Save

A Study of the Handwriting of the Tsinghua Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts *Shi fa and *Zi Chan

清華簡《筮法》與《子產》字迹研究

In: Bamboo and Silk
Author:
松儒 李 Jilin University School of Humanities (吉林大學文學院) Changchun (長春)

Search for other papers by 松儒 李 in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Open Access

Abstract

*Zi Chan in Volume 6 and *Shi fa in Volume 4 of Tsinghua University Collection of Warring States Bamboo-slip Manuscripts were written by one scribe. This study aims to use features of the brushwork to demonstrate this. In addition, this study will also examine physical features of the bamboo slips, handwriting, character forms, the orthography of different states, punctuation marks, erasures, and the binding of the bamboo slips. The texts of both manuscripts were first written and then bound. Research on the arrangement of *Shi fa and the layout of its text enriches our understanding about the activity of writing among Pre-Qin people, how ancient books were compiled, and how scrolls were opened.

摘要

清華四《筮法》與清華六《子産》是由同一抄手所寫的兩篇文本,本文通過兩篇字迹的運筆特徵、筆畫搭配比例、文字寫法等方面的特徵對比來證明兩篇字迹的同一性,並從竹簡形制、字跡特徵、國别特徵、標識符號特徵、刮削改寫、竹簡的編聯等方面對兩篇竹書進行了研究。《筮法》與《子産》均是先寫後編而成的,通過對《筮法》的編聯方式及書寫布局的研究,豐富了我們對先秦人們的書寫活動、古書的編聯及收卷方式等方面的認識。

In the sixth volume of Tsinghua University Collection of Warring States Bamboo-slip Manuscripts, there are six texts: Zheng Wu furen gui ruzi 鄭武夫人規孺子 (The wife of Zheng Wu advises the young son), Guan Zhong 管仲, two copies of *Zheng Wen gong wen Tai Bo 鄭文公問太伯 (Duke Wen of Zheng Asks Tai Bo) A & B, Zi Yi 子儀, and *Zi Chan 子產. The texts are well preserved, such that the handwriting is clearly visible. Among them, *Zi Chan was written by a scribe who also participated in writing the *Shi fa 筮法 (The Method of Milfoil Divination) text in the fourth volume of Tsinghua University Collection of Warring States Bamboo-slip Manuscripts. The other five texts were written by two different scribes.1 In the following, I will examine the handwriting and related issues of the two texts *Zi Chan and *Shi fa.

1 Formal Features and the Appearance of the Bamboo Slips

*Zi Chan includes 29 slips 45 centimeters in length and 0.6 centimeters wide. There is no title. There are obvious stripes on the backs of slips 22 to 25. Based on the position of the bamboo nodes seen on the backs of the slips, slips 1 to 21 came from a single bamboo culm, while slips 22 to 29 came from a separate culm (see Tables 1 and 2).

*Shi fa includes 63 slips 35 centimeters long and 0.6 centimeters wide. There is no title. The bottom front of the slips are numbered, and there are clear lines on the backs of the slips (slips 17 to 20 have two lines each). Based on the position of the bamboo nodes seen on the backs of the slips, slips 1 to 28 came from the same bamboo culm, slips 29 to 56 came from another, and slips 57 to 63 from a third culm (see Tables 1 and 3).

*Zi Chan is clearly organized, with characters written between the top and bottom binding straps, the distance between characters about a character and a half, each slip having between 26 and 30 characters. The writing is neat and orderly. Individual characters are written within a rectangular space, with both straight and curving strokes.

As of now, *Shi fa is the only Warring States bamboo manuscript that includes a diagram. According to the manuscript’s editor, “the entire text is written in columns, with a picture and tables inserted among the text, the form resembling a silk manuscript.” The editor also noted: “The text can be divided into 30 sections based on its content and structure.”2

Other than on slips 37 to 41 and 61 to 63, the characters of *Shi fa are written in columns, with a diagram inserted at the top of slips 42 to 60. According to the structure determined by the editor, the human figure is in the twenty-fourth section (see Diagram 1). Tables are found from slip 32 to slip 36 (see Diagram 1). The format of the characters is consistent. Therefore, the text was doubtless copied from an earlier text. This is because only handwriting based on a pre-existing model could render the form of *Shi fa so consistent. The characters of *Shifa are written closely together. This required great skill on the part of the scribe, since only such a scribe can properly control both the structure and distance between characters. The characters of *Shi fa occupy a rectangular space, using both straight and curving strokes. Based on the above analysis, both the text and the diagrams were executed by the same scribe.

