The Four Categories of Literature
The Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" is the chronicle of the state of Lu 魯 between 722 and 479. It is the oldest and the only surviving type of chronicles from the early Eastern Zhou period 東周 (770-221 BC). The book gained such a high position in traditional literature that the whole period covered by it was called the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 770-5th cent. BCE). The entries do not only list the reign year of the individual dukes of Lu and the months but a mid-level headline is inserted indicating the seasons, which gave the chronicle its title. The entries are very brief and concise and not easy to understand if special knowledge of the historical background is lacking. A part of the entries is also missing.
The Spring and Autumn chronicle does not only speak of the events occurring in the state of Lu itself but it also records a lot of events which took place in other states of that period. It is therefore able to give a quite detailed picture of interstate activities during the early Eastern Zhou period, in peace and in wartime. Natural disasters and eclipses of the sun also occupy in important place among the records of the annals. The records of eclipses are of important means for the dating of events and the matching of the old Chinese with the Western calendar.
In ancient times it was believed that Confucius 孔子 had revised the annals of Lu and so created the Spring and Autumn Annals. Confucius himself came from the state of Lu, and when Confucianism was made the state doctrine of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), authorship of the Annals was attributed to him. This assumption was founded by the Han period scholars Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒, Sima Qian 司馬遷 and Huan Kuan 桓寬. Lu was certainly not the only state having the institution of a historiographical office. The existence of such an office is at least known for theof states of Jin 晉, Qi 齊, Chu 楚 and Song 宋. The annals of the state of Chu had been called Taowu 檮杌, that of the state of Jin Cheng 乘. There are no fragments preserved of those annals. Of course Confucius knew the chronicle of Lu and its contents and held it in high esteem because it provided a lot of material for his interpretation of how a good government should work and what was to be avoided. The Jin period scholar Du Yu 杜預 was the first who believed that the Chunqiu Annals included not only neutral statements, but that the wording of the entries included praise and blame (bao bian 褒貶) for political actors. This assumption was later criticized by the Song period master Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 who said that such an interpretations had only distorted the original, simply historiographical content of the Chunqiu.
The language of the Chunqiu is very concise and often obscure. It records all important political events in the state of Lu during the reign of twelve dukes, as well as inter-state relationship between Lu and the other feudal states of the Zhou empire, but also events that took place in other states. The Chunqiu is therefore to be seen as a chronicle of the early Eastern Zhou period from the viewpoint of the state of Lu. The annals include information about military campaigns, interstate alliances and meetings, rebellions, state sacrifices, natural diasters, and also eclipses of the sun and the moon. The latter are of great importance to show how exact the calendar of ancient China was and help to date certain events.
The Chunqiu is since Du Yu's revision during the Jin period only in circulation in joint editions with the text of the Zuozhuan 左傳, which is a kind of commentary and narrative extension of the Chunqiu. The two most important ancient proper commentaries to the Chunqiu are the Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 and the Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳. Editions of the tree commentaries (sanzhuan 三傳) written to the Chunqiu also include the main text of the Chunqiu, sometimes with a wording that differs from the transmitted version of the Chunqiu. There are only very small differences between the Chunqiu texts which proves that the text was standardized at a very early point of time.
The Zuozhuan 左傳 "Commentary of Zuo [Qiuming]"
The Zuozhuan 左傳 "Commentary of Zuo" is a commentary and parallel version to the chronicle Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". It is attributed to a certain Zuo Qiuming 左丘明. The Zuozhuan commentary as a very narrative text became so important for the interpretation and later use of the Chunqiu that it is commonly merged with the latter to the unit Chunqiu-Zuozhuan. It was, with even more stress on the commentary, called Zuoshi chunqiu 左氏春秋 "Spring and Autumn of Master Zuo".
