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EVALUATING SWORDS: INTRODUCTION AND TRANSLATION OF A HOW-TO GUIDE FROM THE HAN-XIN PERIOD

  • Charles Sanft (a1)

Abstract

This article introduces and translates an excavated text from the Juyan region here referred to as “Evaluating Swords.” Dating to the Han-Xin period, it instructs its reader on how make a general determination of the quality of steel swords based on a visual inspection. The introduction to the translation discusses the background of the text, its present condition, and the problems of orthography and usage that complicate its understanding. A transcription and additional textual and interpretive commentary accompany the English translation of the text.

本文介紹及翻譯居延地區出土文獻裏面的漢朝或新莽時期鑑定鋼鐵劍刀質量指南. 許多學者將此篇當作 “相寶劍刀” 但是此論點仍有可商榷之處. 拙作介紹鑑定劍刀質量指南的時代與考古背景, 針對較難了解的用詞作分析, 並將原文翻成英文.

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References

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1. Anthony Barbieri-Low, Artisans in Early Imperial China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007).

2. On the possibilities for such men to read, see Robin D. S. Yates, “Soldiers, Scribes, and Women: Literacy among the Lower Orders in Early China,” in Writing and Literacy in Early China: Studies from the Columbia Early China Seminar, ed. Li Feng and David Prager Branner (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011), 339–69. On the importance of “access,” cf. Johnson, David, “Chinese Popular Literature and Its Contexts,Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 3.2 (1981), 228 .

3. Folke Bergman, “Travels and Archaeological Field-work in Mongolia and Sin-kiang—A Diary of the Years 1927–1934,” in History of the Expedition in Asia 1927–1935, Part IV General Reports of Travels and Field-work, by Folke Bergman, Gerhard Bexell, Birger Bohlin, and Gösta Montell (Göteborg: Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1945), 146–48; Bo Sommarström, Archaeological Researches in the Edsen-gol Region Inner Mongolia: Together with the Catalogue Prepared by Folke Bergman (Stockholm: Statens Etnografiska Museum, 1956), 44–83. Note that Sommarström worked on the basis of Bergman's materials after the latter's death. For that reason I accept Sommarström's information over Bergman's when there is a conflict.

Zhongguo shehui kexue yuan kaogu yanjiusuo 中國社會科學院考古研究所, ed., Juyan Han jian jiayiabian 居延漢簡甲乙編 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1980), 291, has a list of Mongolian names and Chinese counterparts, which confirms the identity of Bergman's Mu-durbeljin as Pochengzi.

4. Juyan kaogudui, Gansusheng 甘肅省居延考古隊, “Juyan Han dai yizhi de fajue he xin chutu de jiance wenwu” 居延漢代遺址的發掘和新出土的簡冊文物, Wenwu 1978.1, 23 ; and Gansusheng wenwu kaogu yanjiusuo 甘肅省文物考古研究所, et al., eds., Juyan xin jian 居延新簡 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1994), 1–4.

5. See summary of the finds and later scholarship in Jianping, Hao 郝建平, “Jin 30 nian lai Juyan Han jian yanjiu zongshu” 近 30 年來居延漢簡研究綜述, Ludong daxue xuebao (zhexue shehui kexue ban) 魯東大學學報 (哲學社會科學版) 29.3 (2012), 6166 .

6. These abbreviations are explained in Ma Yi 馬怡 and Zhang Rongqiang 張榮強, Juyan xinjian jiaoshi 居延新簡校釋 (Tianjin: Tianjin guji, 2013), i.

7. See the dates in the materials from that location in Ma Yi and Zhang Rongqiang, 125–47; see also, e.g., Ma Mingda 馬明達, Shuo jian conggao 說劍叢搞, rev. ed. (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2007), 40–42, who discusses the role of these materials as providing a terminus ante quem for “Evaluating Swords.”

8. On this distinction in a somewhat different context, see Matthias L. Richter, The Embodied Text: Establishing Textual Identity in Early Chinese Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2013), in particular 26–27.

9. Gansusheng bowuguan Han jian zhengli zu 甘肅省博物館漢簡整理組, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce shiwen” 居延漢簡 “相劍刀” 冊釋文, Dunhuangxue jikan 敦煌學輯刊 3 (1983), 79 ; see also Li, Chen 陳力, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan daojian zhujian xuanshi” “居延新簡”相利善刀劍諸簡選釋,” Kaogu yu wenwu 考古與文物 2002.6, 70 , and Shaoyi, Zhong 鐘少異, “Gu xiang jian shu chu lun” 古相劍術芻論, Kaogu 考古 1994.4, 361 , which cite this dating.

10. Chen Qiyou 陳奇猷, Lüshi chunqiu xin jiaoshi 呂氏春秋新校釋 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 2002), 22.1507.

