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The ''Book of Documents'' (''Shūjīng'', earlier ''Shu King'') or ''Classic of History'', also known as the ''Shangshu'' ("Esteemed Documents"), is one of the
Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
of ancient
Chinese literature The history of Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archive An archive is an accumulation of Historical document, historical records – in any media – or the physical facility in which t ...
. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of
ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient his ...
, and served as the foundation of Chinese
political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politics, liberty, justice, prop ...

political philosophy
for over 2,000 years. The ''Book of Documents'' was the subject of one of China's oldest literary controversies, between proponents of different versions of the text. The "New Text" version was preserved from
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dynas ...
's
burning of books and burying of scholars The burning of books and burying of scholars (), also known as burning the books and executing the ru scholars, refers to the supposed burning of texts in 213 BCE and live burial of 460 Confucian , Shanxi Shanxi (; Postal romanizat ...
by scholar Fu Sheng, in 29 chapters (''pian'' 篇). According to
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
documents, a longer "Old Text" version (which preserved 16 more chapters) was discovered in the wall of
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...
' family estate in
Qufu Qufu ( ; ) is a city in southwestern Shandong Shandong (; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the East China region. ...
by his descendant Kong Anguo in the late 2nd century BC. This new material was lost at the end of the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
. Over time, the "Old Text" version of the ''Documents'' became more widely accepted, until it was established as the imperially sanctioned edition during the early
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
. This continued until the late 17th century, when the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasty in the History of China#Imperial China, imperial history of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912, wi ...
scholar
Yan Ruoqu Yan Ruoqu (; November 11, 1636 – July 9, 1704) was an influential Chinese scholar of the early Qing Dynasty. He was born to a scholarly family in Taiyuan, Shanxi. Yan Ruoqu is most famous for proving that the "Old Text" chapters of the Confucian ...
demonstrated that the additional "Old Text" chapters not contained in the "New Text" version were actually fabrications "reconstructed" in the 3rd or 4th centuries AD. The chapters are grouped into four sections representing different eras: the semi-mythical reign of
Yu the Great Yu the Great (大禹) (c. 2123–2025 BC) was a legendary king in History of China#Ancient China, ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, an ...
, and the
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...
,
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first ...

Shang
and
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
dynasties. The Zhou section accounts for over half the text. Some of its New Text chapters are among the earliest examples of Chinese prose, recording speeches from the early years of the Zhou dynasty in the late 11th century BC. Although the other three sections purport to record earlier material, most scholars believe that even the New Text chapters in these sections were composed later than those in the Zhou section, with chapters relating to the earliest periods being as recent as the 4th or 3rd centuries BC.


Textual history

The history of the various versions of the ''Documents'' is particularly complex, and has been the subject of a long-running literary and philosophical controversy.


Early references

According to a later tradition, the ''Book of Documents'' was compiled by
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...
(551–479 BC) as a selection from a much larger group of documents, with some of the remainder being included in the ''
Yizhoushu The ''Yi Zhou Shu'' () is a compendium of Chinese historical documents about the Western Zhou The Western Zhou ( zh, c=, p=Xīzhōu; c. 1045 BC – 771 BC) was the first half of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty th ...
''. However, the early history of both texts is obscure. Beginning with Confucius, writers increasingly drew on the ''Documents'' to illustrate general principles, though it seems that several different versions were in use. Six citations of unnamed ''Shū'' () appear in the ''
Analects The ''Analects'' (; ; Old Chinese: '' ŋ(r)aʔ''; meaning "Selected Sayings"), also known as the ''Analects of Confucius'', is an ancient Chinese book composed of a large collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Co ...

Analects
''. Although Confucius invoked the pre-dynastic emperors
Yao Yao or YAO may refer to: * Yao (surname), the transliteration of Chinese family names 姚, 銚, and 么 * Yao (ruler), a mythical Chinese ruler and emperor * Yao Ming, Chinese Basketball All-Star that played for the Houston Rockets * Euphrasie Kouas ...
and Shun, and figures from the
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...
and
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first ...

