Organizer: David S. Nivison, Stanford University
Chair: David N. Keightley, University of California, Berkeley
Discussants: Noel Barnard, The Australian National University; David N. Keightley, University of California, Berkeley
This panel honors the 20th anniversary of the founding of the periodical Early China, and of the Society for the Study of Early China. Three papers will probe further certain possibilities that the three authors have explored in articles in Early China, of using old texts, inscriptions and astronomical and astrological details found in them, to render very early Chinese chronology precise, and then to use this information to gain a deeper and richer understanding of early history, art and culture. D. W. Pankenier (Lehigh) develops the concept of what he calls "astrological history," seen already notably in his EC article "Mozi and the Dates of Xia, Shang and Zhou" (EC 9-10), with examples both in early Chinese and early Near Eastern material. D. S. Nivison (Stanford) reexamines a discovery by E. L. Shaughnessy (Chicago), published in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies in 1986 and pursued in EC. 11-12, that gives the long maligned Bamboo Annals the importance that a book found in a recent Warring States tomb excavation would have. Shaughnessy's paper will show how the analysis of lunar dates in certain bronze inscriptions of the middle Western Zhou justifies a hypothesis of bench marks for the art historian, with implications for wider aspects of history. Professor David N. Keightley, one of the founding editors of Early China, will be chairman. Both he and Dr. Noel Barnard of Australia, world renowned expert on ancient Chinese bronzes, will be commentators.
David W. Pankenier, Lehigh University
"Astrological History" refers to a spectrum of thinking in which significant celestial moments (e.g., eclipses, cometary apparitions, planetary conjunctions) are thought to influence the course of history. In such conceptions this influence may range from being the merest indication of impending events to being the actual efficient cause of change on earth. Taken together, the discovery of verifiable Chinese observations of singularly impressive planetary massings, beginning in the early 2nd millennium BCE, their association with dynastic change as the requisite sign of heavenly endorsement, their connection with Five Phases (wu xing) correlative theory, as well as their subsequent role in portentology and mathematical astronomy (calendrics) during the imperial period, raise important questions regarding early Chinese notions of astrological history. This paper explores the history of planetary astrology in Ancient China in an effort to clarify the distinctive role played by portentous celestial events in Chinese thinking about the historical process, chronology, and the cyclical movement of time. Where instructive, Chinese conceptions will be compared with analogous developments in western Asia and the Mediterranean area where astrological history took on a distinctly teleological cast.
David S. Nivison, Stanford University
In 1986, E. L. Shaughnessy reported his discovery that in the "Modern Text" Bamboo Annals (Jinben Zhushu jinian) a forty space bamboo slip has been moved from the middle of the (Zhou) Cheng Wang chronicle to the end of Wu Wang, with the effect that Wu's death was made to fall in his 17th year rather than in his 14th year. This discovery proves that the "modern text," long thought to be a fake, is for the most part genuine. In this sense Shaughnessy has given us back a lost book from a Warring States tomb. But Shaughnessy argued that the slip transposition was done by Jin Dynasty court scholars in the 3rd century CE, as they worked on the newly discovered tomb text. If Jin scholars took such liberties, then any chronological deductions we make on the basis of dates in the Bamboo Annals are unfounded. I will argue that Shaughnessy "slipped" in ascribing this slip moving to Jin Dynasty guesswork, and that the move must have been made six centuries earlier. It is possible, furthermore, that this was done not accidentally, but deliberately, and for precise reasons that we could hope to reconstruct. Such a reconstruction might enable us to discover the original dating scheme in the Annals,which would be worth knowing, though it might or might not be the historical truth.
Edward L. Shaughnessy, University of Chicago
One of the most important unresolved issues in the study of the Western Zhou is the name by which a king was called during his life. Several bronze inscriptions from the first half of the dynasty refer to kings by title (e.g., King Wu, King Mu, etc.); some scholars interpret these as references to the reigning king, while others insist that they must be posthumous. Since these inscriptions have been regarded as "standards" on which virtually all bronze periodizations are based, the interpretation of these references has very broad implications for all aspects of Western Zhou history. I propose to examine in detail one bronze vessel related to one of these standards, the Qiu Wei qui. I will use the full date notation of its inscription, as well as several other periodization criteria, to argue that the vessel must date to the reign of King Mu, and will try to show that this requires that kings, at least through the first half of the Western Zhou dynasty, were called by title during their lives.
Would you like to return to the China & Inner Asia Table of Contents? Choose another area?