Diagram 1
Table 1
Table 1

The formats of *Zi Chan and *Shi fa (measurements in cm)a

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Table 2
Table 2

Bamboo culms used in *Zi Chan

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Table 3
Table 3

Bamboo culms used in *Shi fa

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

The style of the handwriting of *Shi fa is measured; compared to *Shi fa, the handwriting of *Zi Chan is more casual. Based on the difference between *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the amount of space available exerted a limit on the handwriting. Within a limited space, the shape of characters and the handwriting were both controlled, providing a certain influence on the the handwriting of the scribe responsible for this text.

2 Features of Writing

Brushwork throughout the *Shi fa shows both straight and slanted strokes, whereas the *Zi Chan begins with slanted strokes, the start point is usually marked by sharp points, there is a balanced pressure exerted throughout the process of writing with the degree of curvature rather small, and a rather heavy hand forcing the brush down. This makes strokes seem relatively thick. Below I will analyze the special features of the calligraphy of the two texts.

In *Shi fa, most horizontal stokes start with straight strokes and maintain a steady hand, with strokes being even, and start and end points not distinct, such as . There are also some lines that start with a pointed slant stroke, with the motion of the brush tending to the right and the end of stroke tending downwards, such as . The start points of horizontal strokes in both *Shi fa and *Zi Chan are similar (see Table 4).

Table 4
Table 4

Comparison of horizontal stokes in *Shi fa and *Zi Chana

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Vertical strokes in both *Shi fa and *Zi Chan begin with relatively sharp slanted strokes at the top, with then a slight pause to reinforce the beginning of the stroke, a downward push through the vertical part, and then with a sharp end, such as . Examples of this are shown in Table 5.

Table 5
Table 5

Comparison of vertical stokes in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

There are many curving strokes in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan. For instance, whereas other scribes of the Tsinghua manuscripts write left-slanting and right-slanting strokes as , in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan there are left and right curving strokes such as . Examples are shown in Table 6.

Table 6
Table 6

Comparison of curving stokes in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Vertical strokes in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan are also often written as curving strokes, such as *Zi Chan 22, *Zi Chan 9, *Zi Chan 27, *Zi Chan 24. Thus, the overall effect is of curving strokes.

The style of writing within the *Shi fa shows some differences, such as between sections 26 and 29. Strokes in these two sections are straight, most of them with even beginnings. I believe the main reason for differences within the text is because of its overall layout. Being tabular and containing a picture, this imposes constraints on the writing, which had to be determined prior to it. Given this layout, the speed of writing would inevitably have been reduced.

3 Features of Corresponding Strokes

There are characters in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan in which components are relatively stable. Take the character qu as an example: *Shi fa 14, *Shi fa 16, *Shi fa 62, *Zi Chan 1. All of the strokes of the character you are written within the component, which is part of the character er .

In addition to the components of those characters that correspond with each other, strokes of other characters also correspond in some fixed ways, such as in the following characters.

3.1 Zhi

The four strokes of zhi can be represented by α, β, γ and δ, and the fixed location of each stroke can be shown by A, B and C, as follows: and . The character zhi occurs 41 times in *Shi fa. Of these, α and γ meet a little more than half-way up A, α and β are parallel, with their endpoints about one-third of the way from either end of δ: 35.

Zhi occurs twenty-one times in Zi Chan, in two different types. In one, α and γ meet just above the midpoint of A; α and β are not parallel, with β being relatively shorter; the angle made by where β and δ meet is larger than that of α and δ, β meets δ about one third from the left end of δ, and α meets δ about one third from the right of δ. There are 16 such examples: 1. However, there are five examples of zhi in *Zi Chan showing similar strokes as in *Shi fa: 11, 18, 21, 22, and 27. The same situation is seen in other characters that include the zhi component, such as zhi , written as 18, and tai , written as 7.

