Zhou history and historiography: Introducing the bamboo manuscript Xinian

Yuri Pines*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Xinian is a recently published bamboo manuscript from the collection of Qinghua (Tsinghua) University. It is the lengthiest, most detailed historical text unearthed in recent decades. The text narrates major events from the history of the state of Chu, its rivals, and its allies from the beginning of the Western Zhou period to the early fourth century bce. In this introductory article I argue the following: first, both the language and the content of Xinian indicate that this text was based on earlier historical sources from the states of Chu and Jin, in addition to sources from within the Zhou royal domain; second, the authors' utilization of their primary sources differs markedly from those observable in Zuo zhuan (with which Xinian has many overlapping parts) and in later collections of anecdotes; and third, Xinian may represent a heretofore unknown genre of "informative history." In addition, I explore the new perspectives that Xinian sheds on early Qin and Chu history.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)287-324
Number of pages38
JournalT'oung Pao
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.


  • Chu
  • Qin
  • Qinghua (Tsinghua) bamboo slips
  • Springs-and-Autumns (Chunqiu) period
  • Western Zhou
  • Xinian
  • Zuo zhuan
  • anecdotes
  • historiography


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