The phenomenon of ancient character preservation observed in other excavated Qin and Han bamboo and silk manuscripts, such as the Shuihudi 睡虎地 Qin slips, Yinqueshan 銀雀山 Han slips, as well as other Mawangdui silk manuscripts in addition to the aforementioned *Yinyang wuxing jiapian, have all been subject to much discussion among the academic community.2 This type of ancient character preservation is also sporadically found in transmitted texts. For example, late-Qing scholars such as Wang Yirong 王懿榮 and Wu Dacheng 吳大澂 utilized the structure of bronze script to point out that in the received version of the Shang shu 尚書, the character ning found in phrases such as ning wang 寧王 and ning kao 寧考 was actually a miswriting of wen , written with a xin component. Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭 has also pointed out that the writing of wen with a xin component occurred no later than the Western Zhou – thus, since later people (though no later than the Spring and Autumn period) had already stopped using this character, it was easily mistaken for the character ning . And since the characters ning and ning were used interchangeably in ancient times, thus ning was later edited into ning .3 Viewed from the perspective of textual transmission, the writing of wen as ning is an example of “graph structures found in early period texts surviving into late period texts through erroneous script forms,” an example of ancient character preservation.4

Current bamboo-slip manuscripts that are of primary interest include those unearthed in the Warring States period Chu territory, such as the Guodian 郭店, Shangbo 上博, Tsinghua and Anda 安大 bamboo slips. After the Guodian and Shangbo bamboo slips were published, certain texts, such as the Guodian *Tang Yu zhi dao 唐虞之道, *Zhongxin zhi dao 忠信之道, *Yucong 語叢 1–3 and the Shangbo *Zi yi 緇衣, caught the attention of the scholarly world. These texts contained numerous instances of character structures and usage habits that differed from Chu script while being consistent with other scripts, and were thus deemed to be vestiges of other scripts.5 Following the publication of the Tsinghua manuscripts, the scholarly world has noticed that some contents of these slips exhibited character structures and usage habits that were not contemporaneous with the period in which the slips themselves were copied, and instead correspond to earlier textual material. These examples constitute the phenomenon of ancient character preservation, the subject of this essay.

These instances of ancient character preservation are most likely due to some words in the source text having been common prior to the time of the copyist, so that the copyist preserved them as written, whether consciously or subconsciously. Hence, this phenomenon is intimately connected to the relationship between the source text and the copyist: it reflects the influence the source text exerted on the copyist as well as the editorial decisions the copyist applied to the source text. Thus, this phenomenon arose from the copyist and the source text working “in-tandem.” This point can similarly be applied to the previously mentioned texts containing characteristics of other scripts. Elsewhere, we have offered the following discussion on the conditions surrounding Chu copyists transcribing documents of other states:

If what the Chu copyist transcribed were documents originating from foreign states, then the situation becomes considerably more complicated. One possibility was that the source text the copyist faced had already been completely ‘domesticated’ into a text written in Chu script … In the process of ‘domesticating’ a text from a foreign script to the Chu script, character structures containing distinctive features of the foreign script were frequently “domesticated” more thoroughly, whereas word usage habits distinctive to the foreign written language were preserved with greater ease …

Another possibility was that the source text the copyist faced had not yet been “domesticated,” such that a larger proportion of features distinctive to the foreign script would be preserved in the manuscript. In this scenario, the copyist faced two decisions: one would be to, as best as possible, convert distinctive features of the foreign script found in the source text into distinctive features of the Chu script; the other would be for the copyist to reproduce the source text more faithfully, thereby retaining its original appearance as much as possible.6

Copyists copying ancient source texts also faced similar circumstances, the results of which can broadly be classified into three categories based on the quantity of early characters observed in the copied manuscript. The first category would be copied manuscripts with essentially no early characters observed. Examples include the *Yin zhi 尹至, *Yin gao 尹誥, and Zhou Wu wang youji Zhou gong suo ziyi dai wang zhi zhi 周武王有疾周公所自以代王之志 texts from the shu documents of the Tsinghua manuscripts. These texts derive from a period significantly earlier than when they were copied, yet their character structures exhibit a style clearly reminiscent of middle to late-Warring States Chu script, except for the occasional remnant of early characters. (For example, the character , writing “eliminate” or “exterminate,” is written as in *Yin zhi, which corresponds to the oracle bone script character (Heji 合集 1027, front) as well as the early to mid-Western Zhou bronze-script character (Shi Qiang pan 史牆盤, Jicheng 集成 10175).7 The second category would be copied manuscripts that have preserved a small proportion of early characters. The Tsinghua manuscript *Chu ju 楚居, which records the history of the Chu people, is a typical source of Chu-script material. Its writing largely exhibits the writing style of middle to late-Warring States Chu script. Some characters in this text that preserve ancient characteristics include ru written as (*Chu ju 01), qin written as (*Chu ju 11), fan written as (*Chu ju 08), and so on.8 The above two categories are dependent on deliberate modifications made by the copyist during the process of transmission (across multiple instances), with the difference being the degree of modification. The third category is copied manuscripts that have preserved larger amounts of early characters. Currently the best examples of this category include the Tsinghua manuscripts *Xinian 繫年, Hou fu 厚父, *She ming 攝命, and *Si gao 四告.9 These manuscripts can be referred to as “copies containing characteristics of ancient characters,” in contrast to “copies containing characteristics of other scripts.” This category may have arisen from the scribe respecting the source text, or perhaps from the scribe’s lack of knowledge or ability, rendering him unable to modify the source text (a typical manifestation of this would be erroneous renderings of early characters found in the copied manuscript). Matthias Richter has pointed out that for some simple characters (such as the character qi being a shorthand for qi ), the choice of words used is unrelated to the copyist’s literacy level, whereas “for some cases of word choice, there is a possibility that the copyist did not sufficiently understand the content of his source text, and thus did not dare to personally decide which characters should represent which phrases.”10 For example, writing the commonly used character yuan as its early character forms (*Si gao 01) and (*Xinian 056) is very likely the scribe respecting the source text, whereas writing yang as (, *Si gao 36) – a character more akin to Western Zhou bronze script – is more likely due to the scribe having inadequate ability, and thus copying the original character erroneously.

