Tag Archives: Han dynasty

[Review] 賈麗英:《出土簡牘與秦漢社會身份秩序研究》(Jia Liying: Unearthed Manuscripts and the Study of the Order of Social Identities during the Qin and Han Dynasties)

Jia Liying 賈麗英. Chutu jiandu yu Qin Han shehui shenfen zhixu yanjiu 出土簡牘與秦漢社會身份秩序研究 (Unearthed Manuscripts and the Study of the Order of Social Identities during the Qin and Han Dynasties). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2023. ISBN: 978-7-5227-1694-7, xiii+447 pages, 218 RMB.

Chun Fung Tong 唐俊峰 (Heidelberg University)

Since the seminal work by Nishijima Sadao 西嶋定生 in the early 1960s, the nature, institutional design, and social implications of rank (jue 爵) during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE–220 CE) continue to attract scholarly attention. Using unearthed legal and administrative materials, recent research has substantially expanded, revisited, or even refuted Nishijima’s model. In light of the newest works of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scholars, Jia Liying’s book offers a timely synthesis of this long-standing academic debate.

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[Review] 陳松長《馬王堆帛書研究》 (Chen Songchang: Studies on the Mawangdui Silk Manuscripts)

Chen Songchang 陳松長, Mawangdui boshu yanjiu 馬王堆帛書研究 (Studies on the Mawangdui Silk Manuscripts), Beijing 北京: Shangwu yinshuguan 商務印書館 2021. ISBN 9787100196345; 6, 440 pages; 198 RMB.

Reviewed by Michael Friedrich (Universität Hamburg)

Almost fifty years ago, tomb 3 of the early Han Mawangdui 馬王堆 site (hereafter MWD) in Changsha was excavated in December 1973 and could be dated to 168 BCE. The archaeologists unearthed a wealth of artefacts similar to those found in tomb MWD 1 which had already been excavated in 1972. However, a lacquered chest containing two bamboo manuscripts and more than two dozen silk manuscripts had a much longer-lasting impact on the study of ancient China than the mummy of the tomb owner found in MWD 1.[1]

Due to the political struggles of the time, so it is said, the excavation campaign and the treatment of the artefacts immediately following it were a far cry from international standards and caused, in addition to a lack of documentation, further damage.[2] All silk artefacts from the site, including the two paintings hanging on the eastern and western walls of the coffin chamber and the T-shaped banners from MWD 1 and MWD 3 were transferred to the Palace Museum in Beijing, because the Hunan Provincial Museum 湖南省博物館 (officially now Hunan Museum) did not have any previous experience with this type of artefacts. The Palace Museum treated the most spectacular ones first, among them the two scrolls containing the Laozi 老子 text. After conservation and mounting on paper, the fragments of the artefacts were taken back by conservators of the Hunan Provincial Museum.[3]

The history of research on the MWD written artefacts has yet to be written, a first and apparently incomplete overview is provided in the latest edition of the manuscripts’ contents from 2014.[4] According to this summary, three main stages may be discerned:

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