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Sources of Western Zhou History

Sources of Western Zhou History: Inscribed Bronze Vessels

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 312
  • Book Info
    Sources of Western Zhou History
    Book Description:

    The thousands of ritual bronze vessels discovered by China's archaeologists serve as the major documentary source for the Western Zhou dynasty (1045-771 B.C.). These vessels contain long inscriptions full of detail on subjects as diverse as the military history of the period, the bureaucratic structure of the royal court, and lawsuits among the gentry. Moreover, being cast in bronze, the inscriptions preserve exactly the contemporary script and language. Shaughnessy has written a meticulous and detailed work on the historiography and interpretation of these objects. By demonstrating how the inscriptions are read and interpreted, Shaughnessy makes accessible in English some of the most important evidence about life in ancient China.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91022-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Proposed Chronology of the Western Zhou Dynasty
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    On December 15, 1975, farmers clearing a field near Mount Qi 岐山 in Fufeng 扶風 county, Shaanxi province, accidentally unearthed an ancient bronze vessel. This was by no means a rare occurrence in this county, which three thousand years earlier had been the homeland of the rulers of the Western Zhou dynasty (1045-771 B.C.), and local archeologists were sent to excavate the site. Even these archeologists, accustomed as they had become in recent years to discoveries of Western Zhou bronze vessels, must have been astounded when, upon opening a pit about two meters long, one meter wide, and one meter deep,...

  8. CHAPTER 1 A Brief History of Bronze Inscription Studies
    (pp. 5-34)

    The remarkable discoveries of Western Zhou bronze inscriptions in the last decade, of which the Wei 微 family cache at Fufeng 扶風 is just one example, have excited new interest in this branch of Chinese paleography and have enabled great advances to be made in the study of Western Zhou history. The story of these discoveries and the resultant historiographical advances will be a major concern of this book. But in the excitement of these new discoveries, we ought not to forget that for two thousand years other scholars have also been excited by similar discoveries of inscribed bronze vessels...

  9. CHAPTER 2 The Casting of an Inscribed Bronze Vessel, With Remarks on the Question of Authenticity
    (pp. 35-62)

    If only because bronze inscriptions are preserved in the medium of bronze vessels, it behooves the historian who wishes to use them as historical sources to consider the technology by which these vessels were cast. Apart from the obvious argument that a historian should know as much as possible about all aspects of the documents he or she wishes to use, there is also one overriding reason for becoming informed about this technology. As was pointed out in the preceding chapter, since the Song (960–1279) and especially the Ming (1368–1644) dynasties there has been in China a fairly...

  10. CHAPTER 3 How To Read a Western Zhou Bronze Inscription
    (pp. 63-105)

    Despite the unusual and very valuable medium in which they have been preserved, bronze inscriptions are nothing more and certainly nothing less than transcriptions of the language of their time. Spanning a period of some 275 years (1045–771 b.c.), Western Zhou bronze inscriptions are an integral part of a natural linguistic development deriving on the one end from the oracle-bone inscriptions of the Shang dynasty, passing through the dozen or so authentic Western Zhou chapters of theShangshu尙書 orBook of DocumentsandYi Zhoushu逸周書 and the “Zhou Song” 周頌 and “Ya” 雅 sections of theShijing...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Periodization of Inscribed Western Zhou Bronze Vessels
    (pp. 106-155)

    Important as the correct reading of a Western Zhou bronze inscription is, students new to the field may well find that historians spend a disproportionate amount of their time discussing the periodization of vessels, often seemingly taking the reading of the inscription for granted. While students (and scholars interested primarily in the history of the language) may find this insouciance with regard to linguistic matters unsettling, the fact is that if these documents are to be used to study the history of this period it is essential that they be dated as accurately as possible. In this chapter, I will...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Further Historiographical Questions Regarding Inscribed Western Zhou Bronze Vessels
    (pp. 156-182)

    In the last three chapters, I have discussed three questions regarding inscribed bronze vessels of the Western Zhou dynasty: how the vessels were cast, what language and information the inscriptions contain, and when they were cast. In addition to these three questions—how, what, and when—historians typically ask three further questions: where, who, and why. In this chapter I shall discuss in brief where inscribed bronze vessels have been found, who commissioned their casting, and why. I will also try to suggest some of the implications the answers to these questions may hold for Western Zhou history.

    The question...

  13. APPENDIX 1 Textual Notes to the Translation of the Inscription on the “Shi Qiang Pan”
    (pp. 183-192)
  14. APPENDIX 2 The “Ling Yi” and the Question of the Kang Gong
    (pp. 193-216)
  15. APPENDIX 3 The Absolute Chronology of the Western Zhou Dynasty
    (pp. 217-288)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY A Major Catalogs of Inscribed Western Zhou Bronze Vessels
    (pp. 289-292)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY B Works Cited
    (pp. 293-312)
  18. Finding List of Inscribed Bronze Vessels Cited
    (pp. 313-318)
  19. Index
    (pp. 319-333)