Scholars have already engaged in numerous discussions surrounding the Tsinghua manuscripts that preserve ancient characters. Some scholars have focused their attention on a particular text. For the *Xinian, Li Shoukui 李守奎 and Xiao Pan 肖攀 have pointed out that characters such as yuan and shang directly follow oracle-bone script or Western Zhou bronze script’s way of writing; Guo Yongbing 郭永秉 has argued that, in general, the writing of *Xinian “as compared to ordinary Chu bamboo slips is still considerably more ancient and more orthodox,” “with the most probable timeframe in which it was copied being between the reign of King Su of Chu 楚肅王 and early in the reign of King Xuan of Chu 楚宣王.”11 For discussions surrounding *Hou Fu, Zhao Ping’an 趙平安 has argued that characters such as xian and wen have “preserved some prominent characteristics of ancient character structures.”12 For the *She ming, Shi Xiaoli 石小力 has compared its diction and character forms with those of Western Zhou bronze inscriptions.13 For the *Si gao, Zhao Ping’an has argued that “there are obvious imprints of a layered formation process,” with some characters bearing an intimate connection with oracle bone script.14 We have also previously offered a discussion on related problems.15 Other scholars such as Song Yawen 宋亞雯, Qiu Yang 邱洋, Guo Liyuan 郭理遠, and Huang Yicun 黃一村, have previously engaged in more comprehensive discussions concerning the phenomenon of ancient character preservation across relevant segments of the Tsinghua bamboo slips.16

2

The value of research into the phenomenon of ancient text preservation in Warring States bamboo manuscripts can be observed in multiple dimensions, the first being the field of philological studies. Thus far, much of the writing we have observed in Chu bamboo and silk manuscripts is from the middle to late-Warring States period. Many character forms underwent a high degree of semiosis (fuhaohua 符號化) during this period, making philological study difficult. Manuscript characters with ancient features may contain forms characteristic of earlier writing, or serve as a bridge connecting oracle bone and bronze script characters to commonly seen characters found in Chu bamboo and silk manuscripts, thereby becoming keys to philological analysis of related characters. The following analysis of the Chu characters fan and yi will illustrate this point.

Scholars have previously read the character as wang , variously interpreting it as “to raise” (gang ), “a net used to catch birds” (luo ), “a cover” (zhao ), and so on.17 Examples of this character in *Chu ju include:

The Tsinghua editors indicate that this word is indeed fan.18 Based on fan being written as in *Chu ju, Li Shoukui and Cheng Yan have pointed out that the character is in fact a shorthand for .19 The case of *Chu ju’s fan written as differs from the commonly observed used in Chu script, and is in fact more similar to earlier character forms such as found on the Peng halberd 倗戈 excavated from the Spring and Autumn-period Chu Tomb No. 2 at Xichuan Xiasi 淅川下寺.20 Due the character in *Chu ju having ancient structural features (such as not omitting the “” component), it can serve as a bridge connecting fan and , thereby having important value in the analysis of this latter Chu character.

Since the discovery of the E jun qijie 鄂君啟節 bronze tally in the 1950s, the analysis of the Chu character has persisted for decades, and was long a key problem in the study of the Chu script. The publication of the Guodian bamboo slips revealed that this character should be read as yi “one.” Nevertheless, scholars still could not reach a consensus regarding the character’s etymology. In the Tsinghua manuscript *Si gao, the character for yi (as in yiri 翌日, “the following day”) is written as:

(*Si gao 10)

The upper portion of this character contains the component , its middle portion contains , and the bottom portion contains . Shi Xiaoli has pointed out that this character in the *Si gao corresponds to the commonly seen character in Warring States Chu bamboo-slips, and thus is likely a remnant of the early form of . By using the *Si gao character as a bridge, Shi Xiaoli was able to connect the archaic form of the character yi used in oracle bone and bronze script to the character used in Chu bamboo texts. He points out that the Chu characters and have a component due to the evolution of the characters (Heji 22655), (Wushui 吾水 segment of Shiguwen 石鼓文) and (Xiaoyu ding 小盂鼎, Jicheng 2839), which were themselves derived from the archaic form of yi . By adding the semantic component on top of , the character is hence a special form of yi “wing,” used in Chu script as a loan word for yi “one.”21 Thus, a complete analysis of the characters and was made possible by the *Si gao character preserving ancient characteristics.