3.2 Zhi

The three strokes of the component zhi can be represented by α, β and γ: . In both *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the stroke γ of this component in the characters zheng and shi is written in the shape , and the point where β and γ meet is in the middle of the horizontal part of γ: . Examples include:

Table 7
Table 7

Comparing strokes of zhi

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

There is another situation with zhi in *Shi fa. The point where β and γ meet is at the end of γ: . Examples include: 24, 39, 57, 57, and 63. Among these characters, the character shi is once written as , in which γ is written as a slightly slanting stroke, in the shape of . However, this is an exception and not indicative of the scribe’s usual habit.

3.3 Chen

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the component of the character chen is written in the shape : *Shi fa 35, *Shi fa 35, *Zi Chan 9, *Zi Chan 10. However, other scribes responsible for the Tsinghua manuscripts wrote this component as a circular arc, such as Ruzi 4.

3.4 Xing

In both *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the top two strokes of the components chi and chu of the character xing are parallel, while the bottom strokes are not parallel, with a noticeable turn of the bottom strokes, and with the angle of curvature of the two strokes relatively similar: .

Table 8
Table 8

Comparing strokes of xing

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

3.5 Yu

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, characters having the component yu are written as:

Table 9
Table 9

Comparing strokes of yu

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

In both, the two small slant strokes of the component yu are written to the right of the vertical stroke of the character wang : .

3.6 Ren as a Character and as a Component

The two strokes of the character ren can be represented as α and β: . In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the stroke α in both the character ren and the component ren are written vertically. The starting point of β is at the midpoint of α, and it is also primarily vertical:

Table 10
Table 10

Comparing strokes of (component) ren

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

When compound characters are written left to right in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the stroke α in the component ren is curved left, the starting point of β is at the halfway point of α and then it bends before curving left as well, thus making the shape , as in the following examples:

Table 11
Table 11

Comparing strokes of the component ren , 1

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

When compound characters are written top to bottom in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the stroke α in the component ren at the bottom is curved left, and the starting point of β intersects the starting point of α, thus making the shape , as in the following examples:

Table 12
Table 12

Comparing strokes of the component ren , 2

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

In slip 5 of *Shi fa, there is one instance of the character ren written as . Looking at the picture, the point where α and β intersect is covered by the remnants of a string. The “Table of Character Shapes” lists it in the shape , yet a comparison of how the scribe writes the character and the component ren casts doubt on the facsimile. The character certainly differs from the character ren in slips 2 and 54, written , but it can be compared to an alternative way of writing ren in *Zi Chan, as in the examples below:

Table 13
Table 13

Alternative way of writing (component) ren in *Zi Chan

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

In these examples, the character and the component ren are written with stroke α curved left, the starting point of β is at the halfway point of α, and β is also somewhat curved, thus making the shape .

4 Writing Style and Features of Characters

4.1 Writing Style

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the writing style is relatively consistent, as demonstrated in the following examples:

Table 14
Table 14

Consistency of writing style across *Shi fa and *Zi Chan

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Apart from the characters listed above, the writing style of some characters in *Zi Chan is fairly distinctive, as in: yuan written 23, jia written 14, zhai written 7, nan written 8, qi written 6, sui written 14, chong written 7, etc. Some further examples are as follows:

4.1.1 The Character qian

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the character qian is written:

Table 15
Table 15
The character qian

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

The upper part of qian is written in the shape while the lower part is written in the shape . The combination of the two parts differs from how the character is written in other Tsinghua manuscripts, as in Bao xun 3, Houfu 1, Ruzi 9, and Guan Zhong 9.

4.1.2 The Character shi

In *Shi fa, the character shi is written in two ways: 24 and 57. There are six examples that have the upper part written , while two examples have the upper part written .

In *Zi Chan, there are three instances of the character shi, and they are only written in one way: 10, 19, and 26. As shown, the upper part of the character shi in *Zi Chan is written , and is the same as one of the styles used to write the character shi in *Shi fa.

