Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" is the chronicle of the regional state of Lu 魯 between 722 and 479 BCE. It is the oldest and the only surviving type of chronicles from the early Eastern Zhou period 東周 (770-221 BCE). It is one of the Five Confucian Classics (wujing 五經).
|The "Composite" Classics|
|春秋||Chunqiu||"The Spring and Autumn Annals"|
|左傳||Zuozhuan||"The Commentary of Zuo (Qiuming)" 左丘明|
|公羊傳||Gongyangzhuan||Commentary of Gongyang (Gao) 公羊高|
|穀梁傳||Guliangzhuan||Commentary of Guliang (Xi) 穀梁喜|
|春秋繁露||Chunqiu fanlu||(Han) 董仲舒 Dong Zhongshu|
|(Han) 鄭玄 Zheng Xuan|
The book gained such a high renown 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 mid-level headlines are inserted indicating the seasons, which gave the chronicle its title. The entries in the chronicle are very brief and concise and not easy to understand without special knowledge of the historical background. A part of the entries is also missing.
|魯隱公||Lu Yingong||Duke Yin||(722-712)|
|魯桓公||Lu Huangong||Duke Huan||(711-694)|
|魯莊公||Lu Zhuanggong||Duke Zhuang||(693-662)|
|魯閔(湣)公||Lu Mingong||Duke Min||(661-660)|
|魯僖(釐)公||Lu Xigong||Duke Xi||(659-627)|
|魯文公||Lu Wengong||Duke Wen||(626-609)|
|魯宣公||Lu Xuangong||Duke Xuan||(608-591)|
|魯成公||Lu Chenggong||Duke Cheng||(590-573)|
|魯襄公||Lu Xianggong||Duke Xiang||(572-542)|
|魯昭公||Lu Zhaogong||Duke Zhao||(541-510)|
|魯定公||Lu Dinggong||Duke Ding||(509-495)|
|魯哀公||Lu Aigong||Duke Ai||(494-467)|
The Chunqiu ends in 479 (Aigong 16) with the death of Confucius, yet the Zuozhuan stops in 468 (Aigong 27).
The Spring and Autumn Chronicle does not only speak of events in the state of Lu itself but it also records a great number of events which took place in other regional states of that period. Thus it can supply quite a detailed picture of interstate activities during the early Eastern Zhou, 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 an important means for the dating of events and the matching of the old Chinese calendar with the Western one.
In ancient times it was believed that Confucius had revised the annals of Lu and so created the Spring and Autumn Annals. Confucius himself hailed from the state of Lu, and when Confucianism was made the state doctrine of the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) empire, authorship of the Annals was attributed to him. This assumption goes back to the Han period scholars Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 (179-104 BCE), Sima Qian 司馬遷 (145 or 135 – 86 BCE) and Huan Kuan 桓寬.
Lu was certainly not the only state to possess the institution of a historiographical office. The existence of such an office is at least known for the states of Jin 晉, Qi 齊, Chu 楚 and Song 宋. The annals of Chu had been called Taowu 檮杌 (probably not a Chinese word), and that of Jin Cheng 乘. No fragments are preserved of those annals. The books Chushi taowu 楚史檮杌 and Jinshicheng 晉史乘 are artificial "reconstructions".
Of course Confucius knew the chronicle of Lu and its contents and held it in high esteem because it provided a wealth of material for his interpretation of how a good government should work and what was to be avoided. The Jin-period 晉 (265-420) scholar Du Yu 杜預 (222-284) was the first to believe that the Spring and Autumn 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 宋 (960-1279) master Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 (1104-1162), who said that such interpretations had only distorted the original, simply historiographical, content of the Chunqiu.
The language of the Annals 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 interstate relationships between Lu and the other regional 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 two most important ancient proper commentaries on the Chunqiu are the Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 and the Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳. Editions of the "three commentaries" (sanzhuan 三傳, inluding the Zuozhuan 左傳, Gongyangzhuan, Guliangzhuan) on the Chunqiu also include the main text of the Chunqiu, sometimes with a wording that differs from the transmitted version of the core text, but such cases are quite rare so that it must be assumed that the text of the Annals was standardized at a very early point of time.
The Chunqiu is since Du Yu's revision only in circulation in joint editions with the text of the Zuozhuan, which is a kind of commentary and narrative extension of the Chunqiu.