The value of research into the phenomenon of ancient character preservation in Warring States bamboo manuscripts is also important for determining when copies were made or the origins of source texts. Su Jianzhou 蘇建洲 points out four main avenues for determining when manuscripts were copied and for determining the origins of source texts for ancient manuscripts: “the first is the writing, including character forms and word usage habits; the second is the usage of function words; the third is commonly used expressions of a particular period; the fourth is the contents of the text.”22 The examination of ancient manuscripts for the phenomenon of ancient character preservation falls under the category of “writing.”

With regard to the problem of the origin of the source text, if the characteristics of other scripts found within a Warring States manuscript mainly reflect synchronic and regional dissemination, then the presence of ancient character forms highlights the text’s diachronic transmission. This provides fruitful material in discussing the origins of source texts for bamboo and silk ancient manuscripts, and their layered formation processes. Below I will use the *Si gao text as an example to illustrate how ancient character forms can be used to examine the transmission of an ancient text, as well as the origins of its source text.

The *Si gao text is comprised of four proclamations concerning the following Western Zhou period individuals: the Duke of Zhou 周公; Boqin, Duke of Lu 魯公伯禽; King Mu of Zhou 周穆王, and Hu, Duke Mu of Shao 召穆公虎. Its contents are archaic, and issues relating to its transmission and origins are relatively complex. Many scholars have discussed problems concerning *Si gao, such as its source text and transmission process,23 and some scholars have taken account of the phenomenon of ancient character forms in their treatment of such issues. For example, Zhao Ping’an has pointed out that the characters , , , and are closely related to oracle bone script, while the characters and are closely related to Western Zhou bronze script. Based on these forms as well as the contents of the text, he points out that “*Si gao exhibits clear imprints of a layered textual formation process,” and further states that “the initial textual formation of the four proclamations should have occurred around the time when the prayers were offered. Scattered throughout the four proclamation are characters with character structures and usages intimately related to those of oracle-bone and Western Zhou bronze script, a reflection of their relatively early textual formation.”24 In addition, of the four proclamations, the texts of *Si gao 3 and *Si gao 4 are particularly difficult to understand. Some scholars hold the opinion that “their diction is superficial and logic incoherent. Not only is there repetition of meaning across the text, but there are many traces of the texts being fragmentary and reconstructed,” hence the texts “could be the product of poor imitation and continuation by Spring and Autumn era people.”25 We have previously discussed these issues according to the phenomenon of ancient character preservation, and believe that many instances of early character forms (or erroneous renderings of early forms) are present in the *Si gao 3 and *Si gao 4. As mentioned earlier, slip 36 of *Si gao 3 contains the character yang () written as . This character form originates from the Western Zhou bronze inscriptional form ,26 but due to the copyist’s lack of ability, the word has been copied erroneously (such as the component being copied as ). This mistake has preserved an earlier character form erroneously, similar to the example raised above about wen being mistakenly rendered as ning in the Shang shu. Similar examples in *Si gao 3 include the characters for da , yin , yuan , and er (). On slip 38 of *Si gao 4, the character for shao , as in Shao bo Hu 召伯虎, is written as . The Tsinghua editors suggest that this form “is likely a shorthand and simplification of the character’s traditional form written in Western Zhou bronze script, as observed in the Bo Xian he and Shaobo Hu xu 召伯虎盨 bronze vessels.”27 Notably, from the mid-Western Zhou period onwards, the character for shao was mostly simplified and written without the component.28 On slip 48, the character for guo is written . Zhao Ping’an has pointed out this character has the same structure as its counterpart in middle to late-Western Zhou bronze script, whereas its Warring States counterpart typically has a component with the phonetic component huo .29 On slip 43, the Shangdi 上帝 “Lord on High” is written as the ligature , where the strokes of this character do not follow those of the form similar to yong , but the same scribe did not write Shangdi in this ancient word form in the Feng xu zhi ming 封許之命. Considering all of the above evidence, we believe that the *Si gao 3 and *Si gao 4 source texts are of relatively early origins. As for the reasons behind their obscurity or seeming anachronism, we conjecture that “due to the source text being fragmented, later generations neglected its organisation and refinement,” or that “due to the source text undergoing substantial deletions and alterations, not much content from the original passages remained, and as such the additions made by later generations became the majority of the text.” These speculations are all built upon the foundation of early character form analysis.

In determining when ancient bamboo and silk manuscripts were copied, the preservation of ancient character forms in commonly used words can hint towards the conclusion that the text was copied relatively early on. Below we will again raise the *Xinian as a case in point.

