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Sage King Yu 禹 and the Bin Gong XU 豳公盨

  • Constance A. Cook 柯鶴立 (a1)


The recent discovery of an unusual ninth century B.C.E. bronze inscription dedicated to Yu as a founder deity has reopened discussions regarding the historicity of legendary figures. This article examines the occult role of this figure in Zhou society and suggests that the inscription be read as a song used in a harvest ceremony of thanksgiving to Yu. The author suggests that Yu once functioned along the same lines as Houji, as both ancestral founder and earth deity, but was eventually suppressed in favor of Houji.



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1. Lewis, Mark E., The Flood Myths of Early China (Albany: State University of New York, 2006); The Mythology of Early China,” in Early Chinese Religion, Vol. 1, ed. Lagerwey, J. and Kalinowski, M. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 543–94.

2. See Granet, Marcel, Danses et légends de la Chine Ancienne, corrected and annotated by Mathieu, Rémi, 3rd ed. (Paris, 1926, rpts. 1956, 1994); See Harper's, Donald introduction in Early Chinese Medical Literature: the Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts (London: Kegan Paul, 1998) and Wenhui, Hu 胡文輝, “Qin jian Rishu ‘Chu bangmen pian’ xinzheng” 秦簡《日書·出邦門篇》新証, Wenbo 文博 1998.1, 9194 .

3. Ritual Practices for Constructing Terrestrial Space (Warring States-Early Han),” Lagerwey, and Kalinowski, , Early Chinese Religions, Vol. 1, 595644 .

4. Compiled into the Gushibian 古史辨 published in seven volumes between 1926 and 1941 by Beiping pushe 北平樸社, republished in 1982 by Shanghai guji. The myth of Gun 鯀 and Yu is found in volume 7. Since that time, there has been a great deal of scholarship and debate regarding whether or not Yu was a historical or mythical figure and whether or not a Xia dynasty existed (Gu did not express doubt that the dynasty existed). As the purpose of this essay is only to explore the mythical or legendary aspect of a figure that by around the 6–5th centuries B.C.E. was already understood in a historical sense (as coming before Cheng Tang 成湯, the Shang founder, see n. 23 below), I will not delve into this sensitive debate. I would simply suggest that even if there was an historical Yu, he, like many historical figures, seemed to acquire supernatural attributes over time. Readers are advised to look at Guowei, Wang 王國維, Gushi xinzheng, Yu 古史新證·禹, Guoxue yuebao 國學月報, Special Issue 1927 (reprinted Beijing: Laixunge, 1935 ; Tsinghua University, 1994); Li Xueqin 李學勤, “Lun Sui Gong Xu jiqi zhongyao yiyi” 論 公盨及其重要意義, reprinted in Xueqin, Li, Zhongguo gudai wenming yanjiu 中國古代文明研究 (Shanghai: Huadong shifan daxue, 2005), 126–36; Weiyang, Xie 謝維揚, “Cong Bin Gong xu, ‘Zi Gao’ pian he ‘Rongchengshi’ kan gushi jishu ziliao de zhenshi guocheng” 從豳公盨、《子羔》篇和《容成氏》看古史記述資料的真實過程, Shanghai wenbo 上海文博 2010, 5662 . The focus of the present debates tends to be the veracity of “official” history and how to rationalize the conflicting systems of early kings presented within and among early texts. Discussions of their human or spiritual nature tend to focus on whether accounts prove that the figures were born with or without mention of a father. For a recent discussion of Rongchengshi as a late Warring states “philosophical” rather than “historical” text and the relevance of Gu Jiegang's theories, see Allan, Sarah, “Abdication and Utopian Vision in the Bamboo Slip Manuscript, Rongchengshi , Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37 (2010), 6784 .

5. For example, see Qu Wanli 屈萬里 on the “Three Lords” (san hou 三后), Houji, Boyi, and Yu mentioned in the “Lü xing” 呂刑 chapter of the Shang shu, Xi-Zhou shi shi gaishu” 西周史事概述, Zhongyanyuan lishi yuyan yanjiusuo jikan 中央研究院歷史語言研究所輯刊 42 (1971) 4, 775–6.; see also Lan, Ai 艾蘭 (Allan, Sarah), The Heir and the Sage: Dynastic Legend in Early China 世襲與禪讓–––古代中國的王朝更替傳說, Ai Lan wenji 艾蘭文集 2 (Beijing: Shangwu, 2010), 55 and see Weiyang, Xie, “Cong Bin Gong xu ‘Zi Gao’ pian he ‘Rongchengshi,’5662 .

