Political mythology and dynastic legitimacy in the Rong Cheng shi manuscript

Yuri Pines*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this article I provide a complete translation and analysis of the recently unearthed bamboo manuscript, Rong Cheng shi, from the Shanghai Museum collection. This manuscript presents a previously unknown version of China's early history from the time of legendary rulers Yao, Shun, Yu and their predecessors to the establishment of the Zhou dynasty. The narrative is critical of both the dynastic principle of rule and "righteous rebellion", and advocates instead the ruler's abdication in favour of a worthier candidate as the best mode of rule; in addition, it hints at the unusually active role of "the people" in establishing the supreme ruler. Moreover, despite being associated with the southern state of Chu, the Rong Cheng shi presents a unitary view of the past, which rejects the multi-state world and promulgates the notion of the unified "All-under-Heaven" as singularly legitimate. The text has far-reaching significance in terms of both history of Chinese political thought and of early Chinese historiography.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)503-529
Number of pages27
JournalBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2010


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