Earlier on we have noted that when the *Xinian was published, scholars noticed the phenomenon of ancient character forms within the text. In his analysis of this phenomenon, Guo Yongbing noted that many characters in the text were relatively more archaic and orthodox.30 Examples include the character quan being written as (*Xinian 136), qi being written as (*Xinian 089), shou being written as (*Xinian 011), and jian being written as (*Xinian 018). Guo then offered a summary of these textual phenomena, stating that:

The distinctive writing methods and writing styles found in the *Xinian either almost or completely conform to those of the Geling 葛陵 bamboo slips, and are relatively more distant as compared to typical Chu bamboo slips. In some cases, one can even observe a more orthodox and archaic style of writing in the *Xinian as compared to the Geling slips. In other cases, the writing style of the Geling slips is more ancient than the *Xinian, but the *Xinian is still considerably more ancient and orthodox when compared to a typical Chu bamboo manuscript.

Taken in conjunction with its contents, Guo took his argument further:

The *Xinian’s intense differences in early characteristics and the obvious liberal presence of variant character forms as compared to typical Chu bamboo slips prove that the time it was copied should at least be earlier than the Changtaiguan 長臺關, Tianxingguan 天星觀 and Qinjiazui 秦家嘴 slips. An estimate of when it must have been copied should be no later than the mid-4th century BCE. Taken with the fact that the *Xinian was most likely compiled during the time of King Su of Chu (r. 381–370 BCE), I conjecture that the Tsinghua manuscript *Xinian was most likely copied sometime between the reign of King Su of Chu and early in the reign of King Xuan of Chu (r. 369–340 BCE), (with a greater probability of it occurring during the reign of King Su). It was likely an early copy after the text had been finalized in form. The possibility that it was copied around 305 ± 30 BCE, as indicated by a Carbon-14 dating of bamboo fragments without writing, is unlikely in my opinion.

What must be made clear is that ancient character forms and an earlier time of copying are two different concepts, though both of them can be observed in the writing style of a particular era. Taking the *Xinian as an example, our eventual understanding that it was copied relatively early began from the realization that many early characters could be found within the text. The phenomenon of ancient character preservation does not clash with an earlier time of copying: the argument that the *Xinian was copied early is in relation to the rest of the Tsinghua manuscripts as well as a majority of other Warring States manuscripts, while the argument that the *Xinian exhibits the phenomenon of ancient character preservation is in relation to its time of copying.

The phenomenon of ancient character preservation also holds special value in determining a text’s main mode of transmission. An important debate concerning the transmission of pre-Qin literature lies in whether they were transmitted orally or in written form. While it is not possible to completely deny the existence of pre-Qin oral literature, the presence of words that have characteristics of other scripts, the erroneous writing of character forms, and other such problems all suggest that the literature of this period was mainly transmitted through successive copying.31 Yet, these various textual phenomena tend to reflect a shorter-term, synchronic environment in which literature was copied and circulated, and do not offer any solid evidence to advance the “oral/written” debate into earlier eras. The phenomenon of ancient character preservation, however, can compensate for this shortfall.

The phenomenon of ancient character preservation is primarily built upon the foundation of transmission through successive copying, as opposed to transmission through oral accounts. This can be used as yet another type of evidence to show the predominant role of written mediums in the transmission of early literature. In fact, the argument can be taken a step further: the phenomenon of ancient character preservation can effectively prove that the history of transmission of an ancient text, in written form, can be traced to periods earlier than the middle to late-Warring States (the era of currently unearthed manuscripts). As stated earlier, some characters preserve features that are of extremely early origin, some even exhibiting character forms seen only during the Western Zhou period, which can provide important insights into the problems at hand. This tells us that even if we have yet to observe bamboo and silk manuscripts that predate the Warring States period, we can be quite confident that in earlier eras there already existed ancient texts in written form, with people actively copying and transmitting these texts. In the *Si gao example raised earlier, the copyist was limited by his level of education and hence erroneously copied a character with earlier origins, thus effectively showing that these characters with archaic origins were definitely not of the copyist’s time. Hence, the reason they could reappear in relatively late-Warring States bamboo slips can only be due to their source text having been formed very early on.

3

Below, let us discuss the problem of determining whether a text indeed exhibits the phenomenon of ancient character preservation. In the analysis thus far, this phenomenon has been determined primarily based on the method of contrast. Yet, there are two unavoidable realities in the process of comparison: first, the scripts of the various states in the Warring States period were all developed from Western Zhou and Spring and Autumn period scripts, and hence all share largely similar origins; second, even though we currently have a large volume of Warring States bamboo and silk writing, a large proportion of it is of middle to late-Warring States Chu and Qin script. Hence, not only do we still know extremely little about the bamboo and silk scripts of the states of Jin , Qi and Yan , we also lack understanding of early to mid-Warring States Chu and Qin bamboo and silk writing. As such, our understanding of the similarities and differences between each script system as well as between each time period during the Warring States is still not comprehensive enough. This may result in the misjudgment of some related textual phenomena during the process of determining the preservation of ancient characters. Below, we will discuss two aspects of this problem separately.