Shang
dynasties, he complained of the lack of documentation prior to the Zhou. Increasing numbers of citations, some with titles, appear in 4th century BC works such as the ''
Mencius Mencius (); born Mèng Kē (); ( ) or Mengzi (372–289 BC or 385–303 or 302BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , ...
'', ''
Mozi Mozi (; ; Latinized as Micius ; c. 470 – c. 391 BC), original name Mo Di (), was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period kn ...

Mozi
'' and '' Commentary of Zuo''. These authors favoured documents relating to Yao, Shun and the Xia dynasty, chapters now believed to have been written 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 ...
. 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. Authors such as
Mencius Mencius (); born Mèng Kē (); ( ) or Mengzi (372–289 BC or 385–303 or 302BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , ...

Mencius
and Xunzi, while quoting the ''Documents'', refused to accept all of it as genuine. Their attitude contrasts with the reverence that would be shown to the text in the Han dynasty, when its compilation was attributed to Confucius.


Han dynasty: New and Old Texts

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#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
. His version was known as the "New Text" ( ''jīn wén'' lit. "modern script") because it was written in the
clerical script The clerical script (; Japanese: 隷書体, ''reishotai''; Vietnamese: lệ thư), also formerly chancery script, is an archaic style of Chinese calligraphy which evolved from the Warring States period to the Qin dynasty, was dominant in the ...
. It originally consisted of 29 chapters, but the "Great Speech" 太誓 chapter was lost shortly afterwards and replaced by a new version. The remaining 28 chapters were later expanded into 30 when Ouyang Gao 歐陽高 divided the "Pangeng" chapter into three sections. Another version was said to have been recovered from a wall of the home of Confucius in 186 BC and interpreted by his descendant Kong Anguo. This version was known as the "Old Text" ( ''gǔ wén'' lit. "ancient script"), because it was originally written in the pre-Qin
seal script 200px, left, Chinese characters for the words 'seal script' in regular script (left) and seal script (right). Seal script () is an ancient Chinese script styles, style of writing Chinese characters that was common throughout the latter half of ...
. Han dynasty sources give contradictory accounts of the nature of this find. According to the commonly repeated account of the ''
Book of Han The ''Book of Han'' or ''History of the Former Han'' is a history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's re ...
'', the Old Text included the chapters preserved by Fu Sheng, another version of the "Great Speech" chapter and some 16 additional chapters. It was part of the
Old TextIn Chinese language, Chinese philology, the Old Texts () refer to some versions of the Five Classics discovered during the Han Dynasty, written in archaic Chinese character, characters and supposedly produced before the To burn the classics and to bu ...
Classics collated by Liu Xiang and championed by his son Liu Xin. A list of 100 chapter titles was also in circulation; many are mentioned in the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', but without quoting the text of the other chapters. The ''Shū'' was designated one of the
Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
when Confucian works made official by
Emperor Wu of Han Emperor Wu of Han (30 July 157BC29 March 87BC), formally posthumous name, enshrined as Emperor Wu the filial piety, Filial (), born Liu Che (劉徹) and courtesy name Tong (通), was the seventh emperor of China, emperor of the Han dynasty of imp ...

Emperor Wu of Han
, and ''Jīng'' ("classic") was added to its name. The term ''Shàngshū'' ("esteemed documents") was also used in the Eastern Han. The
Xiping Stone Classics The Xiping Stone Classics () are a collection of Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Li ...
, set up outside the imperial academy in 175–183 but since destroyed, included a New Text version of the ''Documents''. Most Han dynasty scholars ignored the Old Text, and it disappeared by the end of the dynasty.


"Recovered" Old Text

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 Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, wit ...
. His version consisted of the 33 chapters of the New Text and an additional 25 chapters, with a preface and commentary purportedly written by Kong Anguo. Mei's Old Text became widely accepted. It was the basis of the ''Shàngshū zhèngyì'' ( "Correct interpretation of the ''Documents''"), which was published in 653 and made the official interpretation of the ''Documents'' by imperial decree. The oldest extant copy of the text, included in the
Kaicheng Stone Classics The Kaicheng Stone Classics (開成石經) or Tang Stone Classics are a group of twelve early Chinese classic works carved on the orders of Emperor Wenzong of Tang, Emperor Wenzong of the Tang dynasty in 833–837 (Kaicheng Chinese era name, era) as ...
(833–837), contains all of these chapters. Since 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, ending the Five Dynasties a ...
, starting from Wú Yù (), many doubts had been expressed concerning the provenance of the allegedly rediscovered Old Text chapters of the book. In the 16th century, Méi Zhuó () published a detailed argument that these chapters, as well as the preface and commentary, were forged in the 3rd century AD using material from other historical sources such as the '' Zuo Commentary'' and the ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty ...

