The Five "Kao" Chapters in the Shu

Kai Vogelsang, Munich
WSWG 17, Leiden University, 17 September 2003

Kai Vogelsang


The five "kao"-chapters constitute the core of the dozen or so "Western Chou" documents in the Shu-ching. Widely regarded as valuable primary sources, their authenticity has rarely come into question. The present paper aims to test the validity of this claim. A word by word comparison of the "kao"-chapters and Western Chou bronze inscriptions reveals several hundreds of cases in which the language of the two text types appears at variance. Given this, it would seem that the question of authenticity may deserve to be reconsidered. There are a number of ways to account for the observed discrepancies, leading to different reassessments of the "kao"-chapters. These, in turn, may indicate several possible further avenues of investigation in the field of Western Chou history. But none of them seems to lead back to uncritical acceptance of the "kao"-chapters as primary sources.


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