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The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or ''Chunqiu'' is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core
Chinese classics Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics The Four Books and ...
since ancient times. The ''
Annals Annals ( la, annāles, from , "year") are a concise historical History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the History of writing#I ...
'' is the official chronicle of the
State of Lu Lu (, c. 1042–249 BC) was a vassal state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a ...

State of Lu
, and covers a 241-year period from 722 to 481 BC. It is the earliest surviving Chinese historical text to be arranged in annals form. Because it was traditionally regarded as having been compiled by
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools ...
(after a claim to this effect by
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
), it was included as 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 Chinese literature. The ''Annals'' records main events that occurred in Lu during each year, such as the accessions, marriages, deaths, and funerals of rulers, battles fought, sacrificial rituals observed, celestial phenomena considered ritually important, and natural disasters. The entries are tersely written, averaging only 10 characters per entry, and contain no elaboration on events or recording of speeches. 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 ...
(475221), a number of commentaries to the ''Annals'' were created that attempted to elaborate on or find deeper meaning in the brief entries in the ''Annals''. The ''Commentary of Zuo (Zuo zhuan'' 左傳'')'', the best known of these commentaries, became a classic in its own right, and is the source of more Chinese sayings and idioms than any other classical work.


History and content

The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' was likely composed in the 5th century BC, and apart from the ''
Bamboo Annals The ''Bamboo Annals'' (), also known as the ''Ji Tomb Annals'' (), is a chronicle A chronicle ( la, chronica, from Greek language, Greek ''chroniká'', from , ''chrónos'' – "time") is a historical account of events arranged in chronology, ...
'' is the only such work to have survived from that period. By the time of
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools ...
, in the 6th century BC, the term "springs and autumns" (''chūnqiū'' ,
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 125 ...
*''tʰun tsʰiw'') had come to mean "year" and was probably becoming a generic term for "annals" or "scribal records". The ''Annals'' was not the only work of its kind, as many other Eastern Zhou states also kept annals in their archives. The ''Annals'' is a succinct scribal record, with terse entries that record events such as the accessions, marriages, deaths, and funerals of rulers, battles fought, sacrificial records observed, natural disasters, and celestial phenomena believed to be of ritual significance. The entries average only 10 characters in length; the longest entry in the entire work is only 47 characters long, and a number of the entries are only a single character long. There are 11 entries that read simply *''tung'' (), meaning "a plague of insects" (probably
locusts Locusts (derived from the Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the ...

locusts
). Some modern scholars have questioned whether the entries were ever originally intended as a chronicle for human readers, and have suggested that the ''Annals'' entries may have been intended as "ritual messages directed primarily to the ancestral spirits."


Commentaries

Since the text of this book is terse and its contents limited, a number of commentaries were composed to annotate the text, and explain and expand on its meanings. 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 ...
'' vol. 30 lists five commentaries: * The ''Commentary of Zou'' (鄒氏傳) * The ''Commentary of Jia'' (夾氏傳) * The '' Commentary of Gongyang'' (公羊傳) * The '' Commentary of Guliang'' (榖梁傳) * The ''
Commentary of Zuo
Commentary of Zuo
'' (左氏傳 also known as 左氏春秋) No text of the ''Zou'' or ''Jia'' commentaries has survived. The surviving commentaries are known collectively as the ''Three Commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals'' (). Both 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 ...
'' 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
'' provide detailed accounts of the origins of the three texts. The ''Gongyang'' and ''Guliang'' commentaries were compiled during the 2nd-century BC, although modern scholars had suggested they probably incorporate earlier written and oral traditions of explanation from the period of
Warring States 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 ...
. They are based upon different editions of the ''Spring and Autumn Annals'', and are phrased as questions and answers. The '' Commentary of Zuo'', also known as the ''Zuo Zhuan'', composed in the early 4th-century BC, is a general history covering the period from 722 to 468 BC which follows the succession of the rulers of the
State of Lu Lu (, c. 1042–249 BC) was a vassal state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a ...
. In the 3rd-century AD, the Chinese scholar
Du Yu Du Yu (222–285), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Viet ...
interpolated the ''Zuo Zhuan'' with the ''Annals'' so that each entry of the ''Annals'' was followed by the corresponding passages of the ''Zuo Zhuan''. Du Yu's version of the text was the basis for the "Right Meaning of the ''Annals''" ( ) which became the imperially authorised text and commentary on the ''Annals'' in 653 AD. Modern scholars disagree about whether the ''Zuo Zhuan'' is truly a commentary on the ''Spring and Autumn Annals'' or an independent work. In any case, scholars have found it by far the most useful among the three surviving 'commentaries' both as a historical source for the period and as a guide to interpreting the ''Annals''.


Influence

The ''Annals'' is one of the core Chinese classics and had an enormous influence on Chinese intellectual discourse for nearly 2,500 years. This was due to
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
' assertion in the 4th century that Confucius himself edited the ''Annals'', an assertion which was accepted by the entire Chinese scholarly tradition and went almost entirely unchallenged until the early 20th century. The ''Annals terse style was interpreted as Confucius' deliberate attempt to convey "lofty principles in subtle words" (''wēiyán dàyì'' 微言大義). Not all scholars accepted this explanation:
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 ...
historiographer
Liu ZhijiLiu Zhiji () (661–721), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and V ...
believed the ''Commentary of Zuo'' was far superior to the ''Annals'', and
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 ...
prime minister
Wang Anshi Wang Anshi ; ; December 8, 1021 – May 21, 1086), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, includi ...

Wang Anshi
famously dismissed the ''Annals'' as "a fragmentary court gazette (''duànlàn cháobào'' )". Many Western scholars have given similar evaluations: the French sinologist
Édouard Chavannes
Édouard Chavannes
referred to the ''Annals'' as "an arid and dead chronicle". The ''Annals'' have become so evocative of the era in which they were composed that it is now widely referred to as 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 ...
.


Translations

*
part 1
an
part 2
at the
Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music ...
; also with
Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese, Standard Mandari ...

Pinyin
transliteration
here
. * Reprinted (1951), Paris: Cathasia. * * Watson, Burton (1989). ''The Tso Chuan: Selections from China's Oldest Narrative History''. New York: Columbia University Press. * Miller, Harry (2015). ''The Gongyang Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals: A Full Translation''. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


See also

*''
Lüshi Chunqiu The ''Lüshi Chunqiu'', also known in English as ''Master Lü's Spring and Autumn Annals'', is an encyclopedic Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BC under the patronage of the Qin Dynasty Chancellor Lü Buwei. In the evaluation of Michae ...
'' *'' Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue''


References


Works cited

* * *


External links

* * *
Full text of ''Spring and Autumn Annals''
(Chinese)

Chinaknowledge.de {{DEFAULTSORT:Spring And Autumn Annals 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 ...
5th-century BC history books Chinese chronicles Works of unknown authorship Zhou dynasty texts Lu (state) Four Books and Five Classics