Zuo Qiuming is said to have lived in the state of Lu in the early 6th century, as a contemporarian of Confucius, but somewhat younger than the great master. The Qing period scholar Zhu Yizun 朱彝尊 believed that Zuoqiu was a double-character family name. Yu Zhengxie 俞正燮 was of the opinion that his name was Qiu Ming 邱明 (丘明), while zuo was the designation of his office, namely "scribe to the left" (zuoshi 左史). History says the Zuo Qiuming wrote the Zuozhuan as a commentary in order to clarify obscure statements in the Chunqiu. The book must in fact have been compiled later, during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BC). The Tang period scholar Zhao Kuang 趙匡 was the first who doubted that "Master Zuo" was identical to Zuo Qiuming. The Qing period scholar Yao Nai 姚鼐 argued that the book must have been compiled by several persons, and assumed that one of the authors was the politician and military writer Wu Qi 吳起, or the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) imperial librarian Liu Xin 劉歆. The date of compilation is unclear. The Qing scholar Cui Shu 崔述根 assumed that is was compiled in the late Warring States period. The Japanese scholar Kano Naoki 狩野直喜 argues that it must have been written during the time of Duke Xiao of Qin 秦孝公 (r. 362-338). Yang Bojun gives a time frame of between 403 and 389 BCE. From these dates it can be seen that Confucius' disciple Zuo Qiuming cannot have been the author of the Zuozhuan.
While the shortness of the Chunqiu text can be explained by the method to write down a few words as a kind of aide-mémoire for a history transmitted orally, the narrative text of the Zuozhuan dates from a time when historiographers exactly wrote down what happened and what acting persons said in particular situations. This kind of historiography can also be found in the histories Guoyu 國語 "Discourses of the States" and the Zhanguoce 戰國策 "Stratagems of the Warring States", writing about history of the Spring and Autumn 春秋 (770 - 5th cent. BCE) and the Warring States period, respectively. In the concept of Confucian historiography the Chunqiu was seen as the warp threads (gang 綱), whereas the Zuozhuan represented the filling threads (mu 目). These "filling threads" were probably added by early Confucian disciples of the state of Wei 魏. For the compilation of the Zuozhuan they made use of other sources unknown in the state of Lu 魯, where the Chunqiu chronicle had been written, namely parts of the Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", as well as chronicles of other states, as the Zhouzhi 周志 "Records of [the royal house of] Zhou" or the Zhengshu 鄭書 "The book of the state of Zheng". The Zuozhuan is extremely helpful to understand the short and often obscure entries of the Chunqiu. For example, there is an entry of the first year of Duke Yin 魯隱公 (r. 722-712) providing not more information than that the Earl of Zheng defeated the ruler of the statelet of Duan 段 at a place called Yan (Zheng bo ke Duan yu Yan. 鄭伯克段於鄢。). The Zuozhuan adds a more than 500 words long story of this event, describes the atrocious intrigue of the Earl of Zheng, the deceitful behaviour of Gong Shu Duan 共叔段, and the decisive role of consort Wu Jiang 武姜 in the affair that covered ten years before it evolved into a military campaign.
The detailed description of military activities is one of the strengths of the Zuozhuan. It narrates more than 400 campaigns and their pre-history, the movements of the battlefield, the tactics of the generals, and the results. Among these, some were of a high importance for the surviving of the feudal states, like the battle of Chengpu 城濮 in 632 between Jin 晉 and Chu 楚, the battle of Yao 殽 in 627 between Qin 秦 and Jin, the battle of Bi 邲 in 597 beween Jin and Chu, the battle of An 鞌 in 589 between Qi 齊 and Jin, or that of Yanling 鄢陵 in 575 between Jin and Chu. Interstate meetings and diplomatic envoys are likewise an important theme in the Zuozhuan. The right use of words in conversation (duici 對辭) was of greatest importance for diplomatic success, and such details can only be covered in a narrative type of history, like the Zuozhuan, and not in the concise statements of the Chunqiu. The Zuozhuan includes numerous examples how skilled diplomats contributed to the success of their missions. In many instances the author of the Zuozhuan includes his own critical commentary to historical events, and praised them as "proper" (li 禮) or as incorrect (fei li 非禮).
