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A Database of the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts of Guodian (2001)

CHEUNG Kwong Yue Alex

In the winter of 1993, 730 bamboo strips inscribed with characters were excavated from tomb no. 1 of Guodian site, Jingmen, Hubei Province. The bamboo strips presumably belong to the late middle Warring States Period. A total of Sixteen chapters of anonymous writings of the pre-Qin period, over half of which have never been seen before, were inscribed on the bamboo strips. Among them, Tai Yi Sheng Shui (太一生水) is an important Taoists text; Wu Xing (五行) is not much different from the one excavated from the Mawangdui site in Hunan Province which is also entitled Wu Xing (五行), and the two are complementary to each other; Lumugong Wen Zisi (魯穆公問子思), Qiong Da Yi Shi (窮達以時), Tang Yu Zhi Dao (唐虞之道), Zhong Xin Zhi Dao (忠信之道), Cheng Zhi Wen Zhi (成之聞之), Zun De Yi (尊德義), Xing Zi Ming Chu (性自命出), Liu De (六德) and Yu Cong 1,2,3,4 (語叢一、二、三、四) are works of the Confucianists, and part of their contents can be cross-referenced to documents handed down from ancient times, e.g. “Let the will be set on the path of duty; Let every attainment in what is good be firmly grasped; ”“Let perfect virtue be accorded with; Let relaxation and enjoyment be found in the polite arts” in Yu Cong 3 (bamboo strip 15.50; 15.51) can be seen in the chapter entitled Shu Er (述而) in The Analects of Confucius; writings like “Free from self-interest, from bigotry and from possessions” and “Free from egoism and from pre-possessions and peace can be attained”(bamboo strip 15.64; 15.65) are almost the same as “There were four things from which Confucius was entirely free: He had no foregone conclusions, no arbitrary predeterminations, no obstinacy, and no egoism.” in the chapter entitled Zihan (子罕) in the same book; Laozi (老子) Part A, B & C and Zi Yi (緇衣) are the earliest manuscripts found to date, and their academic value is in measurable which would certainly have a far reaching impact on pre-Qin studies.

The Bamboo Manuscripts of Chu Tomb of Guodian Site compiled by Jingmen City Museum was published in book form by Beijing Cultural Relics Press in May 1998. Since its publication, the book has attracted many scholars to study. Successful results shall be expected in the near future. On the other hand, from compiling books such as An Index of the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts From Baoshan (1993), An Index of the Bamboo Manuscripts From the Tomb of Marquis Yi of State Zeng (1997), and An Index of the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts From Wangshan (forthcoming) in recent years have given me insight into this field. I therefore am determined to compile A Study on the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts of Guodian, in which three volumes contribute to Character, Commentary and Research respectively, with special attention paid to the arrangement of character retrieval. The first volume A Comprehensive Index of Characters is compiled according to the previously used format. Characters of the bamboo manuscripts are individually numbered, and categorized according to radicals. Variant forms of the same Chinese characters are grouped under their related radicals. Phonetic loan characters or homonyms are also listed in examples. To enable readers to easier understand the full text, I have adopted the original annotations in Bamboo Manuscripts of Chu Tomb of Guodian Site and have made many references to the notes by Mr Qiu Xigui. If the original decipherments are ambiguous, characters would be deciphered again as for Characters without decipherments would be preliminarily deciphered. In case there are missing characters, additions based on related sources would be made and marked with a [ ] in the texts. Characters with the same or similar pronunciations are marked with a ( ). The bamboo manuscripts have 12,072 characters in total, of which 1,344 are main characters (692 see in Shuowenjiezi 說文解字) and 22 combined characters. The preliminary survey shows that 416 main characters have been seen in An Index of the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts From Baoshan, 134 in An Index of the Bamboo Manuscripts From the Tomb of Marquis Yi of State Zeng, 202 in An Index of the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts From Wangshan, whereas 875 are newly found. Detailed corresponding materials and related research would be discussed in separate essays. There are four parts in the first volume: a radical index, a stroke index, plates of corresponding original bamboo strips and the decipherments, and the revised full text of decipherments arranged by the serial numbers of the bamboo strips. A Comprehensive Index of Characters in the First volume of A Study on the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts of Guodian has been published by Yee Wen Publishing Co. Ltd., Taipei in February 1999. To facilitate scholars with an easy access to the materials, a revised full text database of decipherments of the Chu bamboo manuscripts of Guodian site has been established. By typing in a certain character or phrase, a reader will locate any chapter or bamboo strip from which the character or phrase comes within seconds. In line with the latest development in document research, and with a view to promote the Chinese culture, I have, through cooperating with the Chinese University of Hong Kong Libraries and the Department of History, put onto internet this electronic version which allows full-text searching at no cost. All are welcome to search and promote the use of these materials.

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