An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳 "Great tradition of the Book of the Documents" is an alternative version of the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書. There are today several reconstructions with this title.

The Shangshu dazhuan proper was written by the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) scholar Fu Sheng 伏勝 and commented on by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200). The present text was compiled during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Sun Zhilu 孫之騄 (early 18th cent.) on the basis of fragments. It is said that Fu Sheng hid the Shangshu inside a brick wall during the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE), when all "useless" texts were prohibited and destroyed. After the foundation of the Han dynasty, when Fu Sheng took out the book, only 29 chapters were left. He submitted this book, at that time known as the Jinwen Shangshu 今文尚書 "Book of Documents written in modern script" (see old-text/new-text debate), to the emperor. It was handed down until the Tang period 唐 (618-907), when it got lost.

Sun Zhilu's reconstruction was the first attempt to collect what had survived as quotations in other books. His edition served as the bases for the later reconstruction by Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 (1717-1795). According to the bibliographic chapter Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書 Fu Sheng's book comprised 3 juan. Sun Zhilu therefore also divided his collection of fragments into the same number of fascicles. His version, the so-called Yayu Studio version 雅雨堂本 (included in the series Yayutang cangshu 雅雨堂藏書), is preserved in the collected writings of Sun Zhilu, Sun Qingchuan ba zhong 孫晴川八種. Lu Wenchao's version is divided into 4 juan. It also contains a supplement (Buyi 補遺), a chapter of textual criticism (Kaoyi 考異) and an additional supplement (Xu buyi 續補遺). The commentary by Zheng Xuan is also included. Lu Wenchao published a collection of 15 ancient books, the series Baojingtang congshu 抱經堂叢書, and the fragment collection Qunshu buyi 群書拾補. His collection of Shangshu dazhuan fragments was printed in 1800 by the Airicao Studio 愛日草堂.

There is another version published by an unknown author. It seems mainly to be based on Lu Wenchao's edition, but does not include the critical chapter. The sequence of the chapters Tangzhuan 唐傳 and Yu-Xia zhuan 虞夏傳 is mixed up in this version. In spite of its many errors, it has been used as the basic text for the edition in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. Chen Shouqi 陳壽祺 (1771-1834) has later tried to correct these errors.

A fourth version was published by Fan Renxu 樊廷緒 (juren degree 1794). It includes Zheng Xuan's commentary, Lu Wenchao's preface, two prefaces by Fan, and an epilogue by Shen Can 沈粲 (1379-1453). In his preface, Fan Renxu mentions the following versions: the Yangzhou version 揚州本, the Hangzhou version 杭州本, the Dezhou version 德州本 (Lu Wenchao), and a version by Master Dong 董氏 from Wuxing 吳興. The latter served as the basic text for Fan Renxu's publication printed in 1800.

A last, 3-juan version, Shangshu dazhuan dingben 尚書大傳定本, was published by Chen Shouqi and Chen Li 陳澧 (1810-1882). Their version of the Shangshu dazhuan is not consistent with the others in the lengths of chapters, yet it includes a critical chapter discussing forgeries (Bianwei 辨偽). It compares all previous versions except that of Master Dong, and is included in the series Gu jingjie huihan 古經解彙函.

The text of the Shangshu dazhuan can also be found in the series Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Han-Wei yishu chao 漢魏遺書鈔, Huang-Qing jingjie 皇清經解, Rongyuan congshu 榕園叢書, Shuofu 說郛 (Shangwu yinshuguan edition), Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 and Zhengshi yishu 鄭氏遺書.

Sources: ● Translations according to James Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 3, The Shoo King, or the Book of Historical Documents (London: Frowde, 1865).
Griet Vankeerberghen (2007). "Rulership and Kinship: the "Shangshu dazhuan"'s Discourse on Lords", Oriens Extremus, 46: 84-100.