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Zuozhuan jishi benmo 左傳紀事本末

Aug 23, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Zuozhuan jishi benmo 左傳紀事本末 "Historical events of Master Zuo's Commentary [to the Spring and Autumn Annals] in their entirey" is a history of the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) compiled in the historiographical style of "events in their entirety" (jishi benmo 紀事本末). The book was written by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Gao Shiqi 高士奇 (1645-1704), courtesy name Zhanren 澹人. Gao Shiqi hailed from Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang, and was scribe in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, where his interest in history arose.

Gao was very interested in the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" and its parallel version and interpretation by Zuo Qiuming 左丘明, the Zuozhuan 左傳. He rearranged the chronological text of the Zuozhuan into thematic chapters. The 53-juan long book was finished in 1699. Similar attempts to rearrange the text of the chronicle had been made earlier, like in Ma Su's 馬驌 (1621-1673) Zuozhuan shiwei 左傳事緯, but there were never real narrative histories written that used the text of the Zuozhuan as a source. An earlier attempt to write such a jishi benmo history was Tang Shunzhi's 唐順之 (1507-1560) Zuoshi shimo 左氏始末, yet this book is of inferior quality.

Gao Shiqi split up the history of the various regional states Lu 魯, Qi 齊, Jin 晉, Song 宋, Wei 衛, Zheng 鄭, Chu 楚, Wu 吳 and Qin 秦. This would make it easier to observe how the regional rulers of the Spring and Autumn period competed for power among each other and with the royal house of Zhou 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). Apart from the histories of the regional states, one chapter is dedicated to natural disasters and strange natural phenomena (53 Zaiyi 災異). For the compilation of this book, Gao Shiqi did not only use the Zuozhuan, but a vast array of historical or even philosophical books from the Zhou and Han periods 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). These sources are indicated at the end of the particular chapters. In many places, the author has compared different sources and tried to eliminate errors or to point out contradictions. Each chapter is accompanied by a short critical resumé.

The Zuozhuan jishi benmo is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Jishi benmo huike 紀事本末彙刻. In 1979, the Zhonghua Shuju press 中華書局 published a modern version.

Sources:
Ji Hong 季紅 (1996). "Zuozhuan jishi benmo 左傳紀事本末", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 309.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 911.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Chanchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 219.
Zhu Shunlong 朱順龍 (1994). "Zuozhuan jishi benmo 左傳紀事本末", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Lishi 歷史卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 198.