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Shr Ji Parallels

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: Synoptic [for the Lukan parallel] On: Shr Ji Parallels From: Bruce [This is a somewhat long note, for which apologies, but with a perhaps useful
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 20, 2005
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      To: WSW
      Cc: Synoptic [for the Lukan parallel]
      On: Shr Ji Parallels
      From: Bruce

      [This is a somewhat long note, for which apologies, but with a perhaps
      useful moral at the end. No fair skipping to the moral, which is the
      culmination of the note. / Bruce]

      The same sort of thing [as the Lukan relocations suggested recently in a
      conversation within a sister discipline] seems also to be at work on the
      other side of the Gobi. Take for example the 130-chapter Shr Ji, the first
      major history of China produced in China, and the only approach to a
      universal history attempted during the first millennium of that Empire. The
      SJ is conventionally ascribed to one Szma Chyen, but as will be partly
      argued in a moment, was instead both conceived and substantially completed
      by his father, Szma Tan. Its composition thus lasted from a terminus a quo
      in c0135 (the father's appointment as Grand Astrologer, granting access to
      the document archive in the Palace) to c090 (the son's death, at which time
      the work still lacked some seven or ten chapters of being complete).
      Composition over that length of time, say 45 years, easily involves
      rethinking, not least because the intended history was planned to reach to
      the writers' own time, the reign of Emperor Wu, and thus the things
      requiring to be included were still happening outside the window. This is
      not a recipe for the easy completion of a book.

      I now take several cases where we can learn something about the formation
      process of the SJ.

      1. SJ 130. There are easily visible traces of adjustment of the SJ design as
      a response to those changing realities and to new authorial priorities. For
      example, in the final summary chapter SJ 130, which tells the origin of the
      work itself (no skimpy Lukan prologue here, but a real self-statement by the
      authors themselves, running for pages), there are presented not one, but
      two, stated endpoints for the work. One is "the year of the Unicorn,"
      probably referring to an omen said to have been observed in 0123, to which
      the court response was to proclaim a new reign period in the following year,
      0122. This planned endpoint (it also contains an allusion to an omen
      supposedly observed near the end of Confucius's life, in 0481) was prior to
      the death of Tan in 0110 (or more likely 0109), and so can only have been
      determined by the father. The other endpoint mentioned in SJ 130 is the
      beginning of the Tai-chu reign period, which was in 0104. This falls after
      the father's death, and can only represent a replanning of the whole work by
      the son. Here, then, in this replanning, is a Shr Ji event of comparable
      moment to the Lukan Event which I have ventured to point out in another
      forum. The point for SJ 130 is that it can only contain traces of Tan's
      original statement, and his old plan, overwritten by material of Chyen and
      including his adjusted terminus ad quem for its coverage. We have here a
      specimen, not of joint authorship, but of successive authorship.

      With or without the hint visible in the two end-dates specified for the SJ
      itself in SJ 130, the investigator of a text like the Shr Ji, which by its
      very bulk cannot have been the work of an afternoon, would do well to be
      alert for signs of readjustment, including the moving around of material. My
      next examples are places where such moving seems to me obvious. I offer them
      as testimonials to the value of maintaining due alertness for any signs of
      movement in the text under study, not with any particular idea in view as to
      its authorship of formative history, but simply as a matter of general
      philological method. That is, we approach the text merely wanting to find
      out what is going on, and alert for any signs that something may be going
      on. Bear tracks. Deer cries. Interpolations. Conflations. Scratches on trees
      from passing vehicles, whatever. My examples follow.

      2. SJ 35 (The Heirs of Gwan and Tsai). The Shr-Jya or Hereditary Rulers
      section of the SJ consists of exactly 30 chapters. That number is part of a
      master groundplan based on 60. The Hereditary Rulers chapters plus all
      preceding chapters, also 30 in number, total 60, and the following
      individual people chapters originally also numbered 60 (the present text has
      70, by an extension into which I will not go on the present occasion, except
      to note that it seems to have something to do with war vs peace). So there
      is authorial intention, and programmatic weight, behind the number 30 in
      this case. 29 or 31 would not be satisfactory in that context.