6. Lewis, , “The Mythology,” 475576 ; see also the discussion by Kuan, Yang 楊寬, “Zhongguo shanggushi daolun” 中國上古史導論, Gushibian 古史辨 7 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1982), 358 . Warring States period versions of the archaic graph for Yu, as seen in the bamboo texts, was written with an “earth” 土 semantic underneath. This is not the case with older examples, including the Bin Gong xu form, where the semantic seems closer to representing a type of creature 虫 (see Fig. 1).

7. Xian-Qin lizhi yanjiu 先秦禮制研究 (Changsha: Hunan jiaoyu, 1991), 202 .

8. The connection between the health of the earth altar and the polity founded is suggested in the Gongyang 公羊 commentary to the Chun qiu 春秋 (“Ai Gong” 哀公 4) where it states “the earth altar is the feng 封,” see Chun qiu Gongyangzhuan zhushu 春秋公羊傳注疏 (Shisanjing zhushu 十三經注疏, ed. Yuan, Ruan 阮元, [Bejing: Zhonghua, 1980]; rpt. 2008), 27.153.

9. Rituals for the Earth,” Lagerwey, and Kalinowski, , Early Chinese Religion, 201–34. He and Lewis both point out the relationship of this legend to Nü Wa's fixing the universe with plugs of earth or stone.

10. See Shuguo, Chen, Xian-Qin lizhi yanjiu, 194, 203–5.

11. Yu, Liu 劉雨 and Zhibin, Yan 嚴志斌 ed., Jinchu Yin Zhou jinwen jilu er bian 近出 殷周金文記錄二編 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 2010) 2, 138–39. The first set of scholarly discussions is published in the Chinese report Zhongguo lishi wenwu 中國歷史文物 2002.6. These were followed by a series of articles edited by Tsung-i, Jao 饒宗頤 in Huaxue 華學 6 (2003), 49 . The first scholarly opinions in the West were published after a conference at Dartmouth College in 2003; see Wen, Xing 邢文, ed. “The X Gong Xu 公盨: A Report and Papers from the Dartmouth Workshop,” A Special Issue of International Research on Bamboo and Silk Documents: Newsletter (Dartmouth College, 2003). In this issue, for a discussion on the non-standard nature of the vessels see Fitzgerald-Huber, Louisa G., 34–43 and Cheng, Ifan 程一凡, “A Royal Food Container and its Discontents,” 4448 . For comments on the late nature of the vocabulary in the inscription, see C. Cook, 23–28. A recent viewing of the vessel at the Poly Museum suggests to the author the need for a scientific study of its manufacture.

12. See suo, Henansheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu, weiyuanhui, Pingdingshan shi wenwu guanli, “Pingdingshan Ying guo mudi bashisi hao mu” 平頂山應國墓地八十四號墓, Wenwu 1998.9, 416 .

13. “Newly Discovered Bronzes,” 21–24, paper presented at Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Shouyang Studio and Elsewhere: An International Conference Commemorating Twenty Years of Discoveries,” The Art Institute of Chicago and The Creel Center for Chinese Paleography, The University of Chicago, 11 5–7, 2010 .

14. Edward Shaughnessy in a 2007 article followed the Shanghai Museum assessment that it may date as early as the first half of the ninth century B.C.E.; see The Bin Gong Xu Inscription and the Origins of the Chinese Literary Tradition,” Books in Numbers: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Harvard-Yenching Library, Conference Papers, ed. Idema, Wilt (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2007), 9 .