1. Some words that have previously been identified as having characteristics of other script systems may have earlier origins or lack any obvious script-specific features. After the publication of the Guodian and Shangbo bamboo slips, it was widely acknowledged within the academic community that some of the writing on these slips had characteristics of other script systems. Following this train of thought, some scholars compared the writing found in the Tsinghua bamboo slips to other script systems. However, a problem gradually became apparent: some discussions argued that certain characters had both ancient characteristics as well as those of other script systems. Presently, it seems like some texts that were previously identified to contain characteristics of other script systems could perhaps be more easily construed as preserving ancient features, or perhaps be read as a less commonly seen, but nonetheless regular writing style within the Chu bamboo script. Below we will use the Tsinghua bamboo slips *Hou fu as an example to illustrate this problem.

The *Hou fu is a lost text from the Shang shu. It concerns the history of the Xia dynasty, and it is of ancient origin.32 Shortly after the publication of *Hou fu, Zhao Ping’an conducted a relatively comprehensive analysis of its textual characteristics. He concluded that “the main body of the *Hou fu is written using Chu script, but it also has characteristics that are clearly non-Chu” (one portion of it is not written in Chu script, and another portion is written in Three Jin 三晉 script), and that the *Hou fu has simultaneously preserved some prominent ancient characteristics.33 Many subsequent scholars have further conducted research into the textual characteristics of the *Hou fu, and some have supplemented further viewpoints regarding the text’s non-Chu script characteristics.34 As research has progressed, more scholars have begun to develop a relatively consistent understanding of the *Hou fu’s textual characteristics: on the one hand, the *Hou fu indeed exhibits many instances of characters with ancient characteristics; on the other, it is easier to view characters with “non-Chu script characteristics” as either instances of ancient character preservation, or as characters without any obvious regional script characteristics.35 Consider the table on the following page which lists some characters that were considered to have “non-Chu script characteristics.” Upon closer inspection, one would realize that the above characters all have earlier origins.

Other characters that have “non-Chu script characteristics,” such as huang being written as (*Hou fu 03), xi being written as (*Hou fu 03) and bang being written as (*Hou fu 02), presently do not exhibit any obvious script-specific characteristics. Additionally, the character for gao written as (*Hou fu 12) can actually be observed in contemporaneous Chu writing such as the E jun qijie inscription (Jicheng 12110).36

A similar situation can also be observed in *Xinian, as Guo Yongbing has pointed out: “Some characteristics observed in *Xinian may seem closer and more aligned to the writing styles of other scripts on the surface. In reality, however, we should not view them as having been influenced by the writing of other scripts, but rather as an inherently present writing style of Chu script, albeit being frequently or completely unused in late-Chu script.”37

These examples were raised not to prove the point that manuscripts “preserving ancient characteristics as well as exhibiting characteristics of other scripts” are totally uninfluenced by the writing of other scripts. In fact, based solely upon currently available material, it is still difficult to ascertain whether these manuscripts were indeed influenced by other scripts (examples include: one of the source texts used in the transmission process could have been from a foreign state; the text was written in a border region between Chu and a foreign state; the text was influenced by scribal habits, and so on). Additionally, while there are differences between the various Warring States scripts, they still share common roots and origins. The characters ma , zhong , zhe , and shi , are often cited to illustrate the differences between the various Warring States scripts. Yet, these characters pertain only to a small part of the Warring States period. Li Ling has previously noted that, “back then, the distribution of characters into different states and different scripts formed the backbone of Warring States textual studies. Upon reflection however, the gulf between the scripts of various states was not as wide as we originally thought. Their inherent similarities and bilateral intersections (some even having multilateral intersections) are increasingly arousing our attention.”38 The aforementioned *Hou fu manuscript and the situations surrounding it should remind us that when examining these textual issues, we must treat the particularities reflected by the text with much greater caution.

2. Within Warring States manuscripts, some ancient-looking characters cannot necessarily be used as a standard to determine the occurrence of ancient character preservation. Previous research into the character forms and word usage of Chu bamboo and silk texts was all centered on a few major Chu bamboo slip collections, such as the Baoshan 包山 slips, the Guodian slips, and the Shangbo slips. These collections are roughly contemporaneous to one another, dating to the middle to late-Warring States period. Hence, the main objects of familiarity thus far, strictly speaking, are middle to late-Warring States Chu bamboo and silk texts. With the publication of the Tsinghua slips, some characters with purportedly even more archaic characteristics have frequently appeared in these slips. The examples of gui and wen are raised below (related word forms will be presented first in a table, before proceeding with the argument):

The Chu character for gui is always written as in earlier published manuscripts and the Baoshan slips. In contrast, the character for gui in Tsinghua manuscripts such as *Xinian, *Zi yi 子儀, *Si gao and *Bie gua 別卦 are all written with a / component, which is consistent with the form in Western Zhou bronze script and the Xincai slips.39 The character for wen is written as or in the earlier published manuscripts (including the Baoshan slips), whereas in the Tsinghua slips it is common to see wen written as , or . Although the upper portion of these variants (, , , or ) are all simplifications of the upper portion of the Maogong ding character for wen (written as ),40 yet it can clearly be distinguished that the variant characters found in the Tsinghua slips are more archaic. Additionally, they are consistent with the character forms found on the Xincai slips (in fact, the Maogong ding character for wen also contains the component , meaning that the Tsinghua variants with this component could be even older than the word forms found in the Xincai slips). These phenomena suggest that the Tsinghua slips may have been copied earlier than the Shangbo, Guodian, and other slips. Alternatively, the contents of the Tsinghua slips may have influenced the scribe to write in a more ancient style. Therefore, perhaps it may not be a simple matter to determine whether characters like gui and wen truly are examples of ancient character preservation, even though on the surface they seem to embody this phenomenon.