      In the year 0117, which it will be observed was after the endpoint of the
      work had been determined by Szma Tan to be 0123, the Han Emperor of the
      moment (Wu-di) decreed that three of his sons were to be established as
      independent Kings. This created a new set of presumptively Hereditary
      Rulers, which a Han historian, regardless of previous groundplan, could not
      possibly have ignored. A chapter on the Three Kings (not one for each
      kingdom, as might have been expected, but one chapter for the clump of
      three) was then added to the plan as SJ 60, the last of the Hereditary
      Rulers section. Merely adding it on to the tail of the previously planned 30
      would have made a total of 31 Ruler chapters, and of 61 SJ chapters, to that
      point. These ugly slopover numbers are not agreeable to the sort of
      authorial mind we see at work in this text, and in fact we have before us a
      Three Kings chapter numbered SJ 60. It consists, perhaps rather grudgingly,
      of nothing but the documents pursuant to the final enfiefment, including
      arguments against that enfiefment by certain parties to the court debate.
      There is nothing else like this background documentation in the Shr Ji. It
      is a goldmine for administrative historians, but an embarrassment for
      readers of the previous chapters. The whole episode was surely an
      embarrassment, and an irritation, for Tan. One might at this point consult
      with profit the chapter on that episode, in Michael Loewe's book The Men Who
      Governed Han China (Brill 2004).

      So how did Tan restore the number 30?

      If we examine all previous Ruler chapters to see if their contents matches
      their labels, we find one, and only one, that does not. This is SJ 35,
      nominally about the heirs of the early Jou royal relatives Gwan-shu and
      Tsai-shu. Information on them is duly given in SJ 35, at no very great
      length. There follows, as is standard procedure in all SJ chapters, a Grand
      Astrologer's Comment on the foregoing material (a Tai-shr-gung Ywe, or TSG
      comment), to round off the chapter. With that comment, we ought to have
      reached the end of the chapter. But no, there follows a quite independent,
      and unexpected, body of material, on the domain of Tsau-shu. This presently
      concludes with its own Grand Astrologer or TSG summary comment. This is
      formally anomalous: the material now in SJ 35 would normally have been two
      chapters, and indeed it is two chapters. But it is labeled in our present SJ
      as one chapter. I suggest, and the formal structure of itself suggests, that
      we have here in fact two originally separate chapters later compressed into
      one. The likely reason for the compression was to make room for the present
      SJ 60 without spoiling the intended total number of 30 Hereditary Ruler
      chapters. This conclusion is subject to further investigation (for those who
      have outgrown the maidenly reluctance about numbers which characterizes all
      humanists at their birth, it is possible to do something like DNA tests on
      dead authors). But pending such investigation, and waiving such
      confirmation, the above conclusion seems highly likely, merely on its
      structural merits.

      The beauty of this is nothing diminished by the fact that, if it stands
      further testing and emerges as probably true, the inciting event (the three
      kingship decree of 0117) is known, and the author of the SJ as of that date
      is also known (it can only be Tan, he being still alive), and thus the
      authorship of the chapters completed prior to their combining into SJ 35,
      namely the two sections of the present 35, are by extension known, since
      they too can only be by Tan.

      NB: It does not equally follow that all other chapters in the Rulers series
      must also be by Tan, since by logic they need only have held, as of 0117, an
      uneliminable place in the scheme. In fact there is direct evidence (not here
      supplied) that at least some of those Rulers chapters are by Chyen, meaning
      (in combination with previous conclusions) that Tan did not fill in all of
      this part of his outline, but did regard it as sufficiently fixed that it
      led in 0117 to the compression above inferred. What Chyen inherited in
      c0109, then (if we may carry the inference a step further), was a very
      precisely defined groundplan, and very precisely defined chapter elements
      making up that groundplan, which it was his duty to fill in from the
      available materials, some of them probably earmarked for the purpose back
      when Tan first took stock of the historiographical potential then still
      latent in the accumulation of textual odds and ends in the Palace archive.

      All this is fairly obvious. It is also entirely at variance with the
      conventional Sinological idea that Chyen not only wrote, but conceived and
      planned, the Shr Ji. This idea turns out not to withstand detailed
      philological scrutiny. All this we learn simply from being careful with SJ
      35, and attentive to the scenario latent in the present SJ 60.