Records of the Grand Historian
''. Mei identified the sources from which the forger had cut and pasted text, and even suggested
Huangfu Mi Huangfu Mi (215–282), courtesy name Shi'an (), was a Chinese physician, essayist, historian, poet, and writer who lived through the late Eastern Han dynasty, Three Kingdoms period and early Western Jin dynasty. He was born in a poor farming f ...
as a probable culprit. In the 17th century,
Yan Ruoqu Yan Ruoqu (; November 11, 1636 – July 9, 1704) was an influential Chinese scholar of the early Qing Dynasty. He was born to a scholarly family in Taiyuan, Shanxi. Yan Ruoqu is most famous for proving that the "Old Text" chapters of the Confucian ...
's unpublished but widely distributed manuscript entitled ''Evidential analysis of the Old Text Documents'' ( ''Shàngshū gǔwén shūzhèng'') convinced most scholars that the rediscovered Old Text chapters were forged in the 3rd or 4th centuries.


Modern discoveries

New light has been shed on the ''Book of Documents'' by the recovery between 1993 and 2008 of caches of texts written on bamboo slips from tombs of the
state of Chu Chu (, Hanyu Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of writing from a different writing system to the Latin script, Roman ( ...
in
Jingmen Jingmen () is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, because the sign is located ''already'' wit ...

Jingmen
,
Hubei Hubei (; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to i ...

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 The Guodian Chu Slips () were unearthed in 1993 in Tomb no. 1 of the Guodian tombs in Jingmen, Hubei Province Hubei (; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of Chin ...
and the Shanghai Museum corpus include quotations of previously unknown passages of the work. The
Tsinghua Bamboo SlipsThe Tsinghua Bamboo Slips () are a collection of Chinese texts dating to the Warring States period and written in ink on strips of bamboo, that were acquired in 2008 by Tsinghua University, China. The texts were obtained by illegal excavation, pr ...
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 the editors considered to be versions of the Old Text chapters "Common Possession of Pure Virtue" and "Charge to Yue"
伏說之命
伏說之命
. Other authors have challenged these straightforward identifications.


Contents

In the orthodox arrangement, the work consists of 58 chapters, each with a brief preface traditionally attributed to Confucius, and also includes a preface and commentary, both purportedly by Kong Anguo. An alternative organization, first used by Wu Cheng, includes only the New Text chapters, with the chapter prefaces collected together, but omitting the Kong preface and commentary. In addition, several chapters are divided into two or three parts in the orthodox form.


Nature of the chapters

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. Most of these speeches are of one of five types, indicated by their titles: * Consultations ( ''mó'') between the king and his ministers (2 chapters), * Instructions ( ''xùn'') to the king from his ministers (1 chapter), * Announcements ( ''gào'') by the king to his people (8 chapters), * Declarations ( ''shì'') by a ruler on the occasion of a battle (6 chapters), and * Commands ( ''mìng'') by the king to a specific vassal (7 chapters). Classical Chinese tradition lists six types of ''Shu'', beginning with ''dian'' (2 chapters in the Modern corpus). According to
Su Shi
Su Shi
(1037–1101), it is possible to single out Eight Announcements of the early Zhou, directed to the Shang people. Their titles only partially correspond to the modern chapters marked as ''gao'' (apart of the nos. 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 that mention the genre, Su Shi names nos. 16 "Zi cai", 19 "Duo shi" and 22 "Duo fang"). As pointed out by
Chen Mengjia Chen Mengjia (; 20 April 1911, Nanjing Nanjing ( ), Postal Map Romanization, formerly romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu province of the China, People's Republic of China and the List of cities in China by population, second lar ...

