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The two parts of this study concern the three extant versions of “The Metal-bound Coffer” (“Jin teng”): the two received texts in the Book of Documents and the Grand Scribe's Records and the newly recovered Warring States manuscript now at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The first part considers an uncontroversial detail shared by all three versions: the reference to a poem composed by the Duke of Zhou called “The Owl” (“Chixiao”). Cross-referencing “The Metal-bound Coffer” with a poem of the same title, now found in the Book of Odes, it is possible to explain not only the place of this poem in the overall narrative of “The Metal-bound Coffer,” but also the considerations of the poem's two ancient commentators, Mao and Zheng Xuan. In the second part of the study, the discussion turns to the three versions of “The Metal-bound Coffer,” looking in turn at three different passages. By positing a greater number of testimonies than the ones that happen to survive, I argue that a comparison of the extant versions reveals an effort by transmitters, commentators, and the re-teller Sima Qian to teach a single lesson: the Duke of Zhou occupied a subordinate place vis-à-vis the ruler, and must never undermine him in any way.
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