Duke Huan of Qi 齊桓公 (r. 685-643), for instance, is held in high esteem because he was able to restore order among the feudal states as the first hegemonial lord (ba 霸), yet on the other side, his moral conduct is criticized, as well as his political intrigues with Prince Chong'er 重耳 of Jin. Duke Ling of Jin 晉靈公 (r. 621-607) is rated as "not behaving like a lord" (bu jun 不君), Duke Ling of Chen 陳靈公 (r. 614-599) is harshly criticized for his audacity to wear sacrificial robes at the court, Duke Zhuang of Qi 齊莊公 (r. 554-548) for his indulgence in banquets and the improper conduct of his courtiers. Loyal and responsible courtiers are praised, like Yan Ying 晏嬰, Shu Xiang 叔向, or the politician Zichan 子產. Political theories are also to be found, like in the statements of Ji Liang of Sui 随季梁, Sima Ziyu 司馬子魚 of Song 宋, Shi Kuang 師曠 of Jin, Han Xianzi 韓獻子, Yan Ying, Shu Xiang, Yin Yi Sheng 陰飴甥, or Feng Hua 逢滑.
The Zuozhuan - often referred to as a "commentary" - is after all a different report of the same events as the Chunqiu Annals with a few significant differences. First, it covers a longer period than the Chunqiu, that is until 463 BCE (the Chunqiu only to 479), when the Earl of Zhi 知伯, a nobleman in the state of Jin, was killed. The Zuozhuan also gives an account of the birth of Duke Yin and of his accession to the throne of Lu. The second, even more noticeable, is the more narrative character of the Zuozhuan who makes a quite readable anecdote collection out of the dry, enigmatic Chunqiu classic. There are many events reported in the Zuozhuan that are not mentioned at all in the Chunqiu and vice versa, so one can barely say the Zuozhuan is a commentary to the old annals. The problem does not come up in Chinese where the word zhuan 傳 "commentary" can also be read as chuan which means "tradition", "transmission". The title of Zuozhuan can thus also be interpreted as something like "the version of Zuo". The Zuozhuan broadly reports visits of the feudal lords to each other, state meetings and the conclusion of alliances, wars, hunting tours, the erection of city walls, marriages among the nobility, rebellions, murders, the history of individual noble houses and their extinction, and so gives a detailed overview of the social happenings and activities of the ruling class. Yet other social groups are also mentioned, especially merchants, diviners, assassins, musicians, consorts, craftsmen and slaves. It provides an overview of the rise and fall of the institution of hegemonial lord that was initiated by Duke Huan of Qi, brought into a mature state by Duke Wen of Jin 晉文公 (r. 636-628), and was then taken over by Duke Mu of Qin 秦穆公 (r. 659-621), and then the native kings Zhuang of Chu 楚莊王 (r. 613-591), He Lü of Wu 吳王闔閭 (r. 514-496 BCE) and Gou Jian of Yue 越王句踐 (r. 495- 465). The Zuozhuan furthermore clearly describes how the ducal power in some of the feudal states fell into the hands of sidelines or noble families, like the Jisun 季孫 in Lu, Tian 田 in Qi, and the houses of Han 韓, Zhao 趙 and Wei 魏 in Jin. It gives insight into political reforms like those under Zichan in the state of Zheng 鄭.
A lot of statements in the Zuozhuan show that the late Spring and Autumn period was an age in which the ancient belief in the influence of ghosts and demons was more and more replaced with a belief in the Five Processes (wuxing 五行). Aerolites (stony meteorites, yunshi 隕石), for instance, were by royal secretary (neishi 内史) Shu Xing 叔興 explained as a matter of Yin and Yang 陰陽, and not as an inauspicious omina. Similarly, a physician in the state of Qin believed that illness was influenced by the "six (meteorological) energies (liuqi 六氣)", and not by demons. Zi Shen 梓慎 and Shusun Zhaozi 叔孫昭子 from Lu explained that solar eclipses and inundations were the result of the agency of Yin and Yang. Shi Mo 史墨 from Jin explained that the earth possesses the Five Processes, Zihan 子罕 from Song said that Heaven produces the Five Agents (wucai 五材), and the famous politician Zichan from Zheng argued that the Heavenly Way is far away, while the Human Way (rendao 人道) was close by, and that nature cannot be appeased by offering gifts.