In the Tsinghua manuscripts published to date (Volumes 1–6), writing the upper part of the character shi as only occurs in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan. However, it does occur in the Shanghai Museum manuscripts, such as Zi Gao 10.

4.1.3 The Character er

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the character er is variously written as *Shi fa 5 or *Zi Chan 28. There are eight instances in *Shi fa of the character er written , whereas there is only a single example in *Zi Chan of it written . There are other compounds however that contain er as a component: *Shi fa 46, *Zi chan 5, and *Zi Chan 16. As shown, while there is a difference in how the individual word er is written in *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, in compounds the way of writing the character is consistent.

4.1.4 The Component bei

In *Shifa, the component bei is written: 58, 31, 54, and 57. In *Zi Chan, it is written: 1, 15, 26, 27, 8, 11, and 22. In both *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the short left stroke and the starting point of the right slanting stroke intersect and go separate ways making a ∧ shape, as in .

4.1.5 The Component li

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the character li is variously written: *Shi fa 63 and *Zi Chan 15. In *Shi fa, there are compounds including the component li that are written: 3, 62, 7 and 34. In *Shi fa, there are twelve instances of the character nan . Among them, ten instances write li as , in one instance it is written , and in one instance it is written .

In *Zi Chan, there are compounds including the component li that are written: 1 2 7 7 17 17 28. As shown, the component li in *Zi Chan is always written , which is one of the styles used to write the same component in *Shi fa.

4.1.6 The Component hu

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, there are compounds including the component hu that are written:

Table 16
Table 16
The component hu

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

In *Shi fa, in compounds written top to bottom the component hu is usually written , but there is one instance where it is written ; this is probably due to a space restriction.

In *Zi Chan, the component hu is written in four ways: , , and . Among these, is most similar to the main style of the component in *Shi fa; in the vertical stroke on the right has been slightly lengthened; the style of writing and is similar to one another, which means that on the right the two vertical strokes both extend downward. However, most instances are in the form , which suggests that this is the main style of this component.

From the components li and hu shown above, the writing style in the *Shi fa and *Zi Chan is not altogether consistent. Even in one text, characters are written in slightly different ways. Below, I provide two more examples to show different styles of writing within the same text.

4.1.7 The Character wo

In *Zi Chan, there are three instances of the character wo . All of them, occurring on slip 19, are written . In *Zi Chan, there is also one instance of the character yi written as 25. In the compound yi , the component wo is written , which differs in style from how the character wo is written.

4.1.8 Characters Writing the Words wen and wen

In *Shi fa, the characters used to write the words wen and wen are written respectively:3 13 and 13. In Warring States bamboo slip manuscripts, the characters and have a mixed use, but mostly they are used to write the words wen and wen . As the two characters appear on the same slip and in the same section of text, Li Shoukui has pointed out that “the two characters are written differently seemingly with the intent to distinguish them.”4

4.2 The Phenomenon of One Character with Multiple Forms

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, there are many instances where one character is written with multiple forms. As mentioned, in *Shi fa, there are two ways to write the character shi : 24 and 57. Other examples include:

Table 17
Table 17

Characters with multiple forms

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

As the same scribe wrote *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, below we provide more examples of one character with multiple forms.

4.2.1 Zhe

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the character zhe is written in the following styles:

Table 18
Table 18
The character zhe

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

As shown, there are two styles of writing the character zhe in *Shifa, of which , with eleven instances, is the more common. In *Zi Chan, the character is written in three styles, and there is not much of a difference between and ; is a bit closer to how the character is written in *Shi fa.

