The ''Bamboo Annals'' (), also known as the ''Ji Tomb Annals'' (), is a
chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek ''chroniká'', from , ''chrónos'' – "time") is a historical account of events arranged in chronological order, as in a timeline. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and l ...
of ancient China. It begins in the earliest legendary time (the age of the Yellow Emperor) and extends to 299 BC, with the later centuries focusing on the history of the State of Wei in the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest ...
. It thus covers a similar period to Sima Qian's '' Records of the Grand Historian'' (91 BC). The original may have been lost during the Song dynasty, and the text is known today in two versions, a "current text" (or "modern text") of disputed authenticity and an incomplete "ancient text".

Textual history

The original text was interred with King Xiang of Wei (died 296 BC) and re-discovered nearly six centuries later in 281 AD (
Western Jin dynasty Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US * Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia * Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ...
) in the Jizhong discovery. For this reason, the chronicle survived the burning of the books by Emperor
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BC) was the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang and Zhou rulers, he ruled as the First Emperor ( ...
. Other texts recovered from the same tomb included '' Guoyu'', ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text that is among the oldest of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou ...
'', and the '' Tale of King Mu''. They were written on
bamboo slips Bamboo and wooden slips () were the main media for writing documents in China before the widespread introduction of paper during the first two centuries AD. (Silk was occasionally used, for example in the Chu Silk Manuscript, but was prohibit ...
, the usual writing material of the Warring States period, and it is from this that the name of the text derives. The strips were arranged in order and transcribed by court scholars, who identified the work as the state chronicle of Wei. According to Du Yu, who saw the original strips, the text began with the
Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty () is the first dynasty in traditional Chinese historiography. According to tradition, the Xia dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great, after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors, gave the throne to him. In tradi ...
, and used a series of different pre-Han calendars. However, later indirect reports state that it began with the Yellow Emperor. This version, consisting of 13 scrolls, was lost during the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. The Song conquered the rest ...
. A 3-scroll version of the ''Annals'' is mentioned in the '' History of Song'' (1345), but its relationship to the other versions is not known. The "current text" (今本 ''jīnběn'') is a 2-scroll version of the text printed in the late 16th century. The first scroll contains a sparse narrative of the pre-dynastic emperors (beginning with the Yellow Emperor), the Xia dynasty and the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese royal dynasty founded by Tang of Shang (Cheng Tang) that ruled in the Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, traditionally succeeding the Xia dynasty and ...
. The narrative is interspersed with longer passages on portents, which are identical to passages in the late 5th century '' Book of Song''. The second scroll contains a more detailed account of the history of the Western Zhou, the state of Jin and its successor state Wei, and has no portent passages. This version gave years according to the sexagenary cycle, a practice that began in the
Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) and a war ...
. Discrepancies between the text and quotations of the earlier text in older books led scholars such as Qian Daxin and Shinzō Shinjō to dismiss the "current" version as a forgery, a view still widely held. Other scholars, notably David Nivison and Edward Shaughnessy, argue that substantial parts of it are faithful copies of the original text. The "ancient text" (古本 ''gǔběn'') is a partial version assembled through painstaking examination of quotations of the lost original in pre-Song works by Zhu Youzeng (late 19th century),
Wang Guowei Wang Guowei (; 2 December 18772 June 1927) or Wang Kuo-wei, courtesy name Jing'an () or Boyu (), was a Chinese historian and poet. A versatile and original scholar, he made important contributions to the studies of ancient history, epigraphy, ph ...
(1917) and Fan Xiangyong (1956). Fang Shiming and Wang Xiuling (1981) have systematically collated all the available quotations, instead of following earlier scholars in trying to merge variant forms of a passage into a single text. The two works that provide the most quotations, the '' Shui Jing Zhu'' (527) and Sima Zhen's ''Shiji Suoyin'' (early 8th century), seem to be based on slightly different versions of the text.


* Biot, Édouard (1841–42)
"Tchou-chou-ki-nien, Annales de bambou Tablettes chronologiques du Livre écrit sur bambou"
Journal asiatique The ''Journal asiatique'' (full earlier title ''Journal Asiatique ou Recueil de Mémoires, d'Extraits et de Notices relatifs à l'Histoire, à la Philosophie, aux Langues et à la Littérature des Peuples Orientaux'') is a biannual peer-reviewed ac ...
'', Third series, 12, pp
and 13, pp
* Legge, James (1865)
"The Annals of the Bamboo Books"
in "Prolegomena"
''The Chinese Classics, volume 3, part 1''
pp. 105–188. Rpt. (1960) Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. * Nivison, David (2009). ''The Riddle of the Bamboo Annals (Zhushu Jinian Jiemi'' 竹書紀年解謎'')''. Taipei: Airiti Press.

See also

* Tsinghua Bamboo Slips




; Works cited * * * * * reprinted in *

Further reading

* *
. *

) * (responding to ) * * * (review of {{harvtxt, Nivison, 2009)

External links

''Bamboo Annals''
at the
Chinese Text Project The Chinese Text Project (CTP; ) is a digital library project that assembles collections of early Chinese texts. The name of the project in Chinese literally means "The Chinese Philosophical Book Digitization Project", showing its focus on book ...
. Bamboo and wooden slips Chinese history texts 4th-century BC history books Chinese chronicles