A kind of basic dialectic thought can be found in some statement of the philosopher Yan Ying who deliberated about similarities and contradictions, as well as mutual completion and mutual support. Shi Mo from Jin is quoted with a statement about the changing nature of rulership and even the impermanence of dynasties (symbolized in their offering rituals).
The Zuozhuan was often criticized for the illustrative, vivid and narrative style of its stories that stands in deep contrast to the short and dry statements in the Chunqiu. On the other side, this contrast demonstrates that the Zuozhuan has a high literary standing that goes far beyond the frame of historiography. Liu Zhiji 劉知幾, the great Tang period critic of historiography, therefore praised the Zuozhuan for its important contribution, and the Qing period scholar Liu Xizai 劉熙載 even said that it was the best of all histories. It therefore served as a rich source for later histories and is abundantly quoted in Sima Qian's 司馬遷 Shiji 史記 from the Han period and Sima Guang's 司馬光 Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279).
During the Han period the Zuozhuan was ranked among the old text classics and did first not find its way into the canon of Confucian classics. The Zuozhuan was nevertheless very popular because of its rich fund of stories from antiquity. During the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316) Du Yu 杜預 wrote a first commentary, the Chunqiu jingzhuan jijie 春秋經傳集解. He was also the first to merge the two texts of the Chunqiu and the Zuozhuan into one inseparable unit. He thus contributed enormously to the status the Zuozhuan won over the two Han period Confucianist commentaries to the Chunqiu, the Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 and the Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳. The Tang period scholar Kong Yingda 孔穎達 wrote his famous shu 疏 commentaries to the Classics and further cemented the unity of Chunqiu and Zuozhuan. The most important Qing period 清 (1644-1911) commentaries are Hong Liangji's 洪亮吉 Chunqiu-Zuozhuan gu 春秋左傳詁, Gu Yanwu's 顧炎武 Zuozhuan Du zhu buzheng 左傳杜注補正, Hui Dong's 惠棟 Zuozhuan buzhu 左傳補注 and Liu Wenqi's 劉文淇 Chunqiu-Zuozhuan jiu zhushu zheng 春秋左傳舊注疏證. The most recent commentary is Yang Bojun's 楊伯峻 Chunqiu-Zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注.
The Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 "Commentary by Gongyang [Gao]"
The Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 is a commentary to the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". It is said to have been written by Gongyang Gao 公羊高, a disciple of Zixia 子夏, who was himself a disciple of Confucius. During the reign of Emperor Jing 漢景帝 (r. 157-141 BCE) of the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) it was declared a part of the Confucian Canon to be studied in the National University (taixue 太學). The most important professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") for the Gongyang commentary to the Chunqiu classic was Gongsun Hong 公孫弘 who taught during the reign of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE). No less important was his predecessor Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒, an expert on the Chunqiu who also wrote the sub-classic Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 "Rich Dew of Spring and Autumn".
The Gongyang commentary is based on a lot of older explanations to the events recorded in the Chunqiu chronicle. Although the names of Luzi 魯子, Gaozi 高子, Zi Shenzi 子沈子 and Zi Simazi 子司馬子 are mentioned nothing is known about their lives or their writings. What is certain is that there was a long tradition among the disciples of Confucius to interprete the Chunqiu annals with their own philosophy. The text obtained its final shape in the mid of the Former Han period, probably by the hands of Gongyang Shou 公羊壽 and Master Humu 胡毋生. It is thus a book of the new text classic tradition.