      3. SJ 41. This is the account of the ruling house of Ywe. It consists of
      three narrative sections, well defined if not specifically labeled. (I am
      not the only one aware of this; the sections are accurately enough marked in
      Jang Da-kv's commentary). The tale of Ywe rulers comes to an end at the end
      of the second of them. What can be left to tell? What is left to tell turns
      out to be a history of the minister Fan Li, the architect of Ywe's success,
      who following that success is said at the end of SJ 41 second section to
      have written from Chi to a colleague still in Ywe advising him to get out
      while the getting was still good; the colleague, who merely retired to his
      home, and not to foreign states, wound up being commanded to commit suicide
      in Ywe). The history given in the third section of SJ 41 shows how Fan Li
      went to Chi, where he made a fortune, then left it and made another fortune
      elsewhere; it includes a long tale of how he sent one son to ransom another
      son, and how through the unwise intervention of a third son, the ransom
      scenario was spoiled. None of this is material to the history of Ywe, which
      as noted had reached a perfectly sound ending with section two of this
      chapter. On the other hand, the tale of Fan Li would have made a very
      presentable chapter in the final or Individual Lives section of the Shr Ji.

      The long story is implied in the end of the original Ywe material, but it is
      typical of SJ procedure that it elides in one chapter material more fully
      provided in another. The elision in the Ywe part of the Ywe chapter
      virtually signals to a practiced reader that there will be a Fan Li
      expansion somewhere else. The last thing that such a reader expects is to be
      handed that Fan Li expansion as the next thing in the chapter.

      The tacked-on nature of the Fan Li story in SJ 41 thus invites the question:
      If this material had originally been, or been in, a separate Fan Li chapter,
      where would that chapter have come in the present SJ chapter list? That
      question is easy to answer, since the Individuals chapters are arranged more
      or less in chronological order. It would have come next to the Wu Dz-syw
      chapter, he being a no less mythologized figure who advised Ywe's great
      enemy, Wu.

      So what? Is that fact alone confirmation of the supposition? Probably
      somewhat so. But the supposition becomes stronger if we further consider a
      structural tendency in SJ 61-130, a tendency which may possibly have been
      stronger in the original layout of that section. It is a tendency for
      chapters to be paired according to content. Not all the pairs are equally
      convincing, some verge on the perfunctory, but though we do not emerge with
      anything like a Plutarchian framework, there does seem to be a principle at
      work, or trying to be at work, or at work when the nature of the available
      material is not somewhat refractory. That tendency to pairing becomes much
      more visible if we put the conjectured Fan Li chapter where it would
      inevitably have come. Consider the resulting series, which involves no
      further changes in the present SJ lineup:

      061 Bwo-yi etc [unique, seemingly a prologue]

      062 Gwan Jung etc
      063 Laudz etc
      not strongly parallel, though Tan accepted statecraft and revered Laudz

      064 Szma Rangjyw
      065 Sun Wu etc
      The classic if mythical military figures; strongly parallel

      066a Wu Dz-syw
      066b [Fan Li]
      Highly parallel; good ministers in peril

      067 Jung-ni's Disciples
      068 Lord Shang
      only vaguely parallel; Tan liked neither of them

      069 Su Chin
      070 Jang Yi
      highly parallel; recommenders of anti-Chin alliances

      071 Shuli Dz and Gan Mau
      072 Wei Ran
      no special comment

      073 Bai Chi etc
      074 Mencius etc

      075 Lord Mvngchang
      076 Lord Pingywaen
      077 Lord Syinling
      078 Lord Chunshvn
      the Four Magnates; a strong double parallel

      079 Fan Jyw [also pronounced Fan Swei]
      080 Ywe Yi
      nothing in particular

      081 Lyen Bwo etc
      082 Tyen Dan
      two generals; sufficiently parallel

      083 Lu Jung-lyen
      084 Chyw Ywaen
      both fled from honor, so to speak.

      085 Lw Bu-wei
      086 Assassins [Jing Kv]
      Two unsuccessful assaults on Chin stability

      087 Li Sz
      088 Mvng Tyen
      The twin architects of Chin success; both died badly

      The pairing is not everywhere tight, and it sometimes verges on the
      perfunctory. But over these almost 30 chapters, it seems to be operative as
      a structural principle: something that Tan would rather have had than not
      had, as he committed his design to paper (or other medium).

      The tendency to pairing seems clear enough to reinforce the suggestion of an
      elided Fan Li chapter, whose material was later transferred anomalously to
      the Ywe chapter (SJ 41), to make room for . . . what? Not obvious at present
      writing. But the sign of strain, or rather the measure taken to relieve
      strain, seems at least clear.