Chen Mengjia
(1911–1966), announcements and commands are similar, but differ in that commands usually include granting of valuable objects, land or servants to their recipients. Guo Changbao (2008) claims that the graph ''gao'' (with "speech" radical, unlike known since the OBI) presently appears on two bronze vessels (''
He zun The He ''zun'' () is an ancient Chinese ritual bronze with zigzag thunder pattern; Early Zhou dynasty; Shanghai Museum , as it is now displayed File:Wine cup (gu), China, Shang dynasty, bronze, Honolulu Academy of Arts.JPG, 310px, ''Gu (vessel ...
'' and ''Shi Zhi gui'' ), as well as in the "six genres" of the '' Zhou li'' () In many cases a speech is introduced with the phrase ''Wáng ruò yuē'' ( "The king seemingly said"), which also appears on commemorative bronze inscriptions from the Western Zhou period, but not in other received texts. Scholars interpret this as meaning that the original documents were prepared scripts of speeches, to be read out by an official on behalf of the king.


Traditional organization

The chapters are grouped into four sections representing different eras: the semi-mythical reign of
Yu the Great Yu the Great (大禹) (c. 2123–2025 BC) was a legendary king in History of China#Ancient China, ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, an ...
, and the three ancient dynasties of the
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...
,
Shang The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty The Xia dynasty is the first ...

Shang
and
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
. The first two sections – on Yu the Great and the Xia dynasty – contain two chapters each in the New Text version, and though they purport to record the earliest material in the ''Documents'', from the 2nd millennium BC, most scholars believe they were written during 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 ...
. The Shang dynasty section contains five chapters, of which the first two – the "Speech of King Tang" and "
Pan Geng Pán Gēng (), personal name Zi Xun, was a Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, su ...
" – recount the conquest of the Xia by the Shang and their leadership's migration to a new capital (now identified as
Anyang Anyang (; ) is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, because the sign is located ''already'' wit ...
). The bulk of the Zhou dynasty section concerns the reign of
King Cheng of Zhou King Cheng of Zhou (), personal name Ji Song (姬誦), was the second king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1042–1021 BCE or 1042/35–1006 BCE. His parents were King Wu of Zhou and Queen Yi Jiang (邑姜). King Cheng was ...

King Cheng of Zhou
(r. c. 1040–1006 BC) and the king's uncles, the
Duke of Zhou Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (), was a member of the royal family of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historical ...
and
Duke of Shao Shi, Duke Kang of Shao (died 1000 BC), or Ji Shi, also known as the Earl of Shao, was a high-ranking minister of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), als ...
. The last four New Text chapters relate to the later Western Zhou and early Spring and Autumn periods.


Dating of the New Text chapters

Not all of the New Text chapters are believed to be contemporaneous with the events they describe, which range from the legendary emperors
Yao Yao or YAO may refer to: * Yao (surname), the transliteration of Chinese family names 姚, 銚, and 么 * Yao (ruler), a mythical Chinese ruler and emperor * Yao Ming, Chinese Basketball All-Star that played for the Houston Rockets * Euphrasie Kouas ...
and Shun to early in the
Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was men ...
. Six of these chapters concern figures prior to the first evidence of writing, the
oracle bones Oracle bones () are pieces of ox scapula or turtle plastron, which were used for pyromancy – a form of divination – in ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty. ''Scapulimancy'' is the correct term if ox scapulae were used for the d ...
dating from the reign of the late Shang king
Wu Ding Wu Ding (), personal name Zǐ Zhāo, was a king of the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium ...
. Moreover, the chapters dealing with the earliest periods are the closest in language and focus to classical works of 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 ...
. The five announcements 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 King Cheng of Zhou (), personal name Ji Song (姬誦), was the second king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1042–1021 BCE or 1042/35–1006 BCE. His parents were King Wu of Zhou and Queen Yi Jiang (邑姜). King Cheng was ...

