Lord Shang Revisited 2

2. The Shang-jywn Shu

I now take up the Shang-jywn Shu. Why this text? Well, for a start, (1) The biggest event of the classical period was its last event: the founding of the Empire in 0221. (2) It was Chin that unified the Empire. (3) SJS, a Chin text, may contain the secret that led to this success. If so, SJS is arguably the most important of all the classical Chinese texts.

Before we set to work on it, do we in fact possess it? The answer seems to be that SJS comes down to us in one line of descent from the Han Palace Library bamboo copy, in 29 rolls. At some point, the Imperial library recopied that tattered bamboo text onto silk, in 5 scrolls. It is the silk text which figures in the Swei Shu bibliography, and is excerpted in the Chywn-shu Jr-yau. Some chapters were later lost from that silk text by damage to the ends of the scrolls (fortunately, one of those chapters had previously been included in CSJY). On p1 of the handout I attempt to reconstruct the arrangement of that Swei Palace copy. It will be a descendant of the Han text. Whether the Han text represents any earlier state of SJS is a question I will return to just before the end.

J J L Duyvendak

Rule 1 asks for a preliminary survey to determine the nature of the text. Duyvendak's 1928 study provided this, by showing that SJS is linguistically diverse, and that, by Karlgren's criteria, most of its chapters relate stylistically to the 03rd rather than the 04th century.

The work thus cannot be by Lord Shang, or by any other one author. Rule 2 asks us, in this and all doubtful cases, to defer questions of authorship, and look for a process instead. This is easy to say, but given our training and our cultural predispositions, it is very hard to do. Duyvendak attempted to encourage us, by saying that these mostly late materials would show us the later development of the School of Law. He added the hope that they would also put us in touch with the original ideas of that school. The latter thought might be optimistic. At least at first, since we know we possess late material, it is on the development of Legalism that we should concentrate. This is in obedience to Rule 3: Don't ignore the later material.

For a start in that direction, can we identify the latest material? It is noticeable that, of all the 26 chapters of SJS, only the first and last actually mention Lord Shang. That pattern suggests a framing statement, a last addition whose purpose is to associate the name of Lord Shang with the whole work. Is that association valid? Let us put the question in a form in which philology can handle it. Is the debate in SJS 1 a genuine transcript, preserved in the school of Lord Shang, in which case his association with SJS is probably sound? Or is it a later invention, in which case the association is probably spurious? This question happens to be decidable. The policy debate in SJS 1 is closely related to the debate in Jan-Gwo Tsv (JGT) #221, a debate supposedly held in Jau about adopting an alien style of dress. We are now in the zone of Rule 4, and here is our first Directionality Problem. We may state it this way: Given the close relation between the two narratives, which one is based on the other? That question has been examined repeatedly, over the last 2,000 years, and the universal conclusion is that the JGT #221 version is primary. I have studied the two texts myself, and can only concur with earlier opinion: SJS 1 is derivative. The JGT in general is a dubious source; and the earlier text itself may well have been an invention. Whatever the SJS 1 writer added to that invented base is probably itself invented. In all probability, that writer possessed no secret tradition about Lord Shang.

The end of SJS 1 envisions an order to bring waste lands under cultivation. SJS 2, following, has that phrase as its title. SJS 1 thus anticipates and assumes SJS 2. But in substance, SJS 2 is not an order to bring waste lands under cultivation. It is an argument, sometimes very far-fetched, that all Legalist policies will in the end produce the single result of bringing waste lands under cultivation. This conflicts with the much more sophisticated picture of balanced land use recommended in SJS 6. That is to say, SJS 2 is something like an oversimplified picture of Legalist doctrine. It might have been written to place Legalism in the context of competing views at the time.

At the other end of the text, Duyvendak has noted, as a late feature, that chapter 26 mentions many Chin Dynasty institutions and practices. Some of these may have had pre-Unification origins, but one rather convincing detail is the appointing of officials for the various states, an action which surely implies the unified empire. I may add that the universal title Tyen-dz, for the ruler whom the text addresses or envisions, occurs only in this chapter. That title would be appropriate only after 0221. SJS 26 would then seem to be a Chin Dynasty work. Since the JGT, from which SJS 1 was derived, is by and large composed of Chin or later material, Chin is probably the earliest date to which SJS 1 itself may be assigned. The effect of both chapters is to show that Lord Shang had anticipated in detail the form which the Chin Imperial administration actually took. This would obviously be an advantageous claim for a Lord Shang statecraft group to make, especially within the Chin Dynasty itself. A plausible external motive for these parts of the text thus exists, at the point in time to which the internal evidence points.


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