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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Peace and Violence in Dynastic Changes in Thought o f the “Rongcheng Shi” in the Shanghai Museum Chu Bamboo Manuscripts

Vol. 33 No. 2   3/2003


Peace and Violence in Dynastic Changes in Thought of the “Rongcheng Shi” in the Shanghai Museum Chu Bamboo Manuscripts


Yuichi Asano









Key words

“Rongcheng Shi”, Shangrang transmission,revolution, hereditary succession, Mandate of Heaven


   The Warring State’s bamboo manuscripts, which the Shanghai Museum had purchased at a Hong Kong antiquarian market in 1994, includes a text named “Rongcheng Shi”(容成氏). It contains a record of the dynastic pedigree of ancient China and descriptions of the transmission of the sovereignty from the sage emperors such as Yao and Shun to be the Three dynasties, i.e. Xia, Shang and Zhou. Similar descriptions can be seen in some extant texts such as the Qukuang Chaper of the Zhuangzi and in fragmented passages in the Liutao. The “Rongcheng Shi” admires shangrang, a form of transmission of sovereignty in which a ruler voluntarily yields his throne to the wisest person regardless of whether there is kinship between him as his successor. Since this form of political procedure has been idealized in the Confucian tradition, Yao and Shun have been acclaimed by Confucians. As a matter of fact, Confucians also celebrated the establishers of the Three dynasties, i.e. sage Emperor Yu, King Tang, King Wen and King Wu. In particular, Confucius envisioned an ideal state in the Zhou dynasty. However, the establishment of the political regimes of Prince Qi of Xia, King Tang of Shang, and King Wu of Zhou was attained by violence and blood stained revolutions, and their regimes were hereditary monarchies that sharply contrasted with the idea of shanrang. In the writings of the Warring states’ Confucians such as Mencius and Xun Qing, as well as the Confucian classics such as the Book of Poems and the Book of Documents, this theoretical contradiction was reconciled by the idea of the Mandate of Heaven. Interestingly the “Rongcheng shi” text does not follow this line. In the eyes of its author, the ideal rule once embodied by Yao and Shun has not been repeated throughout the history of the three dynasties since Prince Qi. This suggests that there should have been various opinions on this topic within the Confucian school of that time.



Author: Yuichi Asano
Genre: Article
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