The Formation of a Typical Apocryphal Text

Licia DiGiacinto, (Ruhr University Bochum
WSWG 17, Leiden University, 18 September 2003


The strata of a typical apocryphal text could be briefly described as follows:

1. The core. This means observational astronomy with its two aims: astrology and calendar
2. Refinement through the addition of legends about mythical Emperors and/or Confucius and, successively, through the elaboration of excerpts from the Classics
3. Adjustment: prophecies about Liu Xiu or other aspirants to the throne during the civil war at the beginning of the first century AD
4. Corrections and canonization (in the first decades of the Later Han dynasty). This is a well-known fact, and the paper will devote little space to it.

This process is generically applicable to many apocryphal texts, with only a few exceptions. It may have implications for other subjects, since the thematic strata of the apocrypha closely resemble topics embodied in other Early Han sources, such as the Zhoubi Suanjing, the Huainanzi, and the Chunqiu Fanlu.

Even more important, in my opinion, is the fact that the first stratum, namely the one regarding astrology and calendar, was surely written very far away from the imperial capital and this obviously involves the question of the spread of observational astronomy practices among private circles not linked to the Court.


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