15. The graph  can be transcribed by the modern graph bin 豳 (*prən), a Zhou polity. The rationale for this is that the upper element is commonly simplified to 豩 and the “fire” 火 semantic and “mountain” 山 semantic were frequently confused in early paleographical writings. See Yu, Liu, “Bin Gong kao” 豳公考, Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 78 and Yingjie, Chen 陳英杰, “Bin Gong xu mingwen zaikao”  公盨銘文再考 (2007 ms. posted on, accessed 10/2010; published in Yuyan kexue 語言科學 7 [2008], 63–77). While many scholars argued for different readings, the only other viable reading is that of Li Xueqin 李學勤 who early on suggested reading the core graph as 㒸 for sui 遂 (*səluts), a polity of Shun 舜 descendants in Shandong, 山東 (“Lun X Gong xu ji qi zhongyao yiyi” 論 公盨及其重要意義, Zhongguo lishi wenwu 2002.6: 79). This is intriguing because in transmitted literature there was also a legend about Sui 燧, Fire-maker, who descended from Tai Hao 太暭, see Xunzi jijie 荀子集解, ed. Wang Xianqin 王先謙 (Zhuzi jicheng 諸子集成, Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1986, rpt. 1991), 225 (“Zhenglun” 正論). Han Feizi 韓非子 placed the ancient lineage of Suiren 燧人 right before that of the water controllers Gun and Yu, see Han Feizi jijie 韓非子集解, ed. Wang Xianshen 王先慎 (Zhuzi jicheng), 339 (“Wudu” 五蠹). During the Han period, Suiren was known along with Fuxi 伏羲 and Shennong 神農 as one of the Three Brilliant Ones 三皇. Unlike Yu, however, Suiren was linked to Zhu Rong 祝融 and fire myths, see Baihutong shuzheng 白虎通疏證, ed. Li, Chen 陳立 (Xinbian Zhuzi jicheng 新編諸子集成, Beijing: Zhonghua, 1994), 49 (“Hao” 號). In Zhuangzi, Suiren and Shennong worked together following the way of Huangdi 黃帝, see Zhuangzi jijie 莊子集解, ed. Qingfan, Guo 郭慶藩 (Zhushu jicheng), 98, 111 (“Shan xing” 繕性, “Zhi le” 至樂). There seems to be a yin-yang split of fire and water in the later images of early earth spirits. Despite this intriguing evidence, this essay will pursue earth spirit legends linked to the place Bin as the more likely scenario.

16. Yu, Liu, Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 616 .

17. I suspect this name was inserted into the legend later.

18. Lewis, , “The Mythology,” 562–63; Wanli, Qu, “Xi-Zhou shi shi gaishu,” 775–77.

19. Li Feng locates the Qi River near the Jing 涇 River in Shaanxi about 4.5 kilometers west of the modern County, Bin, Landscape and Power in Early China (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2006), 161–62. The Ju River must have been nearby.

20. See Shiji huizhu kaozheng fujiao bu 史記會注考證附校補, ed. Kametaro, Takekawa 瀧川龜太郎, (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1986), juan 1, 7576 . (“Zhou benji” 周本紀). According to the “Liu Jing Shusun Tong liezhuan” 劉敬叔孫列傳, Liu Gong was chased to Bin by Jie, the evil last king of Xia ( Kametaro, Takekawa, Shiji, 2, 1684). In another account, it was the Di who chased him there. The “Zhou benji” passage was certainly inspired by a version of the Shi jing ode “Gong Liu” 公劉 (Mao no. 250), see Mao shi zhengyi 毛詩正義 ed. Yingda, Kong 孔穎達 (Shisanjing zhushu), 17.3, 273–77.

21. For an analysis of the legends connecting Shun and Yu and the establishment of the Xia, see Lan, Ai, The Heir and the Sage, 5565 .

22. The implications for the dating of passages in these texts or the texts as a whole has been discussed by many scholars; for a recent summary of the extensive Chinese scholarship see Chen Yingjie, “Bin Gong xu mingwen zaikao.”

23. See the Spring and Autumn period bronze inscriptions belonging to Qin, and Qi, , Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng 殷周金文集成, ed. yanjiusuo, Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan kaogu, Kaoguxue tekan 考古學特刊. (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1988), nos. 276, 283, 285, 4315 (hereafter Jicheng followed by the number).

24. Guo yu (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1978), 1, 23 . The Yu and Xia are often written together as a single term, but read as if they are two separate eras.

25. Chun qiu Zuo zhuan zhengyi 春秋左傳正義, ed. Yingda, Kong (Shisanjing zhushu), 53.420–21. Yu and Xia Hou Qi 夏后啟 (Yu's son?) appear as diviners (along with a variety of Qin period mythical figures) in the Wangjiatai 王家臺 divination bamboo text referred to as the Guicang 歸藏. In it, Xia Hou Qi flies to the sky on a dragon. See Mingqin, Wang 王明欽, “Wangjiatai Qin mu zhujian gaishu” 王家台秦墓竹簡概述, Xinchu jianbo yanjiu: xinchu jianbo guoji xueshu yantaohui wenji 新出簡帛研究: 新出簡帛國際學術研討會文集, ed. Lan, Ai and Wen, Xing (Beijing: Wenwu, 2004), 3032 .