Zuozhuan 左傳 "Commentary of Zuo" is a commentary and parallel version to the chronicle Chunqiu "Spring and Autumn Annals". Authorship is attributed to a certain Zuo Qiuming 左丘明 (c. 502- c.422 BCE). The Zuozhuan commentary as a very narrative text became so important for the interpretation and later use of the Chunqiu that it is commonly blended with the latter to the "composite" unit Chunqiu-Zuozhuan 春秋左傳. It was, with even more stress on the commentary, called Zuoshi chunqiu 左氏春秋 "Master Zuo’s Spring and Autumn".
Zuo Qiuming is said to have lived in the state of Lu in the early 6th century, as a contemporary of Confucius, but somewhat younger than the great master. The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Zhu Yizun 朱彝尊 (1629-1709) believed that Zuoqiu was a double-character family name. Yu Zhengxie 俞正燮 (1775-1840) was of the opinion that his name was Qiu Ming 丘明 (from the early 18th century on changed to 邱明, in order to avoid the personal name of Confucius that was Kong Qiu 孔丘), while zuo was the designation of his office, namely "[scribe] to the left" (zuoshi 左史).
According to history 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 BCE). The Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Zhao Kuang 趙匡 (mid-8th cent.) was the first who doubted that "Master Zuo" was identical to Zuo Qiuming. Yao Nai 姚鼐 (1732-1815) 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 (440-381), or the Han period librarian Liu Xin 劉歆 (c. 50-23 BCE). The compilation date remains unclear, but Cui Shu 崔述 (1740-1816) supposed it to have been some time during the late Warring States period. The Japanese scholar Kano Naoki 狩野直喜 (1868-1947) argues that it must have been written during the time of Duke Xiao of Qin 秦孝公 (r. 362-338) while Yang Bojun 楊伯峻 (1909-1992) gives a time frame of between 403 and 389 BCE. From these dates it can be seen that Confucius' disciple Zuo Qiuming cannot possibly 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 and Zhanguoce 戰國策, narrating stories from the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States period, respectively. In the concept of Confucian historiography the Chunqiu was seen as the head rope (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 sources unknown in the state of Lu, where the Chunqiu chronicle had been written, namely parts of the Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", as well as chronicles of other states, like Zhouzhi 周志 "Records of (the royal house of) Zhou" or Zhengshu 鄭書 "The book of (the regional state of) Zheng 鄭".
The Zuozhuan is extremely helpful when it comes to understanding the short and often obscure entries of the Chunqiu. For example, there is an entry about the first year of Duke Yin 魯隱公 (r. 722-712) providing no more information than that the Earl of Zheng overcame his younger brother Duan 段 at a place called Yan (Zheng bo ke Duan yu Yan 鄭伯克段於鄢). The Zuozhuan adds a story of more than 500 words on 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 lasted ten years before it evolved into a military campaign.
|隱公元年||First Year of Duke Yin [722 BCE]|
|【經】1.1.3夏五月，鄭伯克段于鄢。||[The Chunqiu Classic] In summer, in the fifth month, the Earl of Zheng 鄭 overcame Duan 段 in Yan 鄢.|
|【左傳】初，鄭武公娶于申，曰武姜，生莊公及共叔段。莊公寤生，驚姜氏，故名曰寤生，遂惡之。愛共叔段，欲立之。亟請於武公，公弗許。||[Zuozhuan] Duke Wu of Zheng 鄭武公 [r. 771-744] had married a daughter of the House of Shen 申, called Wu Jiang 武姜, who bore [the eventual] duke Zhuang 鄭莊公 [r. 744-701] and his brother Duan of Gong 共叔段. Duke Zhuang was born as she was waking from sleep [?], which frightened the lady so that she named him Wusheng 寤生 ("born in waking"), and hated him, while she loved Duan, and wished him to be declared his father's heir. Often did she ask this of duke Wu, but he refused it.|
|及莊公即位，為之請制。公曰：「制，巖邑也，虢叔死焉。佗邑唯命。」請京，使居之，謂之京城大叔。||When Duke Zhuang came to the earldom, she begged him to confer on Duan the city of Zhi 制. "It is too dangerous a place", was the reply. "The Younger of Guo 虢叔 died there; but in regard to any other place, you may command me." She then requested Jing 京; and there Duan took up his residence, and came to be styled Taishu 大叔 ("Great Younger") of Jing City.|
