|Book of Documents|
|Author(s)||Compilation attributed to Confucius, various authors|
|Original title||尚書 or 書經|
|Subject(s)||Compilation of ancient speeches and records of events|
The Book of Documents (simplified Chinese: 书经; traditional Chinese: 書經; pinyin: Shūjīng; Wade–Giles: Shu-ching), one of the Five Classics, is a compilation of speeches of major figures and records of events in ancient China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū (simplified Chinese: 尚书; traditional Chinese: 尚書, literally: "Esteemed Documents"), or simply Shū (simplified Chinese: 书; traditional Chinese: 書, colloquially: "Documents"). The title is also translated in western texts variously as Classic of History, Classic of Documents, Book of History, or Book of Historical Documents, and it was formerly romanized as Shu-king.
The 58 chapters of the received text are divided into New Text and Old Text chapters based on their history. The entire work was accepted by most scholars until the 17th century, when Yan Ruoqu showed that the Old Text chapters had been forged in the 3rd or 4th centuries AD. In contrast, some of the New Text chapters are among the earliest examples of Chinese prose, recording speeches from the early years of the Zhou dynasty in the 11th century BC. Other chapters are of later composition, with those relating to the earliest periods being as recent as the 4th century BC.
Later tradition has ascribed the compilation of the Book of Documents to Confucius (551–479 BC), but its early history is obscure. Beginning with Confucius, writers increasingly drew on the work to illustrate general principles, though it seems that several different versions were in use. Six citations of unnamed "Shu" appear in the Analects, and increasing numbers of citations, some with titles, appear in 4th century BC works such as the Mencius, Mozi and Commentary of Zuo. These authors favoured documents relating to the Xia dynasty and pre-dynastic emperors Yao and Shun, chapters now believed to have been written during the Spring and Autumn period. The chapters currently believed to be the oldest (mostly relating to the early Zhou) were little used by Warring States authors, perhaps due to the difficulty of the archaic language or a less familiar world-view. Fewer than half the passages quoted by these authors are present in the received text.
Many copies of the work were destroyed in the Burning of Books during the Qin dynasty. Fu Sheng reconstructed part of the work from hidden copies in the late 3rd to early 2nd century BC, at the start of the succeeding Han dynasty. His version was known as the "New Text" (今文 jīn wén lit. "modern script") because it was written in the clerical script. It originally consisted of 29 chapters, but the "Great Speech" chapter was lost shortly afterwards and replaced by a new version. The remaining 28 chapters were later expanded to 33 when Du Lin divided some chapters during the 1st century.
Another version was said to have been recovered from a wall of the home of Confucius in 186 BC by his descendent Kong Anguo. This version was written in the pre-Qin seal script, and known as the "Old Text" (古文 gǔ wén lit. "ancient script"). It contained some 16 additional chapters and was part of the Old Text Classics later championed by the scholar Liu Xin at the beginning of 1st century AD. A list of 100 chapter titles was also in circulation, many mentioned in the Records of the Grand Historian, but without quoting the text of the other chapters.
The work was designated one of the Five Classics when Confucian works made official by Emperor Wu of Han, and Jing ("classic") was added to its name. The term Shangshu ("esteemed documents") was also used in the Eastern Han. Most Han dynasty scholars ignored the Old Text, and it disappeared by the end of the dynasty.
A version of the Old Text was allegedly rediscovered by the scholar Mei Ze during the 4th century, and presented to the imperial court of the Eastern Jin. His version consisted of the 33 chapters of the New Text with an additional 25 chapters, with a preface and commentary purportedly written by Kong Anguo. The oldest extant copy of the text, included in the Kaicheng Stone Classics (833–837), contains all of these chapters.
Since the Song Dynasty, starting from Wú Yù (吳棫), many doubts had been expressed concerning the provenance of the allegedly rediscovered Old Text chapters of the book. In the 16th century, Méi Zhuó (梅鷟) published a detailed argument that these chapters, as well as the preface and commentary, were forged in the 3rd century AD. Mei identified the sources from which the forger had cut and pasted text, and even suggested Huangfu Mi as a probable culprit. In the 17th century, Yan Ruoju's unpublished but widely distributed manuscript entitled Evidential analysis of the Old Text Documents convinced most scholars that the rediscovered Old Text chapters were forged in the 3rd or 4th centuries.
New light has been shed on the Documents by the recovery between 1993 and 2008 of caches of bamboo slips from tombs of the state of Chu in Jingmen, Hubei. These texts are believed to date from the late Warring States period, around 300 BC, and thus predate the burning of the books during the Qin dynasty. The Guodian Chu Slips and the Shanghai Museum corpus include quotations of previously unknown passages of the work. The Tsinghua Bamboo Slips includes the New Text chapter "Golden Coffer", with minor textual differences, as well as several documents in the same style that are not included in the received text. The collection also includes two documents that are versions of the Old Text chapters "Common Possession of Pure Virtue" and "Charge to Yue", confirming that the "rediscovered" versions are forgeries.