26. Shun of the so-called pre-Xia Yu “Forester” era was also associated with water and had dragon-like features, see Lewis, , The Flood Myths, 3638 . Yu was born out of the belly of Gun in some versions of the myth. The graphs for Gun and Yu represented aquatic creatures, both associated with dragons, see Lewis, , The Flood Myths, 103106 .

27. The “Tang Yu zhi dao” text from Guodian states clearly that Yu managed water and Hou Ji, the earth: bowuguan, Jingmen shi 荊門市博物館, Guodian Chu mu zhujian 郭店楚墓竹簡 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1998), 39, strip 10.

28. Sukhu, G., “Yao, Shun, and Prefiguration: The Origins and Ideology of the Han Imperial Genealogy,” Early China 30 (20052006), 111–12.

29. See n. 25 above.

30. Mengzi zhushu 孟子注疏 ed. Qi, Zhao 趙岐 (Shisanjing zhushu), 6.2, 50 .

31. Lewis, , The Flood Myths, 104 ; See also the discussion by Lan, Ai, The Way of Waterand the Sprouts of Virtue 水之道與德之端–––中國早期哲學思想德本喻, Ai Lan wenji 3 (Beijing: Shangwu, 2010), 5051 .

32. Jicheng10175.

33. See Shan, Ding 丁山, “Houtu Hou Ji Shennong Rushou kao (shang)” 后土后稷神農蓐收考 (上), Wenshi 文史 55 (2001) 2, 113 , (下), Wenshi 56 (2001) 3, 116 and Ichirō, Kominami, “Rituals for the Earth,” 228–34.

34. Some Preliminary Comments on the 公盨,” Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 22 .

35. Since “earth” is not the antecedent to fu in this phrase, it is safer to assume that what was being “spread” was the Zhou mandate from Heaven, which is often the antecedent in longer Western Zhou inscriptions. For example, see the Da Yu ding 大盂 鼎 (Jicheng 2837).

36. The only other inscriptions that mention Yu are dated to the Chunqiu period and were made by the states of Qin 秦 and Qi 齊 (see n. 23 above). See Cook, Constance A., Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 2728 , and Shang Zhou qingtongqi mingwenxuan 商周青銅器銘文選, ed. Ma Chengyuan 馬承源 et al., 4, 610 and nos. 546, 848; Mattos, Gil, “Eastern Zhou Bronze Inscriptions,” New Sources of Early Chinese History: An Introduction to the Reading of Inscriptions and Manuscripts, ed. Shaughnessy, Edward, (Berkeley: University of California, Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, 1997), 114 ; Doty, Darrel, “The Bronze Inscriptions of Ch'i: an Interpretation” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 1982), 1, 280 .

37. yanjiusuo, Shaanxi sheng kaogu, kaogudui, Baoji shi, wenhuaguan, Meixian, “Shaanxi Meixian Yangjiacun Xi Zhou qingtongqi jiaocang” 陝西眉縣楊家村西周青 銅器窖藏, Kaogu yu wenwu 考古與文物, 2003.3, 312 .

38. Most reconstructions follow the Old Chinese reconstruction by William Baxter and Laurent Sagart (pdf version 20 February 2011). In the case of words not included in that pdf, some have been worked out through private consultation with Baxter and Sagart, others may be mistakes on my own part.

39. Mu, Qian 錢穆, Zhou chu dili kao 周初地理考, Yanjing xuebao 燕京學報 10 (1931), 19552008 .

40. See n. 22 above.

41. Shang shu zhengyi 尚書正義, ed. Kong Yingda (Shisanjing zhushu), (“Shun Dian” 舜典, 3.18).

42. His magical birth is also the focus of references to Hou Ji in the bamboo texts “Zi Gao” and “Rongchengshi,” see Xinhui, Luo 羅新慧, “Cong Shangbo jian ‘Zi Gao’ he ‘Rongchengshi’ kan gushi chuanshuo de Hou Ji” 從上博簡《子羔》和《容成氏》看古史傳說的后稷, Shixue yuekan> 史學月刊 2005.2, 1420 .

43. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 22.346.

44. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu),19.2.322.

45. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu),13.2.22; 18.4.32.

46. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu),16.5.258; 20.4.358, 360.