Hence, when facing the above situation, we must be aware of two problems. First, when determining whether certain characters have ancient characteristics, sufficient attention must be given to the overall features of the manuscript. Should those characters that seem to have ancient characteristics appear frequently within the same segments or the same collection of bamboo texts, then they might reflect the influence of an early time of copying or perhaps the overall practices of the scribal group, since the copyist would be writing in a script that he was used to. Second, attention must be given to the chronological divisions within Warring States period texts. Like ancient texts of any time period, Warring States texts also underwent continuous change. To further assess whether a seemingly ancient character was indeed a result of the preservation of ancient characteristics, it is necessary to comb through chronological changes across Warring States texts – this is also a new insight provided by the instances of characters such as gui and wen found within the Tsinghua slips. This is akin to what Guo Yongbing said: “… the importance of the Tsinghua slips lies in their bringing to our attention a different problem: the chronological development of Warring States bamboo manuscripts. This so happens to be a problem that we previously have not emphasized enough, and one that we previously had insufficient conditions to adequately pay attention to.”41 However, existing Warring States manuscripts (except for a few Qin examples) have not gone through the sort of sustained and high-level scribal transformation as seen in the case of the relationship between Chu and Qin. The evolution of these texts exhibits a gradual interweaving between the new and the old, which also poses difficulty for our discussions of related issues.

In conclusion, if we wish to determine the phenomenon of ancient character preservation more accurately, then it is akin to the study of other problems related to ancient manuscripts. On one hand, we require more materials to aid us in developing a more comprehensive understanding; on the other, we must consider the problems of regionality and temporality of Warring States manuscripts with much greater comprehensiveness and depth.

Acknowledgements

Translated by Sean Ang.

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1

Li Xueqin 李學勤, “Xinchu jianbo yu chu wenhua” 新出簡帛與楚文化, in Hubei shekeyuan lishisuo 湖北社科院歷史所 ed., Chu wenhua xintan 楚文化新探 (Wuhan: Hubei renmin, 1981), 28–39.

2

Zhou Bo 周波, “Qin, Xi-Han qianqi chutu wenzi ziliao zhong de liuguo guwen yiji” 秦、西漢前期出土文字資料中的六國古文遺迹, in Fudan daxue chutu wenxian yu guwenzi yanjiu zhongxin 復旦大學出土文獻與古文字研究中心 ed., Chutu wenxian yu guwenzi yanjiu 出土文獻與古文字研究, vol. 2 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue, 2008), 240–92.

3

Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭, “Tantan Qing mo xuezhe liyong jinwen jiaokan Shang shu de yige zhongyao faxian” 談談清末學者利用金文校勘《尚書》的一個重要發現, in Qiu Xigui 裘錫圭, Qiu Xigui xueshu wenji: yuyan wenzi yu guwenxian juan 裘錫圭學術文集 · 語言文字與古文獻卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue, 2012), 412–17.

4

Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, Qinghua jian Shang shu lei wenxian jianshi 清華簡《尚書》類文獻箋釋 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2022), 58–59; Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, “Youguan chutu wenxian de ‘yuedu xiguan’ wenti” 有關出土文獻的“閱讀習慣”問題, Jilin daxue shehui kexue xuebao 吉林大學社會科學學報 2015.1, 139–48, 175.

5

Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, Guodian jian yu Shangbo jian duibi yanjiu 郭店簡與上博簡對比研究 (Beijing: Xianzhuang, 2007), 250–506.

6

Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, “Cong chutu wenxian kan chaoshou zai xian-Qin wenxian chuanbu guocheng zhong suo chansheng de yingxiang” 從出土文獻看抄手在先秦文獻傳布過程中所産生的影響, Jianbo 簡帛4 (2009), 411–24.

7

Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, “Youguan chutu wenxian de ‘yuedu xiguan’ wenti,” 139–48, 175.

8

Regarding the phenomenon of ancient text preservation in the *Chu ju, see the work written by Huang Yicun 黃一村. Huang raises additional examples such as ruo , ye , xi , wu , and so on. While the structure of these characters are similarly observed in other late-Warring States Chu writing, the preservation of ancient characteristics in these examples is not immediately obvious. Huang’s work conjectures that the textual formation of this bamboo manuscript lies during the earlier periods of the mid-Warring States, and that it was copied relatively early as well. We will, for the time being, adopt a more conservative position: that the writing of the *Chu ju only presents the phenomenon of ancient text preservation. Huang Yicun 黃一村, “Qinghua jian (yi—shi) yongzi chayi xianxiang yu wenben yanjiu” 清華簡(壹—拾)用字差異現象與文本研究, PhD Dissertation, Beijing, Tsinghua University, 2022, 119–20.

