Publication on ancient local official’s journal launched
Important to ‘both academic and general readers’
Published: Jan 07, 2024 10:03 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A book titled Zhiri (Daily Journal) was released at a symposium held at Wuhan University in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, on Saturday. The book is the first in a series that focuses on the ancient bamboo and wooden slips unearthed from the Shuihudi site in Yunmeng, Hubei Province.

Before the invention of paper, ancient Chinese recorded important texts on various materials such as tortoise shells, animal bones and bronze wares. When it came to the Shang Dynasty (c.1600BC-1046BC), bamboo and wooden slips started to prevail as a written material and their dominance lasted until Jin Dynasty (265-420).   

The slips were bound together with silk or hemp ropes. They were called jiandu. Jiandu usually encompassed various disciplines, including history, archaeology and paleography, recording diverse aspects of ancient life, such as food, clothing, housing and transportation.

The 1970s saw a series of major bamboo slip discoveries. In 1975, over 1,000 bamboo slips were discovered at Shuihudi. The discovery drew great attention at the time, as it was of great importance for research into the various aspects of China from the late Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) to the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). In 2006, more than 2,000 slips were unearthed from a Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD25) tomb at the same site. The contents covered a wide range of subjects, including government, law, mathematics, literature and divination.  

China initiated the Project on Paleography and the Inheritance and Development of Chinese Civilization in 2020, which comprehensively and systematically explores various forms of ancient writing in order to shed light on their role in the development of Chinese and human civilization. With the project's support, the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology joined efforts with the Center of Bamboo Silk Manuscripts of Wuhan University to write the series Shuihudi Western Han Jiandu.   

Co-edited by Chen Wei, a professor with the Center of Bamboo Silk Manuscripts of Wuhan University, and Xiong Beisheng, a researcher from the Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, the series started in 2016. According to current plans, it will comprise eight books. 

Chen introduced to media at the launch ceremony that Zhiri, the title of the first book, was very popular during the Qin to the Western Han Dynasty. It could be compared to a journal or diary today. After comprehensive research and analysis, experts determined the journal included in the first book, covering 14 consecutive years, belonged to the tomb's owner Yue Ren, a local official.   

The discoveries related to Zhiri were very refreshing. It provided a closer examination of the details of the economic system, administrative division, governance system, geography and transportation at the grassroots level, Chen added.  

Jiandu is an important carrier of China's excellent traditional culture, playing a unique role in passing on the heritage of Chinese civilization and culture. 

The publication of Shuihudi Western Han Jiandu is significant to both academic and general readers, Zhou Xueying, a professor at Nanjing University's School of History, told the Global Times.

"As the general public's interest in China's long history and rich ancient culture grows, these books on first-hand written records will draw in readers with their interesting details. The interpretation and promotion of such historical information will help enhance the public's understanding of China's excellent traditional culture and civilization," he noted.