47. Qin ‘Ci Xian Nong’ jian zai tan” 秦 “祠先農” 簡再探, Jianbo 5 (2010), 7789

48. See n. 47 above.

49. See n. 2 above. The connection between the Steps of Yu and a diagram of the Big Dipper is already apparent in the Qin period “Day Book” found at Fangmatan 放馬灘 in Gansu (see Changgui, Yan 晏昌貴, “Tianshui Fangmatan Qin jian Yi zhong “Ri Shu” fen pian shiwen [gao])” 天水放馬灘秦簡 “日書” 分篇釋文 (稿) Jianbo 5 (2010), 30 . An obscure reference to Yu might be found in the section of the Day Book dedicated to curing illness. When divining about sacrifices for expelling illness there might appear the sign of the “Nine Continents,” meaning Great Water 大水. “Nine” the text goes on to explain refers to the head (body-part). What symptoms or sacrifice is implied by the text is not exactly clear. See Changgui, Yan, “Tianshui,” 38 .

50. Zhilong, Shi, “Qin ‘Ci Xian Nong’,” 77 .

51. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 13.2.199-203 (Mao 209). William Baxter mused that Verse 1 and 4 of this ode reveal rhyme contacts that suggest a dialect similarity to the Bin Gong inscription (personal communication, 11/2010). The most recent study and translation of this ode is by Kern, M., “ Shi jing Songs as Performance Texts: A Case Study of “Chu Ci” (Thorny Caltrop),” Early China 25 (2000), 49112 . Kern analyzed the multiple voices in this ode. See also his study Bronze inscriptions, the Shijing and the Shangshu: the evolution of the ancestral sacrifice during the Western Zhou,” Lagerwey, and Kalinowski, , Early Chinese Religion, 143200 .

52. Allan and others have suggested that Bin Gong might not be a living person (see Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 22 ff.).

53. Han shu buzhu 漢書補注, ed. Wang Xianqian (“Lüli zhi” 律歷志) 21 xia, 49; see Shuguo, Chen, Xian-Qin lizhi yanjiu, 197 .

54. Li ji zhengyi 禮記正義, ed. Yingda, Kong (Shisanjing zhushu), 26.225.

55. Fulu 6, Shiwen” 附錄 6, 釋文, Shanghai bowuguan cang Zhanguo Chu zhushu (1–5) wenzi bian 上海博物館藏戰國楚竹書 (一–五) 文字編, Shoukui, Li 李守奎, bing, Qu 曲冰, Weilong, Sun 孫偉龍, eds. (Beijing: Zuojia, 2007), 802 . For the definition of a Nai as a three-legged tortoise or dragon, see Lewis, , The Flood Myths, 103 .

56. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 5.29.

57. Li ji zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 31.260.

58. Astronomical Dates in the Shang and Western Zhou,” Early China 7 (19811982), 237 . For a study of the dances associated with individual sage kings, see McCurley, D., “Performing Patterns and Numinous relations in Shang and Zhou China,” The Drama Review 49 (Fall 2005) 3, 135–56; for a study of the importance of musical performance in ceremonies for founder ancestors for the transmission of literacy, see Cook, C., “Education and the Way of the Former Kings,” Literacy in Early China, ed. Feng, Li and Branner, D. (Seattle: University of Washington, 2011), 302–36.

59. The Zuo zhuan records that in order to “restore the work of Yu, one performed the matching ritual to Heaven while sacrificing to Xia,” see Chun qiu Zuo zhuan zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), (“Ai Gong” 1, 57.452). The “Si wen” 思文 ode in the Shi jing “Zhou song” section notes that Hou Ji performed the “matching” ritual to Heaven and established the people Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 19.2.322.

60. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 4.25.

61. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 4.32.

62. See Chun qiu Zuo zhuan zhengyi (Shisanjin zhushu), (“Yin Gong” 隱公 8, 4.31; “Zhao Gong” 昭公 7, 44.349). In the first example, when sending a woman in marriage, one first performs the pei ritual and then the zu 祖 ritual, understood as a travel ritual. In the second example, a chen 辰 is defined as the pei of the sun by the moon.

63. Lewis, , “The Mythology,” 575–76.

64. See Kametaro, Takekawa, Shiji, 28, 7.

65. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu) 5, 29.

66. According to the Kong Yingda commentary on a passage in the Zuozhuan (remarking how the grand music of the songs of Bin, being joyful but not loose make one think of Zhou Gong's mission to the East) notes the connection of Bin music to the tale of how Hou Ji's descendant, Gong Liu, settled among the Rong and Di peoples in Bin and how that paralleled Zhou Gong's going off to the east to continue the agricultural work of Hou Ji and the Xian Gong (Gong Liu). Kong claimed that the difficulties Zhou Gong ran into there led to the ode “Qi Yue,” see Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu) 8.1, 120–26. The Gong Liu” is found in Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu) 17.3, 273–76.