|祭仲曰：「都，城過百雉，國之害也。先王之制：大都，不過參國之一；中，五之一；小，九之一。今京不度，非制也，君將不堪。」公曰：「姜氏欲之，焉辟害？」對曰：「姜氏何厭之有？不如早為之所，無使滋蔓！蔓，難圖也。蔓草猶不可除，況君之寵弟乎？」公曰：「多行不義必自斃，子姑待之。」||Zhong of Zhai 祭仲 said to the duke, "Any metropolitan city, whose wall is more than 100 zhi 雉 [3,000 cubits] round, is dangerous to the State. According to the regulations of the former kings, such a city of the 1st order can have its wall only a third as long as that of the capital; one of the 2d order, only a fifth as long; and one of the least order, only a ninth. Now Jing is not in accordance with these measures and regulations. As ruler, you will not be able to endure Duan in such a place." The Duke replied, "It was our mother's wish;—how could I avoid the danger?" "The lady Jiang," returned the officer, "is not to be satisfied. You had better take the necessary precautions, and not allow the danger to grow so great that it will be difficult to deal with it. Even grass, when it has grown and spread all about, cannot be removed;—how much less the brother of yourself, and the favoured brother as well!" The duke said, "By his many deeds of unrighteousness he will bring destruction on himself. Do you only wait a while."|
|既而大叔命西鄙、北鄙貳於己。公子呂曰：「國不堪貳，君將若之何？欲與大叔，臣請事之；若弗與，則請除之，無生民心。」公曰：「無庸，將自及。」||After this, Taishu ordered the places on the western and northern borders of the State to render to himself the same allegiance as they did to the Earl [i.e. the Duke]. Then Gongzi Lü 公子呂 said to the Duke, "A State cannot sustain the burden of two services;—what will you do now? If you wish to give [Zheng] to Taishu, allow me to serve him as a subject. If you do not mean to give it to him, allow me to put him out of the way, that the minds of the people be not perplexed." - "There is no need," the Duke replied, "for such a step. His calamity will come of itself."|
|大叔又收貳以為己邑，至于廩延。子封曰：「可矣。厚將得眾。」公曰：「不義，不暱。厚將崩。」||Taishu went on to take as his own the places from which he had required their divided contributions, as far as Linyan 廩延. Zifeng 子封 [i.e. Gongzi Lü] said, "Now is the time. With these enlarged resources, he will draw all the people to himself." The Duke replied, "They will not cleave to him, so unrighteous as he is. Through his prosperity he will fall the more."|
|大叔完、聚，繕甲、兵，具卒、乘，將襲鄭，夫人將啟之。公聞其期，曰：「可矣。」命子封帥車二百乘以伐京。京叛大叔段。段入于鄢。公伐諸鄢。五月辛丑，大叔出奔共。||Taishu wrought at his defences, gathered the people about him, put in order buffcoats and weapons, prepared footmen, and chariots, intending to surprise Zheng, while his mother was to open to him from within. The Duke heard the time agreed on between them, and said, "Now we can act." So he ordered Zifeng, with two hundred chariots, to attack Jing. Jing revolted from Taishu, who then entered Yan, which the Duke himself proceeded to attack; and in the 5th month, on the day with the cyclical signs xinchou, Taishu fled from it to Gong 共.|
|書曰：「鄭伯克段于鄢。」段不弟，故不言弟；如二君，故曰克；稱鄭伯，譏失教也；謂之鄭志。不言出奔，難之也。||In the words of the [Chunqiu] text,—"The Earl of Zheng overcame Duan in Yan," Duan is not called the earl's younger brother (di 弟), because he did not show himself to be such. They were as two hostile princes, and therefore we have the word "overcame" (ke 克). The Duke (gong 公) is styled the "Earl" (bo 伯) of Zheng simply, to condemn him for his failure to instruct his brother properly. Duan's flight is not mentioned, in the text, because it was difficult to do so, having in mind Zheng's wish that Duan might be killed.|
Legge 1872: 5-6.
The detailed description of military activities is one of the strengths of the Zuozhuan. It narrates more than 400 campaigns and their background, the movements of the battlefield, the tactics of the generals, and the outcome. Among these, some were of a high importance for the survival of the regional states, as the battle of Chengpu 城濮 in 632 between Jin and Chu, 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 and Jin, or that of Yanling 鄢陵 in 575 between Jin and Chu.
