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, chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for histori ...
of ancient China. It begins in the earliest legendary time (the age of the
Yellow Emperor The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow Thearch, or by his Chinese name Huangdi (), is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (m ...

Yellow Emperor
) and extends to 299 BC, with the later centuries focusing on the history of the
State of Wei Wei (; ; Old Chinese: *') was one of the seven major State (Ancient China), states during the Warring States period of ancient China. It was created from the three-way Partition of Jin, together with Han (state), Han and Zhao (state), Zhao. Its t ...
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 Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early 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 H ...

Sima Qian
's ''
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
'' (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 King Xiang of Wei () (died 296 BC), personal name Wei Si (), was king of Wei from 318 BC to 296 BC. He was the son of King Hui of Wei King Hui of Wei (; 400-319 BC), originally called Marquis Hui of Wei, and after 344, King Hui of Liang () was the ...
(died 296 BC) and re-discovered nearly six centuries later in 281 AD (
Western Jin dynasty Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska Western is a village in Saline County, Nebraska, Saline County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 235 at the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census. History Western was laid out in 187 ...
) in the
Jizhong discoveryThe Jizhong (汲冢 or Jijun 汲君, northern part of present Henan Henan (; Chinese postal romanization, alternatively Honan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of China, in the Central China, central part of the country. Henan is o ...
. For this reason, the chronicle survived the burning of the books by Emperor
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 ...
. Other texts recovered from the same tomb included '' Guoyu'', ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text and 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 prohibiti ...
, 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 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 ...
, 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 the tra ...
, 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 Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kuan ...
. 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 historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
. The narrative is interspersed with longer passages on portents, which are identical to passages in the late 5th century ''
Book of Song The ''Book of Song'' (''Sòng Shū'') is a historical text of the Liu Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties of history of China, China. It covers history from 420 to 479, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories, a traditional collection of histo ...
''. The second scroll contains a more detailed account of the history of the
Western Zhou The Western Zhou ( zh, c=, p=Xīzhōu; c. 1045 BC – 771 BC) was the first half of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. It began when King Wu of Zhou King Wu of Zhou () was the first king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the ...
, the state of Jin and its successor state Wei, and has no portent passages. This version gave years according to the
sexagenary cycle The sexagenary cycle, also known as the Stems-and-Branches or ganzhi ( zh, 干支, gānzhī), is a cycle of sixty terms, each corresponding to one year, thus a total of sixty years for one cycle, historically used for recording time in China and t ...
, a practice that began in 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
. Discrepancies between the text and quotations of the earlier text in older books led scholars such as
Qian Daxin
Qian Daxin
and Shinzō Shinjō to dismiss the "current" version as a forgery, a view still widely held. Other scholars, notably David Shepherd Nivison, David Nivison and Edward L. Shaughnessy, 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 (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.


* Édouard Biot, Biot, Édouard (1841–42)
"Tchou-chou-ki-nien, Annales de bambou Tablettes chronologiques du Livre écrit sur bambou"
''Journal asiatique'', Third series, 12, pp
and 13, pp
*James Legge, 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. *David Nivison, 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. Bamboo and wooden slips Chinese history texts 4th-century BC history books Chinese chronicles