67. Zhou li zhushu 周禮注疏 ed. Xuan, Zheng 鄭玄 (Shisanjing zhushu) 24.163–64. Kong Yingda notes that both ceremonies were to agricultural deities. The earth drum was a hand-held earthenware drum with a large funnel shape on one end and a small one on the other, both ends covered with leather.

68. See Cook, C., “Ancestor Worship during the Eastern Zhou,” Lagerwey, and Kalinowski, , Early Chinese Religion, 262–71. The La ceremony included the Grand Exorcism, see summary by Bujard, M., “State and Local Cults in Han Religion,” Lagerwey, and Kalinowksi, , Early Chinese Religion, 801 .

69. See for example, the Shi Wang ding 師望鼎 (Jicheng 2812).

70. M. Kern saw increasing “euphonic features” in Western Zhou inscriptions as a function of “the consolidation of the royal institution of ancestral sacrifice during the mid- and late Western Zhou” (“Bronze Inscriptions, the Shi jing and the Shang shu,” Lagerwey, and Kalinowski, , Early Chinese Religion, 194–95).

71. Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese: A Companion to Grammata Serica Recensa, ed. Mair, V., ABC Dictionary Series (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 2009).

72. For example, such simplification removes from consideration the effect of initials and finals of individual words on their medial vowels as well as consideration of the initials and finals of surrounding words on the word in question. On the other hand, also obscured from consideration are cases of words whose medials+finals were quite close in pronunciation (hedge-rhymes).

73. Li Xueqin explains that shezheng 設征 refers to the setting up of land tariffs (Lun X Gong xu,” Zhongguo lishi wenwu, 10). My reading of zheng 政 is drawn from contemporary inscriptions lauding King Wen, see Cook, , “Bin gong xu and Sage-king Yu,” Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 24n.7. For a collation of the various transcriptions of the inscription, see Chen Shu's article in this volume, “Collected Interpretations of the X Gong X.”

74. The archaic graph is generally interpreted as consisting of 日 on top of 水 on the left and 頁 on the right. Li Xueqin read it as 貴 and Li Ling 李零 as mei 昧 *mˤət-s a graphic loan for mo 沫, used as a descriptive for pan vessels in other bronze inscriptions (Lun X Gong xu faxian de yiyi” 論 公盨發現的意義, Zhongguo lishi wenwu 2002.6, 38 , see my discussion in Cook, , “Bing gong xu ,” Wen, Xing, Newsletter, 25n.10). This latter reading is also found in Yu, Liu and Zhibin, Yan ed., Jinchu Yin Zhou jinwen jilu er bian 2, 139 . Earlier I have followed this, but in this essay, I test the idea that it should really be read as simplified variant of xian 顯 *qʰˤen? , “to make lustrous, manifest.” The immediate problem with this idea is that xian almost always appears after pi 丕 in the bronze inscriptions. This is true for many transmitted textual usages as well, however the Shi jing does also use it in a verbal sense of “to be visible, manifest” as in the presence of an ancestral spirit (see “Si qi” 思齊 and “Yi” 抑, Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 16.3.249; 18.1.288). There are two Zhou eulogies preserved in the Shi jing that describe de as being “manifest” (xian). The first example also includes the phrase wei de 維德. This occurs in the “Lie Wen” 烈文 (Mao 269, Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 19.1.317): “Limitless are the people, obedient in all quadrants of the world; So manifest is the de modeled by the 100 Rulers” 無競維人、四方其訓之; 不顯維德、百辟其刑之. In the second example, xian is the desired quality of de, a quality conferred by the ancestors, see “Jing zhi” 敬之 (Mao 288, Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 19.3.331): “reveal to us the way of making manifest our de” 示我顯德行.