The Gongyang commentary works with a question-and-answer pattern to explain the political meaning of a certain event or action. All explanations fit into the Confucian concept of how an ideal government, based on ritual and etiquette, should look like. The Chunqiu was thus interpreted as an exemplary book to be read by a ruler who then was instructed on good government. Bad outcome of a battle is interpreted as a lack in etiquette or as a punishment for the evil deeds of a ruler in the past. The Gongyangzhuan has two main concepts of state and society, namely a great unity (da yi tong 大一統), and secondly, a historical development in three phases (san shi shuo 三世).
The commentaries to the entries of 37 years in the Chunqiu annals are missing.
The oldest commentary to the Gongyangzhuan is that of the Later Han period scholar He Xiu 何休. For his Chunqiu Gongyang jiegu 春秋公羊解詁 he had made use of older explanations written by the early Gongyang professor Master Humu. The next commentary was written by the Song period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Xu Yan 徐彥 (Gongyangzhuan shu 公羊傳疏). Both commentaries are unified in the Chunqiu Gongyangzhuan zhushu 春秋公羊傳注疏, with the zhu commentary of He Xiu and the shu commentary of Xu Yan. The Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Chen Li 陳立 has written a summarizing commentary called Chunqiu Gongyang yishu 春秋公羊義疏.
The Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳 "Commentary by Guliang [Chi]"
The Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳 is a commentary to the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". It is traditionally attributed to Guliang Chi 穀梁赤 (also called Guliang Xi 穀梁喜 or Guliang Shu 穀梁淑) from the state of Lu 魯 who had obtained the Chunqiu annals from Confucius' disciple Zixia 子夏 and wrote a commentar to it. The book is in fact the result of a commentary tradition which found its final codification at the beginning of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). During the reign of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE) it became part of the Confucian Canon that built the curriculum in the National University (taixue 太學).
Although the principle of commenting the entries of the Chunqiu annals and the objective to make a moral evaluation of the political events is the same as in the Gongyang commentary there are differences between the interpretation of the two.
During the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) Fan Ning 范寧 wrote a summary commentary to the Gulianzhuan called Chunqiu Guliangzhuan jijie 春秋穀梁傳集解. The Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Yang Shixun 楊士勛 compiled another commentary. Both are united as Chunqiu Guliangzhuan zhushu 春秋穀梁傳注疏, with the zhu commentary of Fan Ning and the shu commentary of Yang Shixun. During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911), Zhong Wenzheng 鍾文蒸 compiled the Guliang buzhu 穀梁補注.
The two commentaries by Gongyang and Guliang are two surviving of a whole of four. The two lost commentaries were written by Master Zou 鄒氏 and Master Xia 夾氏.
|Contents of the Chunqiu|
魯隱公 Duke Yin the Obscured 722-712
魯桓公 Duke Huan the Effector 711-694
魯莊公 Duke Zhuang the Dignified 693-662
魯閔（湣）公 Duke Min the Grievable 661-660
魯僖（釐）公 Duke Xi the Joyful 659-627
魯文公 Duke Wen the Cultured 626-609
魯宣公 Duke Xuan the Propagator 608-591
魯成公 Duke Cheng the Completer 590-573
魯襄公 Duke Xiang the Accomplisher 572-542
魯昭公 Duke Zhao the Prominent 541-510
魯定公 Duke Ding the Settler 509-495
魯哀公 Duke Ai the Lamentable 494-467
Sources: Yang Weisheng 楊渭生 (1986), "Chunqiu 春秋", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, p. 97. ● Zhu Hongda 朱宏達 (1986), "Zuozhuan 左傳", in idem, Vol. 2. p. 1318-1319. ● Chen Jinsheng 陳金生 (1987), "Chunqiu Zuoshizhuan 春秋左氏傳", "Chunqiu Gongyangzhuan 春秋公羊傳", "Chunqiu Guliangzhuan 春秋穀梁傳", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, pp. 104, 104, 104-105. ● Luo Shilie 羅世烈 (1992), "Chunqiu 春秋", "Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳", "Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳" , "Zuozhuan 左傳", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhonguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, pp. 125 f., 254 f., 260; Vol. 3, p. 1638-1639.
July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
Chinese Literature over time