4.2.2 Jian

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the characters shi and jian are written:

Table 19
Table 19
The characters shi and jian

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

In *Zi Chan, shi was interepreted as jian by the editors.5 However, through a comparison with in *Shi fa, which is understood as jian, Shan Yuchen has pointed out that on slip 5 of *Zi Chan should be interpreted as shi.6 This is credible since the scribe shows a tendency to write one character in multiple forms. In the manuscript Cheng ren 成人 in Qinghua 9, on slip 10 there is a sentence, “use things to ‘X’ its evil and lucky omens 用物 A 之妖祥”, with “X” written . The editors interpret X as the character jian and read it as xian . However, according to the usage of characters and words in canonical texts, X should be interpreted as shi 視(示) “reveal.”7 Although X is quite different from the character shi in Cheng ren, and should be the character jian , that it can also be interpreted and read shi is further suggested by its form on slip 5 of *Zi Chan. In Chu script, scribes had their own habits in regard to jian and shi .

4.2.3 Shen

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, the character shen is written either *Zi Chan 1 or *Shi fa 32.

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, it is common to see the addition of components or superfluous symbols thus creating the phenomenon of one character written with multiple forms. Examples include the word: zhong written *Shi fa 32 and *Zi Chan 4; xiao written *Shi fa 38, *Shi fa 41 and *Zi Chan 12; e written *Shi fa 13 and *Zi Chan 26; yi written *Shi fa 13 and *Shi fa 11; chen written *Shi fa 27 and *Shi fa 56; zhen written *Shi fa 49 and *Shi fa 45; zuo written *Shi fa 61 and *Shi fa 61; bang written *Shi fa 61, *Shi fa 30 and *Zi Chan 24; qu written *Shi fa 19 and *Shi fa 30; ru or nei written *Shi fa 8 and *Shi fa 24; xiang written *Shi fa 1 and *Shi fa 62; wei written *Shi fa 47, *Shi fa 55 and *Zi Chan 3; gan written *Shi fa 27 and *Shi fa 43; mian written *Zi Chan 1 and *Zi Chan 17; chi written *Zi Chan 7 and *Zi Chan 23; gu written *Zi Chan 2 and *Zi Chan 26; wei written *Zi Chan 3 and *Zi Chan 11; and the character chan in the name Zi Chan 子產 written *Zi Chan 7 and *Zi Chan 16, etc.

Due to the special nature of the writing and format in *Shi fa, we should also pay attention to the circumstances throughout the entire text of the distribution of character forms with one character written in multiple forms. The table below displays these examples:

Table 20
Table 20
Distribution of one character written in multiple ways in *Shi fa

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

4.3 A Single Character Form Writing Multiple Words

In *Shi fa and *Zi Chan, there are characters written in the same way representing different words. For example: *Zi Chan 9 represents the word bi and *Zi Chan 19 represents bei ; *Shi fa 8 represents ru , *Shi fa 42 represents nei and *Shi fa 14 represents ru ; *Zi Chan 20 represents and *Zi Chan 25 represents yi ; * Zi Chan 8 represents shao and *Zi Chan 12 represents xiao , etc.

5 The Writing of Numbers

In *Zi Chan, there are a relatively few characters representing numbers, whereas in *Shi fa there are many numbers in the main text.

Table 21
Table 21

The writing of numbers in *Shi fa and *Zi Chany

Citation: Bamboo and Silk 7, 1 (2024) ; 10.1163/24689246-20240003

Using the characters , and to represent the numbers yi “one”, er “two” and san “three” respectively is commonly seen in Warring States manuscripts. In *Zi Chan, the number si “four” is written , which while common in oracle bone and bronze inscriptions, occurs only rarely in Chu manuscripts; examples are: Feng Xu 2 (three instances) and Ruzi 10. In *Shi fa, the number wu “five” is written and the number liu “six” is written . Previously, these forms rarely occurred in the main text of Warring States manuscripts.

Sometimes how numbers are written in the main text differs from how they are written as slip numbers. In *Shi fa, slip numbers occur at the bottom of the slip below the third binding cord; the number si “four” is written , and from slips nineteen to fifty-nine, the number jiu “nine” is written .8 This style of writing the number jiu also occurs on slip 22 of the Zhou Changes from the Shanghai Museum Manuscripts, where it is written .9 Although there is a slight difference in how numbers are written in the main text and as slip numbers, the exemplary features of the brushwork among the two groups of numbers are fundamentally the same. A comparison between the two is as follows:

Table 22