E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The Structure and Dates of the Lw-shr Chun/Chyou
Panel: Aspects of the Lw-shr Chun/Chyou
AAS Convention, New York City, 29 March 2003

E Bruce Brooks


Scholars have previously noted a number of formal, procedural, and linguistic differences among the three sections of the Lw-shr Chun/Chyou (LSC): the Ji, Lan, and Lun. General opinion has nevertheless continued to regard LSC as a unitary whole. Given the evidence of the text itself, I believe this position to be untenable. I also believe that the ad hoc scenario of three simultaneous composition processes for the three sections, which was devised in recent years to save the unity of the work, must be abandoned.

There are formal features which support the idea that the Ji, Lan, and Lun are not merely different, but successively different. One is the layout of the three sections, with the Ji having an extra unnumbered segment at the end (the Hou Yi or postface), and the Lan lacking a segment at the beginning. These irregularities together cancel out, the Lan in effect being "notched" to accommodate the supernumerary tail of the Ji, and the total number of expected chapters being maintained. Another feature is the overall usage pattern, which has been investigated by Kennedy Research Fellow Pamela Tuffley. The pattern is that the Ji share a number of salient vocabulary usages with the Lan, and the Lan in turn with the Ji. In schematic terms, there is AB commonality, and there is BC commonality. But the Ji and the Lun have almost nothing in common at this same level of statistical prominence: there is no AC commonality. This situation will fit a scenario of successive composition, in which each section somewhat resembles the one preceding, but in which the last has moved considerable distance from the first. It is not intelligible on a theory of simultaneous composition of the three sections, which would be expected to show shared usage, with AB = BC = AC.

D C Lau conceded that a time lag exists within LSC, but concluded that it is trivial in extent. The substantive features of LSC suggest otherwise. Knoblock and Riegel (46-55) list 19 points as characterizing the philosophical standpoint of LSC. Virtually none of them equally characterizes the entire text. They tend to point instead to one or another of the text's three divisions. It is for example claimed (Knoblock/Riegel #11) that LSC is hostile to the draconic earlier Chin statesman Shang-jywn. This is not true of the Ji, where Shang-jywn is either neutrally or positively mentioned. It begins to be true only with the Lan section. Chvn Chi-you (Knoblock/Riegel Appendix D) has claimed that LSC is close to the Szma Fa among the military texts. This is true only of the Ji, and is almost totally reversed in the Lan and Lun. That is, the Ji section accepts the draconic tradition of Shang-jywn and favors total war. The Lan section rejects Shang-jywn, and deprecates war as an instrument of state. These differences are not intelligible in a work compiled at one time, and under a coherent patronage, but each section is coherent within itself, and the two sections considered together they strongly suggest the the passage of time. Specifically, they suggest the transition of Chin from a state engaged in a showdown struggle for world conquest, as it was in 0239, to a state attempting to reconcile conquered peoples and institute a civil polity, as Chin was doing beginning in 0221. The actual time lag is only 18 years, but the change in real-world context is profound, and that change in context seems to be mirrored in the text.

The simultaneous-compilation theory, which would date all three sections to c0239, is not encouraged by any of these facts, nor is it plausible on its face. It is impossible to imagine a directive from Lw Buwei to his client circle which might have produced it. No hint of such a situation can be found in the anecdotal literature surrounding LSC; those hints, which are absurdly overdeveloped in the Shr Ji, point entirely in the other direction. And a careful reading of the postface shows that the possibility that the Lan and Lun were completed after the composition of the Ji, but still within the lifetime of Lw Buwei, is essentially nil.


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