11. Mingda, Ma, “Zhongguo gudai de xiang jian fa” 中國古代的相劍法, Wenshi zhishi 文史知識 2000.1, 5961 .

12. See also Donald B. Wagner, Iron and Steel in Ancient China (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 195–97.

13. The translation of dao as sabre follows Wagner, Iron and Steel in Ancient China.

14. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 40–42. Zhong Shaoyi, “Gu xiang jian shu chu lun,” 358–59 brings up the emergence of the dao in the context of discussing the Hanshu “Yiwenzhi” listing of Xiang bao jiandao; on the suggested shift from jian to dao, see also Mark Edward Lewis, “Swordsmanship and the Socialization of Violence in Early China,” in From Athens to Beijing: West Meets East in the Olympic Games, Volume I: Sport, the Body, and Humanism in Ancient Greece and China, ed. Susan Brownell (New York: Greekworks.com, 2011), 155.

Many scholars who have studied this manuscript do not make an explicit division between the manuscript and its content with regard to periodization. They generally date the Juyan sword text following the dates of other material in E.P.T. 40; see e.g. Zhong Shaoyi, “Gu xiang jian shu,” 361, and Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 70.

15. Jinhua, Liu 劉金華, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce’ lüe shuo” 漢 “相劍刀冊” 略說, Zhongguo lishi wenwu 中國歷史文物 2008.3, 58 .

16. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 40–42.

17. Ban Gu 班固 (32–92), Hanshu 漢書 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1962), 30.1775.

18. Li Ling 李零, Zhongguo fangshu kao 中國方術考, rev. ed. (Beijing: Dongfang, 2001), 86–87.

19. Zhong Shaoyi, “Gu xiang jian shu chu lun,” 358–59. The relevant point is the relative chronology of different kinds of swords, a point that is useful in dating the text.

20. Hua, Han 韓華 and Xiaoxia, Di 狄曉霞, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang bao jian dao’ ce yanjiu zongshu” 居延漢簡 “相寶劍刀” 冊研究綜述, Sichou zhi lu 絲綢之路 20 (2009), 17 .

21. The handwriting of this manuscript is thus an example of the dissonance in perceptions that can arise when a particular manuscript is written in a high-quality script, while its content is not evidently of a literary or otherwise elevated nature. See Boltz, William G., “Hand-Writing Styles in Early Chinese Manuscripts,Manuscript Cultures 5 (2012–13), 1718 .

22. I refer to these as “bullet points” in order to be consistent. But while bullet points often indicate emphasis, in early Chinese manuscripts these points also indicate breaks in the text, as the subsequent discussion shows.

23. Jinhua, Liu 劉金華, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce’ lüe shuo” 漢 “相劍刀冊” 略說, Zhongguo lishi wenwu 中國歷史文物 2008.3, 5864 ; Gansusheng bowuguan Han jian zhenglizu, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce shiwen,” 78.

24. Gansusheng bowuguan Han jian zhenglizu, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce shiwen,” 78; see e.g. Han Hua and Di Xiaoxia, 17; cf. also Liu Jinhua, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce,’” 59, who himself disagrees (see below).

25. He Maohuo 何茂活, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce shidu xiyi” 居延漢簡 “相劍刀” 冊釋讀析疑, in Jianduxue yanjiu 簡牘學研究, no. 5, ed. Xibei shifan daxue lishi wenhua xueyuan 西北師範大學歷史文化學院 and Gansu jiandu bowuguan 甘肅簡牘博物館 (Lanzhou: Gansu renmin, 2014), 96; Liu Jinhua, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce,’” 59–60.

26. E.g. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 70; Li Ling, Zhongguo fangshu kao, 86–87.

27. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 35–36; cf. Liu Jinhua “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce,’” 60–61.

28. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 70; He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao,’” 91–92; Donald B. Wagner, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5: Chemistry and Chemical Technology; part 11: Ferrous Metallurgy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 128–34.

29. He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao,’” 91–92; Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 31–32; see also e.g. Zhong Shaoyi, “Gu xiang jian shu chu lun,” 358.

30. Chen Qiyou, Lüshi chunqiu xin jiaoshi, 25.1651.

31. Richard Wilhelm, Frühling und Herbst des Lü Bu We (Jena: E. Diederichs, 1928), 435; Joseph Needham, The Development of Iron and Steel Technology in China (Cambridge: The Newcomen Society, 1958), 1.

32. Liu Jinhua, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce,’” 62.

33. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 34–35.

34. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 70.

35. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 72–73.

36. Wagner, Science and Civilisation, 133–37; Wagner, Iron and Steel in Ancient China, 274–82; Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 72–73; Ma Mingda, Shuojian conggao, 31–32.

