A Taeko Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The Integrity of the Chun/Chyou
Panel: The Historiography of Spring and Autumn
AAS Convention, Chicago, 24 March 2001

A Taeko Brooks


The Spring and Autumn period is of interest in its own right, and it is also of great importance for Chinese historiography at large. I wish here to suggest some of the grounds for my conclusion that the Chun/Chyou (CC) text is a primary source, and except for archaeology and a few inscriptions, the only primary source, for that period. I will also defend this claim against that made for the Dzwo Jwan (DJ), which many scholars believe to be a fuller account, and therefore a superior account, of these centuries, roughly the late 08th through the early 05th. [Note 1]

1. Literary and Linguistic Aspects

Style. Literarily, the CC is famously terse. It does not greatly diverge from the terseness, and the court-centeredness, of contemporary inscriptions. The DJ, on the other hand, not only in its comments on the CC but especially in the narratives which some believe are based on archival sources, uses extended prose of a type not otherwise encountered before the 04c, the time when many scholars, for a variety of reasons, agree it was compiled. In its speeches, the DJ departs radically from the sort of speech transcriptions seen in inscriptions, all of which are formalized and presume only a court scribe at a highly stylized court session. For the DJ speeches to be equally stenographic, we would have to assume an army of scribes, equipped with limitless bamboo and stationed in every chariot at a battle, at every roadside between battles, and up certain mulberry trees during the wanderings of Chung-ar. Some of these speeches cannot have been overheard, let alone transcribed, at the time. They appear to be on the same level as the dramatic but invented speeches in the Shr Ji, and to serve a similar narrative function.

Grammar. The CC shows grammatical evolution over its three-century time-depth, whereas the DJ is largely homogeneous. One detail of CC grammar is the ratio between postverbal and preverbal placement of certain types of adverb, such as the phrase dz Jin: "from Jin [or another country]." Such phrases prefer the postverbal position in the early CC, but are commoner in preverbal position at the end of the work. This agrees with a long-term tendency in Chinese, in which all postverbal elements save verb objects tend to migrate to the preverbal position. This migration process is almost complete in modern Mandarin (where some grammarians even deny the existence of postverbal adverbs altogether). The CC thus has the linguistic character of a document compiled over time, and reflecting gradual changes in grammar. The DJ, by contrast, displays no such evolutionary picture, but is largely consistent throughout, as would be the case with a text composed at essentially a single stage in that larger evolution.

2. Name Conventions

Clan Names. Relatives of the Lu ruler are first referred to in the CC as Gungdz or Gungsun plus a personal name. Only later do their descendants acquire a clan name such as Dzang or Ji. I believe this plausibly reflects the origin of Lu clans in the Spring and Autumn period. The DJ does not follow the CC practice, and refers to these people by their eventual clan name throughout. The DJ seems to be unaware of the implied evolution of Lu clan structures.

Posthumous Epithets. Lu rulers were given a posthumous epithet after death, but before burial. Their burial notices, and any later references to them in the CC, use that epithet. This is a perfectly intelligible ritual procedure. By contrast, the DJ refers to some Lu rulers by their posthumous epithets even before those epithets would have been given according to this rule, namely at the time of their birth (Yin-gung and Hwan-gung, DJ 1:1) or before they had been designated as rulers (Syi-gung in DJ 4:2:8, Sywaen-gung in DJ 6:18:14). Such passages could not have been based on contemporary documents, and must instead represent retrospective usage, by people for whom the posthumous name was the customary identification. In short, by later historians.

3. Historiography

The Ba Theory. Like the Bamboo Annals, which supposedly represents the state of Jin, the CC is entirely unaware of the institution of the ba or hegemon, and Lu in the CC never behaves toward Jin as though it were anything other than a powerful contemporary state. In the DJ, however, there are not one but three versions of a ba (or bwo, or mvng-ju) theory, whereby some functions of the lapsed Jou sovereignty were formally delegated to another person, either a series of Jin rulers or, in another DJ variant, a series of rulers from different states. No evidence from the Spring and Autumn period attests such a ba system, but that concept played a very important role in the political theory debates which were current at about the time the DJ was compiled. We should regard this ba theory not as contemporary history, but as a later, retrospective historiographical construct.

Ju-hou. Much the same is true of the term ju-hou, which in the CC is merely a scribal shorthand, first used in the year 0665 and imitated sporadically by later scribes. It there has the meaning "the lords [named in the preceding list]." In contemporary inscriptions [Note 2], the term refers to Spring and Autumn rulers generally, without implying any specific set of rulers, or any hegemon system in which that set played a more specific role. By contrast, ju-hou is used throughout the DJ, not only after the first appearance of the term in the CC (in 0665). And it figures often in precisely those passages where the DJ attempts to impose its ba theory on the period.

Jung-gwo. The term jung-gwo, meaning "the central states," is never used in the CC. Instead, the CC reflects a fact noticed by Chyen Mu in 1934 and taken up by Owen Lattimore in 1940. This is the fact that conflicts between Chinese and non-Chinese peoples are not confined, in the CC, to the edge of the "Chinese" area, but are often internal. The implication is that Chinese and non-Chinese habitations interpenetrated in the Spring and Autumn period. The DJ, on the other hand, sees things in terms of a center/periphery model, and uses the term jung-gwo for the common culture of the center states. The term, and the perception, both reflect the situation which we know obtained in the middle and late 04c, when centuries of acculturation had homogenized the central states culturally, and when those states were dealing with a new challenge from the newly organized steppe cultures. The Dzwo Jwan is apparently projecting this polarized 04c situation back onto the more ethnically diverse and geographically mixed Spring and Autumn centuries. It is not rendering an account of the Spring and Autumn situation as such.


Many more contrasts might be cited; these will have to suffice for the present occasion. They tend to show that the CC is a year-by-year record, not indeed free of contemporary conventions or biases, but in these and all other ways a genuine contemporary document. In just the points which tend to authenticate the CC in this way, the DJ shows a contrasting usage which implies a document composed within a relatively short time period, in a generally consistent literary medium, at a later time, and offering to that later time, namely the latter half of the 04c, an interpretation of the Spring and Autumn centuries. The DJ addresses theory issues which we know were high-profile concerns of that century, such as the nature of sovereignty. The DJ is thus a work of its own time, and that time would appear to be the latter half of the 04c.

The DJ interpretation, further developed in the Shr Ji, became and remains the standard view. There will always be a public for the standard view. But for those in search of an uninterpreted and unconstrained view of the Spring and Autumn centuries as they appeared to people actually living in them, I suggest that the CC must be our preferred source.


1. See also the entries for Chun/Chyou and Dzwo Jwan in Classical Chinese Texts, elsewhere on this web site. [Return to Text]

2. I am grateful to several members of the WSW E-mail discussion list, who supplied instances of inscriptional occurrences of the term jung-gwo. [Return to Text]

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