King Cheng of Zhou
, as well as the
Duke of Zhou Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (), was a member of the royal family of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historical ...
and
Duke of Shao Shi, Duke Kang of Shao (died 1000 BC), or Ji Shi, also known as the Earl of Shao, was a high-ranking minister of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), als ...
, 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 Mandate most often refers to: * League of Nations mandates, quasi-colonial territories established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919 * Mandate (politics), the power granted by an electorate Mandate may also ...
, explaining how the once-virtuous Xia had become corrupt and were replaced by the virtuous Shang, who went through a similar cycle ending in their replacement by the Zhou. The "Timber of Rottlera", "Numerous Officers", "Against Luxurious Ease" and "Numerous Regions" chapters are believed to have been written somewhat later, in the late Western Zhou period. A minority of scholars, pointing to differences in language between the announcements and Zhou bronzes, argue that all of these chapters are products of a commemorative tradition in the late Western Zhou or early Spring and Autumn periods. Chapters dealing with the late Shang and the transition to Zhou 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. The later chapters of the Zhou section are also believed to have been written around this time. The "Gaozong Rongri" chapter comprises only 82 characters, and its interpretation was already disputed in Western Han commentaries. Pointing to the similarity of its title to formulas found in the Anyang
oracle bone inscriptions Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or Turtle shell#Plastron, turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyromantic divinationin the late 2nd millennium BC, and is the earliest known fo ...
,
David Nivison David Shepherd Nivison (January 17, 1923 – October 16, 2014) was an American Sinology, Sinologist and scholar known for his publications on late imperial and ancient Chinese history, philology, and philosophy, and his 40 years as a professor ...
proposed that the chapter was written or recorded by a collateral descendant of
Wu Ding Wu Ding (), personal name Zǐ Zhāo, was a king of the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second millennium ...
in the late Shang period some time after 1140 BC. The "Pan Geng" chapter (later divided into three parts) seems to be intermediate in style between this group and the next. It is the longest speech in the ''Documents'', and is unusual in its extensive use of analogy. Scholars since the Tang dynasty have noted the difficult language of the "Pan Geng" and the Zhou Announcement chapters. Citing the archaic language and worldview, Chinese scholars have argued for a Shang dynasty provenance for the "Pan Geng" chapters, with considerable editing and replacement of the vocabulary by Zhou dynasty authors accounting for the difference in language from Shang inscriptions. The chapters dealing with the legendary emperors, the Xia dynasty and the transition to Shang are very similar in language to such classics as '' The Mencius'' (late 4th century BC). They present idealized rulers, with the earlier political concerns subordinate to moral and cosmological theory, and are believed to be the products of philosophical schools of the late Warring States period. Some chapters, particularly the "Tribute of Yu", may be as late as the Qin dynasty.


Influence in the West

When Jesuit scholars prepared the first translations of Chinese Classics into Latin, they called the ''Shujing'' the "Book of Kings", making a parallel with the
Books of Kings A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. The conc ...
in the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical c ...
. They saw Shang Di as the equivalent of the Christian God, and used passages from the ''Shujing'' in their commentaries on other works.


Notable translations

* * * ; rpt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960. (Full Chinese text with English translation using Legge's own romanization system, with extensive background and annotations.) *
part 1
Prolegomena and chapters 1–26 (up to books of Shang) *
part 2
chapters 27–58 (books of Zhou), indexes * Includes a minor revision of Legge's translation. * Reprinted (1999), Paris: You Feng. * (New Text chapters only) Reprinted as a separate volume by Elanders in 1950. * * * *


Notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


– ''Shang Shu''
at the
Chinese Text Project The Chinese Text Project (CTP; ) is a digital library project that assembles collections of Chinese classics, early Chinese texts. The name of the project in Chinese literally means "The Chinese Philosophical Book Digitization Project", showing its ...
, including both the Chinese text and Legge's English translation (emended to employ pinyin)
Selections from Legge's ''Shu Jing''
(also emended)
Annotated Edition of ''The Book of Documents''


Chinese text with matching English vocabulary at chinesenotes.com {{DEFAULTSORT:Book of Documents Chinese history texts Chinese classic texts
Confucian texts{{Commons category, Confucian texts This Wikipedia:Category, category contains the sacred texts of Confucianism. Confucianism, Texts East Asian religious texts Ancient Chinese philosophical literature Literature in Classical Chinese Scholastic Confu ...
Zhou dynasty texts 1st-millennium BC books Old Chinese Four Books and Five Classics Thirteen Classics