      The TSG comment at the end of SJ 41 ends with a remark on the threefold
      career of Fan Li; that is, it acknowledges what I take to be the intrusive
      "later history of Fan Li." If my conclusion is correct, it follows that not
      only was the Fan Li material transferred from its original location in the
      Individuals series to SJ 41, and placed ahead of the previously written TSG
      comment, but that the TSG comment was itself expanded to legitimize the
      added material. My guess is that the transfer, and the extension to the
      original TSG comment, were the work of Chyen. The reasons for this will be
      clearer after the next example.

      4. SJ 25 (Measurement Standards). This is one of the eight Shu or Treatises
      which form a series of chapters just prior to the Rulers series. To see what
      is involved, we need to consider the problem of the ten missing SJ chapters.
      The entry for the Shr Ji (then still called the Book of the Grand
      Astrologer) in the Palace Library catalogue compiled at the very end of Han
      notes that it lacked ten chapters. Those chapters are not named, but a later
      commentary quotes Jang Yen, who did venture to name them. One of them is the
      Bing Shu or Treatise on Military Matters. No such chapter exists in our SJ,
      and no Chinese dynastic history included such a chapter until the mediaeval
      Tang Shu, written of course in the following Sung Dynasty. So what is going
      on? Either Jang Yen is deranged, which is certainly possible, or he is
      referring to a version of SJ that is not our present one. We know from SJ
      130 itself that at one point, two copies of the work were made, one to
      present to the court, and one to be retained in the family. The placement of
      this statement within SJ 130 allows the conclusion that it was Chyen who
      prepared those two copies. It can also be shown that further progress was
      made by Chyen in later years, so that the home copy (so to speak) grew a
      little beyond the confines of the court copy. And in fact, when at the end
      of Han the current Emperor commissioned Fvng Shang to complete the SJ, his
      submission in response included only seven, not ten, chapters (that
      contribution is so described in the Palace Library catalogue, it is the item
      immediately following the Book of the Grand Astrologer). Did Fvng Shang die
      before completing his assignment? Possibly, but not necessarily. The
      difference between the two copies, with the home copy growing a little
      before Chyen's death or even subsequently (his daughter's son Yang Ywn may
      have had a role here; that remains to be thoroughly investigated), may also
      be the explanation, with the further assumption that the home copy also came
      to the notice of the court at the time Fvng Shang was given his orders, so
      that he needed only to supplete the home copy, not the originally more
      defective palace copy.

      The possibility, then, is that the original SJ did have a Military chapter,
      as Jang Yen otherwise anomalously claims, and that it still retained that
      part of the design down to the time the palace copy was made and presented,
      and that subsequently changes in SJ design (necessarily made by Chyen)
      resulted in the occlusion of that chapter, or of its unfilled place in the
      original design.

      Can we in any way verify this supposition? I think so. The verification goes
      like this.

      If we examine the Shu chapters as a whole, we will quickly find that one of
      them, the Weights and Measures chapter, contains after a few introductory
      paragraphs a very short segment on military affairs. Not to spin out this
      already long note, but the suggestion is that these are the remnant of the
      intended Military chapter, and were present under that title in the palace
      copy, of which Jang Yen centuries later somehow contrived to have knowledge.
      Those paragraphs are so short, constituting a page rather than a proper
      chapter, and so inadequate to the subject on the normal understanding of the
      importance of the military art to the survival of empires, that the topic
      may fairly have been regarded, by a reader of the palace copy, as not really
      properly treated. And thus, for all reasonable purposes, lacking. By a
      content analysis for which I must forbear to attempt to lay a foundation
      here, it can be shown that these scanty paragraphs are the work of Tan.
      Whether they were all he had to say on the subject, or were (as Jang Yen's
      comment implies) merely a scribble in the direction of such, and perceived
      by early readers in that way, does not instantly appear; either way, they do
      not amount to a treatise on the scale of the other seven, and would have
      made a most unsatisfactory chapter in the eyes of any readily imaginable Han

      They are preceded by an introduction which labors to show that military
      affairs are properly subsumed within weights and measures, the labor to
      justify that association merely highlighting the incongruity of the two
      subjects. Even without the evidence of Jang Yen, such as it may be, it would
      be likely from this "too much protesting" preface that the military
      paragraphs are in fact extraneous in SJ 25. This itself might easily lead to
      the sort of conjecture here proposed. This addition of material, probably by
      Chyen, to justify material he has just moved to a new context, is of a piece
      with Chyen's extension of the original TSG comment in SJ 41, which has the
      same function of legitimizing material not originally present in that

      Good, perhaps, but can we go further to identify an occasion for compressing
      these originally separate chapters into one? I think we can. Consider the
      pattern of topical pairing in the present Shu section.