37. See also Liu Jinhua, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce,’” 59.

38. He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce,” 94; cf. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 71–72.

39. For citation information and further details of philological and text-critical interest, please see the text and annotated translation at the end of this article.

40. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 29–31; also Ma Mingda, “Zhongguo gudai de xiang jian fa,” 61–62.

41. He Maohuo “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce,” 90–91. He suggests taking 推 as “to stab,” thus tuichu as “places that have been stabbed,” and also allows for the possibility that 推處 means a spot that is “pushed” (i.e., bent) on the blade.

42. Li Ling, Zhongguo fangshu kao, 86–87, says that 白堅 and 黑堅 are two types of work on the sword, and suggests that tuichu 推處 is the division between those two.

43. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 70–73.

44. Jinhua, Liu 劉金華, “Han ‘Xiang jian dao ce’ lüe shuo” 漢 “相劍刀冊” 略說, Zhongguo lishi wenwu 中國歷史文物 2008.3, 61 . He notes that distinguishing between “new” and “old” focuses on tuichu 推處. When discussing the various explanations of “推處,” he says that he finds Chen Li's explanation relatively good.

45. He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce,” 92.

46. For one well-known example, see the “Ren jian xun” 人閒訓 chapter of Huainanzi 淮南子; He Ning 何寕, Huainanzi jishi 淮南子集釋 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1998), 18.1254.

47. Hanyu dacidian, s.v., “fujian.” It lists examples including the “Xiu wu xun” 脩務訓 chapter of Huainanzi, which says, “One who bears a sword expects sharpness and does not expect a Moyang or a Moye” 服劍者期於銛利,而不期於墨陽、莫邪; see He Ning, Huainanzi jishi, 19.1361.

48. Xu Shen 許慎 (d. c. 120 c.e.), Shuowen jiezi (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1963), 176.

49. My approach to graphic variation is informed by that of Boltz, William G., as seen, e.g., in Boltz, “Character Variation in Early Chinese Manuscripts,Manuscript Cultures 5 (2012–13), 7683 ; and Boltz, “Orthographic Variation in Early Chinese Manuscripts,Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientianim Hungaricae 62.1 (2009), 89113 ; I also learned a great deal from Matthias Richter, Embodied Text. For the version of shou 手 I mention, see Pan Chonggui 潘重規, Dunhuang suzi pu 敦煌俗字譜 (Taipei: Shimen tushu gongsi, 1978), 120.

50. See discussion and examples in Wu Shanshu 吳善述 (nineteenth century) Shuowen guangyi jiaoding 說文廣義校訂 (Qucheng: Zhang Wenjin zhai, preface dated 1874), 3.73b–74a.

51. Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 35.

52. Gao Heng 高亨, Guzi tongjia huidian 古字通假匯典 (Ji'nan: Qi-Lu shu she, 1989), 100.

53. See particularly Hu Zhi 胡之, ed., Neimenggu Juyan Han jian (er) 內蒙古居延漢簡(二), 15.

54. Lu Xixing, Handai jiandu caozi bian, 195.

55. E.g. chi 馳, “to race (toward), to go fast.”

56. See Hanyu dacidian, s.v., “dashi.” At the 2015 University of Chicago Creel Center workshop presentation mentioned above, Han Wei 韓偉 suggested alternatively that the graph could be an error for ni 逆, “to reverse, go against.” In context this would instruct the user to examine the blade from another angle, which is also a reasonable reading.

57. He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao,’” 92–93.

58. Chen Li, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan,” 72.

59. In present-day common usage, the word “weld” has potentially anachronistic implications of gas or electric welding; its strict sense is in fact broader.

60. On dating Zhouli and its broad influence on Warring States conceptions of government, see David Schaberg, “The Zhouli as Constitutional Text,” in Premodern East Asian Statecraft in Comparative Context: The Rituals of Zhou in Chinese and East Asian History, ed. Benjamin A. Elman and Martin Kern (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 33–63.

61. Transcription and photos of the original are in Hu Zhi 胡之, ed., Neimenggu Juyan Han jian (er) 內蒙古居延漢簡(二) (Chongqing: Chongqing, 2008), transcription and main photo 13, close-up photos pp. 14–19; see also the transcription in Ma Yi and Zhang Rongqiang, Juyan xinjian shijiao, 145–46; and He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce,” 85–98, including his translation of the text on p. 97. The first published transcription of this text was in Gansusheng bowuguan Han jian zhenglizu 甘肅省博物館漢簡整理組, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce shiwen” 居延漢簡 “相劍刀” 冊釋文, Dunhuangxu jikan 敦煌學輯刊 3 (1983), 78 . In the course of reading the text, I referred also to Li, Chen 陳力, “‘Juyan xinjian’ xiang lishan daojian zhujian xuanshi” “居延新簡” 相利善刀劍諸簡選釋, Kaogu yu wenwu 考古與文物 2002.6, 7073 ; and Ma Mingda, Shuo jian conggao, 27–44. Additional references are cited individually.