75. This phrase is full of problems. Inscriptions with Tianxia indicating a location (versus a subject + verb) date to the late Warring States period. On the Zhongshan bronze fangding inscription, we find “protect all things (located in) Under Heaven” 閈 (閑) 於天下之物矣. The archaic graph for the first word in the Bin Gong phrase was composed of 頁 (*lep) with 飠 (*s-mə-lək) underneath and is read as 憂 (*ʔiw) “anxiety, concern” (see Shaughnessy, , “The Bin Gong Xu Inscription,” Idema, , Books in Numbers, 1819) or 優 by Chen Yingjie in the sense of widespread harmony (following Mao 304; support can also be found in the “Gaozi, xia” in Mengzi in the line 好善優於天下, “Bin Gong xu mingwen zaikao”). While these readings are convenient, neither interpretation works with either element in the original graph phonetically. A weak case could be made for 閑 (*gˤren) (as seen in the Zhongshan inscription) if we assume fluidity in the element 飠 as all commentators have done so far in their attempts to interpret this graph. If, one the other hand, we retain the 飠 element but consider it a mistake for the graphically similar phonetic 含 (*Cə-m-kˤəm-s), then we come up with the graph 頷 (“the jaw,” “lower the head” in Zuozhuan) or loan word 頇 (“bald”) both read *ɢˤəm and possible dialect loans for 閈 or 捍 (both read *kˤar) for 閑 (*gˤran) “to protect, bar against trespass” (with the shared phonetic 干). However, it is much less convoluted to go with the original ignored element 食 and look for words compatible with the common theme of feeding the world in transmitted texts, hence the choice of 飤 (*s-mə-lək) “to feed.” Liu Yu and Yan Zhibin transcribe ren 任 (*nəm-s), but the rationale is unclear (Jinchu Yin Zhou jicheng erbian 2, 139).

76. Chen Yingjie reads 亡 as 無 as a loan for 娛 which seems unlikely, however his reading 不 as 丕 in bronze inscriptions finds strong support in the inscriptions. In the case where the people and not the king is the subject, Shaughnessy's reading of “dili-gent” or perhaps “energetic” is probably better—the sense being that they are diligent in performing the sacrifices (The Bin Gong Xu Inscription,” Idema, , Books in Numbers, 15 ; Chen Yingjie, “Bin Gong xu mingwen zaikao,”). In this case, I would read 亡 more like 罔 as in the Shang shu “Duofang” 多方 line 罔不明德慎罰 or the “Lü xing” 呂刑 line 罔不惟德之勤, see Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 17.116, 19.136.

77. The word yu written with a “heart” semantic and the phonetic 盂 (*Gwa) and is read as xu 訏 (*qwha) “big, ample, to enlarge” by most scholars and as found in a number of odes in the Shi jing (in Mao no. 245, “Shengmin,” for example, it describes infant Hou Ji's loud crying). Chen Jieying suggests xu 卹 (*s-mit) in the sense of “take care with” (the rites, etc.) (“Bin Gong xu mingwen zaikao,”) but that ignores the phonetic 于.

78. Baxter pointed out that *bˤot 祓 cannot be a loan for *pək 福 (personal com-munication). Most scholars prefer to read it as 福祿 because this phrase is extremely common in both the bronze inscriptions and the Shi jing. The word fu 祓 is found only on a handful of inscriptions from the Fufeng 扶風 region in Shaanxi 陝西. The unusual phrase fulu 祓祿 is found also on a Xing bell inscription (Jicheng 246). Xing was a descendent of Shi Qiang whose lineage narrative is mentioned above. This helps to confirm a time period and regional affiliation for the Bin Gong inscription, although still leaves us in doubt as to how to interpret the phrase.

79. This is Schussler's second reading (see Minimal Old Chinese, 227, no. 20–8). The other is *nhet, however since the word in front ends with a –ij, a similar initial following it seems most likely.

80. This is Schussler's second reading (see Minimal Old Chinese, 105, no. 4-64). The other is *mô?, which rhymes less well.

81. Following Shaughnessy, “The Bin Gong Xu,” Idema, Books in Numbers, 19n.12 for the reading of 無期.

82. See n. 11 above.

83. Linchang, Jiang 江林昌, “X gong xu mingwen de xueshu jiazhi zonglun” 公盨銘文的學術價值綜論, Huaxue 6 (2003), 3549 .

84. Qinghua daxue cang Zhanguo zhujian 清華大學藏戰國竹簡, zhongxin, Qinghua daxue chutu wenxian yanjiu yu baohu and Xueqin, Li, ed. (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi, 2010) 2, 74 (“Zhai Gong zhi guming” 祭公之顧命 strip 13).

85. See The Stele Inscriptions of Ch'in Shih-huang: Text and Ritual in Early Chinese imperial Representation (New Haven, American Oriental Society, 2000), 59105 .