9

The specific problem of the writing style found in the *Xinian will be elaborated on later in this paper.

10

Li Mengtao 李孟濤 (Matthias L. Richter), “Shitan shuxiezhe de shizi nengli ji qi dui liuchuan wenben de yingxiang” 試探書寫者的識字能力及其對流傳文本的影響, Jianbo 簡帛4 (2009), 395–402.

11

Li Shoukui 李守奎 and Xiao Pan 肖攀, Qinghua jian Xinian wenzi kaoshi yu gouxing yanjiu 清華簡《繫年》文字考釋與構形研究 (Shanghai: Zhongxi, 2015), 285–94; Guo Yongbing 郭永秉, “Qinghua jian Xinian chaoxie shidai zhi guce — jian cong wenzi xingti jiaodu kan zhanguo Chu wenzi quyuxing tezheng xingcheng de fuzha guocheng” 清華簡《繫年》抄寫時代之估測——兼從文字形體角度看戰國楚文字區域性特徵形成的複雜過程, Wenshi 文史2016.3, 5–42.

12

Zhao Ping’an 趙平安, “Tantan Zhanguo wenzi zhong zhide zhuyi de yixie xianxiang — yi Qinghua jian Hou fu wei li” 談談戰國文字中值得注意的一些現象——以清華簡《厚父》爲例, in Fudan daxue chutu wenxian yu guwenzi yanjiu zhongxin 復旦大學出土文獻與古文字研究中心 ed., Chutu wenxian yu guwenzi yanjiu 出土文獻與古文字研究, vol. 6 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2015), 303–8.

13

Shi Xiaoli 石小力, “Qinghua jian Sheming yu Xi-Zhou jinwen hezheng” 清華簡《攝命》與西周金文合證, Zhongguo wenzi 中國文字 4 (2020), 201–18.

14

Zhao Ping’an 趙平安, “Qinghua jian Si gao de wenben xingtai ji qi yiyi” 清華簡《四告》的文本形態及其意義, Wenwu 文物2020.9, 72–76.

15

Yu Mengxin 于夢欣, “Cong wenzi xingti de jiaodu kan Qinghua jian Si gao de shushou he diben” 從文字形體的角度看清華簡《四告》的書手和底本, Zhongguo wenzi 中國文字 7 (2022), 217–48.

16

Song Yawen 宋亞雯, “Qinghua jian zhong de feidianxing Chu wenzi yinsu wenti yanjiu” 清華簡中的非典型楚文字因素問題研究, Master’s Dissertation, Shanghai, Fudan University, 2016; Guo Liyuan 郭理遠, “Chu xi wenzi yanjiu” 楚系文字研究, PhD Dissertation, Shanghai, Fudan University, 2020; Qiu Yang 邱洋, “Qinghua jian Hou fu, Sheming, Fengxu zhi ming, Si gao de feidianxing Chu xi wenzi ji xiangguan wenti yanjiu” 清華簡《厚父》《攝命》《封許之命》《四告》的非典型楚系文字及相關問題研究, Master’s Dissertation, Wuhan, Wuhan University, 2021; Huang Yicun 黃一村, “Qinghua jian (yi—shi) yongzi chayi xianxiang yu wenben yanjiu.”

17

Chen Jian 陳劍, “Chujian ‘fan’ zi shijie” 楚簡字試解, Jianbo 簡帛 4 (2009), 135–160; Cheng Yan 程燕, “Shuo fan” 說樊, Zhongguo Wenzi Xuebao 中國文字學報5 (2014), 146–49.

18

Qinghua daxue chutu wenxian yanjiu yu baohu zhongxin 清華大學出土文獻研究與保護中心 and Li Xueqin 李學勤, eds., Qinghua daxue cang zhanguo zhujian (wu) 清華大學藏戰國竹簡(伍)(Shanghai: Zhongxi, 2015), 185, 188.

19

Li Shoukui 李守奎, “Chu ju zhong de fan zi ji chutu Chu wenxian zhong yu fan xiangguan wenli de shidu”《楚居》中的樊字及出土楚文獻中與樊相關文例的釋讀, Wenwu 文物, 2011.3, 75–78; Cheng Yan, “Shuo fan,” 146–49.

20

Henan sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo 河南省文物考古研究所, Xichuan Xiasi Chunqiu Chu mu 淅川下寺春秋楚墓 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1991), figs. 140, 141.

21

Shi Xiaoli, “Qinghua jian Sheming yu Xi-Zhou jinwen hezheng”, 201–18.

22

Su Jianzhou 蘇建洲, “Lun Beida Han jian (san) Zhou Xun de chaoben niandai, diben laiyuan yiji chengpian guocheng” 論《北大漢簡(三)·周馴》的抄本年代、底本來源以及成篇過程, Chutu wenxian 出土文獻11 (2017), 266–94.