62. Writing feng 逢 for feng 鋒 also occurs in other excavated texts; see Wang Hui 王輝, Guwenzi tongjia shili 古文字通假釋例 (Taipei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1993), 555.

63. The text consistently writes bi 幣, usually “currency, cloth currency,” for bi 弊, “poor, bad.” This alternation is known in received texts, including the record of a stele inscription in Hong Kuo 洪适 (1117–84), Li shi 隸釋, Skqs, 7.5a–6a; see also Gao Heng, Guzi tongjia huidian, 594–96, which lists supporting examples. Tomiya Itaru 冨谷至, et al., eds., Kankan go-i: Chūgoku kodai mokkan jiten 漢簡語彙:中国古代木簡辞典 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2015), 502–3, list bi 幣 as an alternate form of bi 敝, “to be worn out, broken, damaged,” with reference to other texts. He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao,’” 87, insists upon reading this instance of bi 幣 as bi 弊 and not bi 敝, concentrating on the latter's implication of a poor condition resulting from use or damage. It seems likely that bi 弊 and bi 敝 represent what was originally one word, which developed closely related meanings and graphic distinctions over time.

64. See discussion of this graph and its interpretation in the introductory section of this article.

65. See discussion of this character and its interpretation in the introduction.

66. Hu Zhi's transcription has 蓬, Ma and Zhang have , and He Maohuo has 㷭. To my eye the photo seems to show 逢.

67. No one has yet proposed a fully satisfactory reading of this graph. The published photographs of the graph show clearly that the left-hand portion is the radical 言, as all readers agree. The right-hand portion is not immediately evident. Ma and Zhang and other readers understand the graph as qian 謙, usually “modest; inferior.” The first transcription has liang 諒. In context that could mean “of good faith, trustworthy,” though Ma Mingda, ““Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao,’” 86, explains it as a loan for liang 𣄴. Ma then adduces the Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 quotation of a lost Erya 爾雅 entry that defines liang 𣄴 as “thin”; Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 181. Ma next refers to the excavated military text Sun Bin bingfa 孫臏兵法, which says, “If a blade is not thin, it will not cut” 刃不溥(:薄)則不剸; see Zhang Zhenze 張震澤, Sun Bin bingfa jiaoli 孫臏兵法校理 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984), 130. It may be noted that the Shuowen jiezi first defines liang as a term denoting something bad; see Tang Kejing 湯可敬, Shuowen jiezi jinshi 說文解字今釋 (Changsha: Yuelu shushe, 1997), 1197–98. This suggests that the sense “thin” Shuowen jiezi employs is not intended as praise.

He Maohuo, “Juyan Han jian ‘Xiang jian dao’ ce,” 88–89, acknowledges the previous readings and rejects them on the basis of both form and sense. He suggests reading instead as , which in context he proposes as a variant of ming 鳴, “to call, sing, ring.” He refers to the Hanyu dacidian 漢語大詞典, s.v., “mingjian” 鳴劍, which cites example uses and explains that mingjian denotes a good sword. He Maohuo forthrightly acknowledges three problems with his reading, including the fact that the identification of the character in the published photographs remains a question. The graph is furthermore not attested in any source, although it would adhere to the usual principles for creating graphs. Finally, the following text refers to “strong ones” 強者 and “weak ones” 弱者, which are not of a type with the proposed reading of “singing.” Nevertheless, I find He Maohuo's reading best fits the available evidence and so I adopt it provisionally.

68. Ma and Zhang and others have 𦷚 here. According to the Dictionary of Character Variants website, this is another form of 葸, “to fear,” also the name of a plant; see http://dict.variants.moe.edu.tw/yitib/frb/frb03957.htm, accessed 1 April 2015. Hanyu dazidian 漢語大字典, 3264, says the same. All readers agree that in this context it is a form of e/wu 惡, “bad; to be bad.”

69. See discussion of this reading in the introduction.

70. See discussion in the introduction regarding da/ta (:達).

71. On this line, see discussion in the introduction.

I presented a version of this article at a workshop at the University of Chicago Creel Center for Chinese Paleography on 7 November 2015. I thank Edward L. Shaughnessy, Robin D. S. Yates, and the other participants for their questions, comments, and suggestions. I am also grateful to Sarah Allan, Miranda Brown, William Boltz, and Matthias Richter for reading and commenting on draft versions of this article.

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