Interstate meetings and diplomatic envoys are likewise an important subject in the Zuozhuan. The proper use of words in conversation (duici 對辭) was of greatest importance for diplomatic success, and such details could 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 of how skilled diplomats contributed to the success of their missions. In many instances the author of the Zuozhuan includes his own critical commentary on historical events, and praises 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 regional states as the first hegemonic lord (ba 霸), yet on the other hand, his moral conduct is criticized, as well as his political intrigues with Prince Zhong'er 重耳 of Jin (i.e. Duke Wen 晉文公, r. 636-628). 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 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 (d. 500 BCE), Shu Xiang 叔向, or the politician Zichan 子產 (d. 522 BCE).
Political theories are also to be found, as in the statements of Ji Liang of Sui 隨季梁, 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 (d. 636 BCE), or Feng Hua 逢滑.
The Zuozhuan—often referred to as a "commentary"—is in the final analysis a different report of the same events as the Chunqiu Annals with a few significant differences. First of all it covers a longer period than the Chunqiu, that is until 463 BCE (the Chunqiu stops at 479), when the Earl of Zhi 知伯 (d. 453 BCE), a nobleman in the state of Jin, was killed. The Zuozhuan also gives an account of the birth of Duke Yin and his accession to the throne of Lu.
The second, even more noticeable, advantage is the more narrative character of the Zuozhuan which makes it a quite readable collection of anecdotes in contrast to the dry and enigmatic Chunqiu classic. The Zuozhuan reports many events that are not mentioned at all in the Chunqiu and vice versa, so one can barely say that it is just a commentary on the old annals. We are not up against this problem in Chinese where the word zhuan 傳 "commentary" can also be read as chuan, which means "tradition" or "transmission". The title of Zuozhuan can thus also be interpreted as something like "Zuo's version".
The Zuozhuan broadly reports visits of the regional rulers to each other, state meetings and the conclusion of alliances, wars, hunting excursions, the erection of city walls, marriages among the nobility, rebellions, murders, the history of individual aristocratic families 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 hegemonic lord that was initiated by Duke Huan of Qi, brought to a mature state by Duke Wen of Jin, and was then taken over by Duke Mu of Qin 秦穆公 (r. 659-621), and finally 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 regional states fell into the hands of collateral lines of ruling 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.
Many 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 by a belief in the Five Agents (wuxing 五行). Shu Xing 叔興, a royal secretary, explained aerolites (stony meteorites, yunshi 隕石), for instance, as a matter of Yin and Yang 陰陽, and not as an inauspicious omen. 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 (d. 517 BCE) from Lu declared solar eclipses and inundations to be the result of the agency of Yin and Yang. Shi Mo 史墨 from Jin claimed that the earth possessed the Five Agents, Zihan 子罕 from Song said that Heaven produced the Five Agents (wucai 五材), and the famous politician Zichan from Zheng argued that the Heavenly Way was far away, while the "human Way" (rendao 人道) close by, and that nature could not 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 transitoriness 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 prosaic statements in the Chunqiu. On the other hand this contrast demonstrates that the Zuozhuan is of a high literary standing that goes far beyond the scope of historiography. Liu Zhiji 劉知幾 (661-721), the great Tang-period critic of historiography and author of the Shitong 史通, therefore praised the for its important contribution, and the Qing-period scholar Liu Xizai 劉熙載 (1813-1881) even praised it as the best of all histories. It therefore served as a rich source for later histories and is abundantly quoted in Sima Qian's Shiji 史記 and in Sima Guang's 司馬光 (1019-1086) Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑.
During the Han period the Zuozhuan was ranked among the old-text classics and did at first not find its way into the canon of Confucian Classics. It was nevertheless very popular because of its rich fund of stories from antiquity.
During the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316) Du Yu wrote a first commentary, Chunqiu jingzhuan jijie 春秋經傳集解. He contributed enormously to the status the Zuozhuan won over the two new-text commentaries on the Chunqiu, Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 and Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳. The Tang-period scholar Kong Yingda 孔穎達 (574-648) wrote his famous shu 疏 commentaries on the Classics and further cemented the unity of Chunqiu and Zuozhuan.
The most important Qing commentaries are Hong Liangji's 洪亮吉 (1746-1809) Chunqiu-Zuozhuan gu 春秋左傳詁, Gu Yanwu's 顧炎武 (1613-1682) Zuozhuan Du zhu buzheng 左傳杜注補正, Hui Dong's 惠棟 (1697-1758) Zuozhuan buzhu 左傳補注 and Liu Wenqi's 劉文淇 (1789-1854) Chunqiu-Zuozhuan jiu zhushu zheng 春秋左傳舊注疏證.
The most recent commentary of importance is Yang Bojun's Chunqiu-Zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注.