23

Cheng Hao 程浩, “Qinghua jian Si gao de xingzhi yu jiegou” 清華簡《四告》的性質與結構, Chutu wenxian 出土文獻2020.3, 21–36; Ma Nan 馬楠, “Shang shu ‘lizheng’ yu Si gao Zhou Gong zhi gao”《尚書·立政》與《四告》周公之告, Chutu wenxian 出土文獻2020.3, 37–42; Zhao Ping’an, “Qinghua jian Si gao de wenben xingtai ji qi yiyi”; Jia Lianxiang 賈連翔, “Qinghua jian Si gao de xingzhi ji qi chengshu wenti tanyan” 清華簡《四告》的形制及其成書問題探研, in “Guwenzi yu chutu wenxian” qingnian xuezhe xihu luntan (2021) lunwen ji“古文字與出土文獻”青年學者西湖論壇(2021)論文集 (“Guwenzi yu chutu wenxian” qingnian xuezhe xihu luntan (2021)“古文字與出土文獻”青年學者西湖論壇 (2021), Zhejiang hangzhou, 2021), 90–106; Yu Mengxin, “Cong wenzi xingti de jiaodu kan Qinghua jian Si gao de shushou he diben.”

24

Zhao Ping’an 趙平安, “Qinghua jian ‘Si gao’ de wenben xingtai ji qi yiyi,” 72–76.

25

Cheng Hao 程浩, “Qinghua jian Si gao de xingzhi yu jiegou,” 21–36.

26

See, Dong Lianchi 董蓮池, Xin jinwen bian 新金文編 (Beijing: Zuojia, 2011), 1604–11.

27

Qinghua daxue chutu wenxian yanjiu yu baohu zhongxin 清華大學出土文獻研究與保護中心 and Huang Dekuan 黃德寬, eds., Qinghua daxue cang zhanguo zhujian (shi) 清華大學藏戰國竹簡(拾)(Shanghai: Zhongxi, 2020), 124.

28

See, Dong Lianchi, Xin jinwen bian, 112–13.

29

Zhao Ping’an, “Qinghua jian Si gao de wenben xingtai ji qi yiyi,” 72–76.

30

Guo Yongbing points out that “the orthodoxy (or regularity) of a given script’s structure refers to the conformity of that script’s structural features to the orthodox, normative and customary writing practices of early ancient scripts, thereby reflecting the structural characteristics of the script’s original intentions in character formation. Orthodoxy stands in contrast to characteristics present in colloquial writing … these characteristics waned in the middle to late-Warring states period. After they were heavily impacted by Chu script colloquial writing, they experienced a rapid pace of dilution and loss.” See, Guo Yongbing, “Qinghua jian ‘Xinian’ chaoxie shidai zhi guce,” 5–42.

31

Feng Shengjun 馮勝君, “Cong chutu wenxian kan chaoshou zai xian Qin wenxian chuanbu guocheng zhong suo chansheng de yingxiang” 從出土文獻看抄手在先秦文獻傳布過程中所産生的影響, 411–24.

32

Qinghua daxue cang zhanguo zhujian (wu), 109.

33

Zhao Ping’an, “Tantan zhanguo wenzi zhong zhide zhuyi de yixie xianxiang,” 303–8.

34

Huadong shifan daxue zhongwenxi chutu wenxian yanjiu gongzuoshi 華東師範大學中文系出土文獻研究工作室, “Du Qinghua daxue cang zhanguo zhujian (wu) shu hou (yi)” 讀《清華大學藏戰國竹簡(伍)》書後(一), Jianbo wang 簡帛網, April 12, 2015, http://www.bsm.org.cn/?chujian/6367.html; Wang Yongchang 王永昌, “Qinghua jian wenzi yu Jin xi wenzi duibi yanjiu” 清華簡文字與晉系文字對比研究, PhD Dissertation, Jilin, Jilin University, 2018.

35

See, Song Yawen 宋亞雯, “Qinghua jian zhong de feidianxing Chu wenzi yinsu wenti yanjiu”; Gao Youren 高佑仁, Qinghua wu shulei wenxian yanjiu《清華伍》書類文獻研究 (Taipei: Wanjuan lou, 2018), 26–29; Guo Liyuan, “Chu xi wenzi yanjiu,” 197–200.

36

For a detailed discussion, see Guo Liyuan’s work raised above.

37

Guo Yongbing 郭永秉, “Qinghua jian ‘Xinian’ chaoxie shidai zhi guce”, 5–42.

38

Li Ling 李零, Jianbo gushu yu xueshu yuanliu (xiuding ben) 簡帛古書與學術源流(修訂本)(Beijing: Sanlian, 2008), 185.

39

For a related discussion, see: Guo Yongbing 郭永秉, “Qinghua jian ‘Xinian’ chaoxie shidai zhi guce,” 5–42.

40

Li Shoukui 李守奎, Chu wenzi bian 楚文字編 (Shanghai: Huadong shifan daxue, 2003), 673.

41

Guo Yongbing 郭永秉, “Qinghua jian ‘Xinian’ chaoxie shidai zhi guce,” 5–42.

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