      023 Rituals
      024 Music
      Their pairing is a Confucian cliche; inevitable.

      025a War
      025b Measurements
      Not notably supporting, despite the present SJ 25 intro.

      026 Calendar
      027 The Heavens
      These were the job skills of calendrologists Tan and Chyen
      The seeming duplication is thus probably intentional emphasis

      029 Roads and Waterways
      030 Economics
      Two paired basic economic chapters; very logical

      In other words, a very convincing and seemingly intentional pairing pattern
      exists throughout this series (with the War/Measures group the least cogent
      of the pairs). To present that pattern in its most convincing form, we have
      had to leave out the Fvng and Shan Sacrifices chapter, SJ 28. It is this
      chapter which does not in any way fit the pattern of the others (it might
      logically have been put next to the Rituals chapter, but it wasn't). It is
      therefore this chapter that was probably added to an already complete set of
      eight Treatises, generating a need to make room for it without breaking that
      pattern. That SJ 28 was written by Chyen is manifest from its inclusion of
      events from 098, long after his father's death, and by the final authorial
      statement that he has here recorded Fvng and Shan material only years after
      the inauguration of those sacrifices. Then it will here have been Chyen, not
      Tan, who felt the need to include a late but important topic. Important why?

      The Fvng and Shan sacrifices were of tremendous moment to both Tan and
      Chyen. If Michael Loewe is right, as I do not doubt, the sacrifices actually
      carried out in 0110 will have been a source of chagrin to the ill and dying
      Tan, since they were planned along lines other than Tan had recommended. For
      new light on this controversy, see also Dorothee Schaab-Hanke, The Power of
      an Alleged Tradition (BMFEA 74, 2002), which draws attention to the role of
      Szma Syangru, a kinsman of Tan and Chyen, whose last word for Emperor Wu was
      a recommendation on those same Fvng and Shan sacrifices.

      There are some allusions and wry touches throughout SJ 28 which, given the
      direct evidence of his authorship, we are safe in referring to the
      personality and the frustrations of Chyen (the ones in SJ 28 being
      professional frustrations: the magicians, and not the calendrologists like
      himself and his father, had had the last word about the Fvng and Shan).

      All in all, it seems plausible, here as in the preceding examples, that a
      late addition to the Shr Ji table of contents has compelled the compression
      of previously planned or written chapters, and that the original Bing Shu
      was one casualty of that addition.


      All these are instances of the Shr Ji formation process at work, not in the
      abstract, but as the actions of one man or another at one particular
      juncture, and at the service of powerful personal or professional agendas.
      The work remained fluid under their hands, over the long span of its almost
      complete realization, after something like 45 years of effort, almost two
      human generations by the usual count of human generations.

      The parallel with the processes previously suggested for the Gospel of Luke
      will be now be obvious. I wish to point in conclusion to another parallel,
      which is the methodological one.

      Philology works with texts, but at a higher level than knowledge of the
      language of the texts in which the texts are written. One may have that
      knowledge without employing it on philological questions. Philology is
      general, not language specific; it is the toolkit for the understanding of
      texts as such, and though it takes account of specific wordforms, and also
      of local historical conditions, its procedures and its categories of
      understanding everywhere resemble each other. There is only one logic of
      letter metathesis, or of haplology, or of interpolation, or of conflation.
      Philology in principle is no less general than history as such, and their
      generality, and indeed their necessary partnership in the pursuit of
      historical knowledge, were acknowledged by the classic statements (such as
      that of Langlois et Seignobos) about the discipline or Wissenschaft, the
      Dau, of history. That the partnership has been little understood, and the
      art of philology much neglected, in recent years, is not the fault of
      methodology per se. Methodology, whether or not employed (as the Confucian
      gentlemen of past ages were fond of pointing out), remains methodology. I
      venture to call attention to the generality of these methods, and to their
      power when they are used together, as students used to be told they should
      be used.

      Only a historical discipline which has altogether emerged from uncertainty,
      and can entirely trust its written sources, can safely dispense with
      philology, which is the art of analyzing and evaluating those documents
      prior to their use as sources. That this situation has not been reached,
      even for the seemingly safe modern period, may be verified by anyone who
      will trouble to consult, and reflectively consider, tomorrow's newspaper.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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