The collection consists of 58 chapters, each with a brief preface traditionally attributed to Confucius. With the exception of a few chapters of late date, the chapters are represented as records of formal speeches by kings or other important figures. The chapters are grouped into parts devoted to pre-dynastic emperors (Yao and Shun), and to the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. The chapters are further categorized into the "New Text" and the "Old Text". Orthodox editions also include a preface and commentary, both traditionally attributed to Kong Anguo. Although the "rediscovered" Old Text chapters (and the preface and commentary) are generally believed to be forgeries from the 3rd or 4th centuries AD, the New Text chapters "are considered by most scholars to be authentic works of the 4th century BC or earlier."
|1||1||堯典||Canon of Yao|
|2||舜典||Canon of Shun|
|3||大禹謨||Counsels of Great Yu|
|2||4||皋陶謨||Counsels of Gao Yao|
|5||益稷||Yi and Ji|
|3||6||禹貢||Tribute of [Great] Yu|
|4||7||甘誓||Speech at [the Battle of] Gan|
|8||五子之歌||Songs of the Five Sons|
|9||胤征||Punitive Expedition on [King Zhongkang of] Yin|
|5||10||湯誓||Speech of [King] Tang|
|11||仲虺之誥||Announcement of Zhonghui|
|12||湯誥||Announcement of [King] Tang|
|13||伊訓||Instructions of Yi [Yin]|
|14–16||太甲||Tai Jia parts 1, 2 & 3|
|17||咸有一德||Common Possession of Pure Virtue|
|6||18–20||盤庚||Pan Geng parts 1, 2 & 3|
|21–23||說命||Charge to Yue [of Fuxian] parts 1, 2 & 3|
|7||24||高宗肜日||Day of the Supplementary Sacrifice of King Gaozong [Wu Ding]|
|8||25||西伯戡黎||Chief of the West [King Wen]'s Conquest of [the State of] Li|
|27–29||泰誓||Great Speech parts 1, 2 & 3|
|10||30||牧誓||Speech at [the Battle of] Muye|
|31||武成||Successful Completion of the War [on Shang]|
|11||32||洪範||Great Plan [of Jizi]|
|33||旅獒||Hounds of [the Western Tribesmen] Lü|
|12||34||金滕||Golden Coffer [of Zhou Gong]|
|36||微子之命||Charge to Prince Weizi|
|14||37||康誥||Announcement to [Prince] Kang|
|15||38||酒誥||Announcement about Drunkenness|
|16||39||梓材||Timber of Rottlera|
|17||40||召誥||Announcement of Duke Shao|
|18||41||洛誥||Announcement concerning Luoyang|
|20||43||無逸||Against Luxurious Ease|
|21||44||君奭||Lord Shi [Duke Shao]|
|45||蔡仲之命||Charge to Cai Zhong|
|23||47||立政||Establishment of Government|
|48||周官||Officers of Zhou|
|51||康王之誥||Announcement of King Kang|
|52||畢命||Charge to the [Duke of] Bi|
|54||冏命||Charge to Jiong|
|25||55||呂刑||[Marquis] Lü on Punishments|
|26||56||文侯之命||Charge to Marquis Wen [of Jin]|
|27||57||費誓||Speech at [the Battle of] Fei|
|28||58||秦誓||Speech of [the Duke Mu of] Qin|
Although the New Text chapters are generally accepted as pre-Qin documents, not all of them are believed to be contemporaneous with the events they describe, which range from the legendary emperors Yao and Shun to early in the Spring and Autumn period. Six of these chapters concern figures prior to the first evidence of writing, the oracle bones dating from the reign of the late Shang king Wu Ding. Moreover, the chapters dealing with the earliest periods, e.g., the Canons of Yao and Shun, are very similar in language to the classical works of the Warring States period such as The Mencius.
The five announcements (誥 gào) in the Documents of Zhou feature the most archaic language, closely resembling inscriptions found on Western Zhou bronzes in both grammar and vocabulary. Together with associated chapters such as Lord Shi and the Testamentary Charge, the announcements are considered by most scholars to record speeches of King Cheng of Zhou, as well as the Duke of Zhou and Duke of Shao, uncles of King Cheng who were key figures during his reign (late 11th century BC). They provide insight into the politics and ideology of the period, including the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven, explaining how the once-virtuous Xia had become corrupt and were replaced by the virtuous Shang, who went though a similar cycle ending in their replacement by the Zhou. A minority of scholars, pointing to differences in language between these documents and Zhou bronzes, argue that they are products of a commemorative tradition in the late Western Zhou or early Spring and Autumn periods.
Other Zhou chapters, and the chapters dealing with the late Shang, use less archaic language. They are believed to have been modelled on the earlier speeches by writers in the Spring and Autumn period, a time of renewed interest in politics and dynastic decline. Chapters relating to earlier periods are thought to be the products of philosophical schools of the late Warring States period. They are written in familiar classical language and present idealized rulers, with the earlier political concerns subordinate to moral and cosmological theory. The Pan Geng chapter (later divided into three parts) seems to be intermediate in style between the latter two groups.
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