86. Shi Qiang pan (Jicheng 10175), Group B Xing bells (Jicheng 251–56).

87. The Western Zhou meaning of yi 懿 is no doubt lost to us. Han scholars explain it as something that that becomes “beautiful” after a long time or is “deep” as in a basket, see Shuowen jiezi 說文解字, ed. Shen, Xu 許慎 (Shuowen jiezi gulin zhengbu hebian, comp. Dingwen, Zhongguo xueshu Series, Taipei: Dingwen, 1977), 8, 989–90 and commentary to “Qi Yue” 七月 in Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 8.1.121. Since de was the product of merit and wealth (awarded for merit) accumulated over time, I translate the adjective yi as “refined.”

88. See the discussions by Yu, Liu, “Bin Gong kao,” 67 and Linchang, Jiang, “Sui gong xu mingwen,” 4648 .

89. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 4.26.

90. Zhou li zhushu (Shisanjing zhushu), 10.68, 23.158.

91. Guo yu 國語 (Sibu beiyao 四部備要 ed.), 5.1-2a.

92. He sees reflections of these de in the “Daya” odes: Juan A” 卷阿, “Min Lao” 民勞, “Huang yi” 皇矣, and “Ban” 板. Although some of these odes address Heaven or the Happy Junzi (who might be spirits), the odes are not celebratory in the same manner as this inscription (see “X gong xu,” 45).

93. Pointed out by Linchang, Jiang, “X gong xu,” 45

94. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 19.135–137.

95. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 20.4.359–360.

96. Traditional commentaries read feng 封 as either meaning “great” or “land grant.” The Western Zhou meaning was simply to prescribe a territory with a boundary as with mounded earth and trees. By the Warring States period, feng could refer to a land grant or a grave mound. Based on the Zuo zhuan, Li Feng understands that fengjian was a Zhou policy of setting up a fence of polities run by relatives with clear obligations to the Zhou court around the Zhou center for protection (see Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crises and Fall of the Western Zhou, 1045–771 BC, [Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2006], 110–16). I suggest that there was a relationship between mortuary ritual, tombs, and the rights to rule a territory (“Ancestor Worship in Eastern Zhou,” 241–44).

97. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 16.2.239.

98. In the Shi jing, “matching” is performed by various regime rulers; the Shang could “match” the mandate and Shang Di before they lost it (“Wen Wang”); in “Huang yi,” the ruler after hacking down trees was set up by Shang Di to “match” his mandate; King Wu matched the mandate in the capital (“Xia Wu” 下武), and, in “Si Wen” 思文, Hou Ji matched Heaven providing grain to the people, see Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 16.1.237, 16.4.251, 16.5.257, 19.2.322.

99. Li ji zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 17.156.

100. Jicheng 88.

101. Jicheng 4448.

102. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 14.91.

103. Lun yu zhushu 論語注疏, ed. He Yan 何晏 (Shisanjing zhushu), (“Xue er” 學而, 1.1).

104. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 10.2.157. Noted by Ling, Li in “Lun X Gong xu,” 38 .

105. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 18.124. This line from the Shang shu is quoted differently in the Lun yu, see Lun yu zhushu (Shisanjing zhushu), (“Wei Zheng” 為政 2.7).

106. Zhou li zhushu (Shisanjing zhushu), 22.149.

107. Jicheng 9715.

108. Jicheng 10171.

109. Cook, “Ancestor Worship in the Eastern Zhou,” 260–71and “Education and the Way.”

110. Mengzi zhushu (Shisanjing zhushu), (“Lilou, xia” 離婁下, 8b.66). For a discussion of the purification ritual in pre-Qin China, see Heli, Ke 柯鶴立 (Cook, C.), “Gudai Zhong guo de zhai yishi yu shensheng kongjian gainian” 古代中國的齋意識与神聖空間概念, Disijie guoji Zhongguo guwenzixue yantaohui lunwenji 第四屆國際中國古文字學研討會論文集 (Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2003), 653–62; Cook, C., “Moonshine and Millet: Feasting and Purification Rituals in Ancient China,” Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China, ed. Sterckx, Roel (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 933 .

111. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 20.1.341. The first five words of this phrase may have sounded something like *sə maga mˁra? revealing an almost chant-like quality to the song.

112. See Qu Wanli 屈萬里, Shi jing shiyi 詩經釋義 (Taipei: Huagang, 1977), 183n.12; Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 14.1.26.

113. Li ji zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 46.362.

114. Shang shu zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 19.136.

115. Mao shi zhengyi (Shisanjing zhushu), 14.1. 208–9, 16.3.247–48, 19.3.327.

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Sage King Yu 禹 and the Bin Gong XU 豳公盨

  • Constance A. Cook 柯鶴立 (a1)


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