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Bronze inscriptions provide academic value

Author  :  FENG GUO     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-03-13

Compilation of Chinese Bronze Inscriptions in Shaanxi

Editor-in-chief: Zhang Tian’en

Publisher: San Qin Press

After a decade’s efforts, Compilation of Chinese Bronze Inscriptions in Shaanxi, containing 1,973 bronze inscriptions from the Shang Dynasty to the Han Dynasty, was finally published. Covering bronze inscriptions over 1,500 years, the book series can be regarded as the most established work on provincial bronze inscription with the most varied materials. The series provides valuable information for studies of ancient bronzeware, ancient characters, calligraphy, and social and economic situations at that time.

Research on bronze inscriptions in China originated in the Han Dynasty. Records say that in 58 BC, during Emperor Xuan’s reign, there were people interpreting the inscriptions on the unearthed bronze cooking vessel in the former Meiyang County, which is now called Fufeng County in Shaanxi Province. Later, as more bronzewares with inscriptions were discovered, the discipline of epigraphy, which studies the inscriptions on bronzeware and stones, was formed in the Song Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, textual research came into full swing and there emerged many experts and books on the inscriptions. Since the 1970s in particular, new bronze inscriptions and bamboo scripts continued to be unearthed, promoting the research trend.

Zhang Tian’en, editor-in-chief and research fellow at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, said China has a long academic history when it comes to the collection and research of unearthed manuscripts. In the Song Dynasty there was Archaeology Figures. One major project supported by the National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science, “compilation of Chinese bronze inscriptions in Shaanxi Province” aimed to review all the bronze inscriptions unearthed in Shaanxi, and add high-definition pictures of bronzeware and inscriptions to form a large reference books with multiple volumes.

Wu Zhenfeng, an expert in bronze inscriptions and research fellow at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, said the book contains rubbings, pictures of the bronzeware, interpretations of those inscriptions, and lists of relevant information, such as which dynasty specific pieces of bronzeware belonged to; when and where the objects were found; where they are preserved; how they had been spread and the books that are relevant to each inscription.

The book also discarded previous editing methods that separated related inscriptions. Former inscriptions on the same kind of bronzeware would be introduced together, but they might be a part of a whole set of inscriptions with other parts on other kinds. Now inscriptions are classified by the different regions they belong to, which is more applicable to archaeological research and field work.

With social and economic development, Shaanxi Province has witnessed an increasing number of newly unearthed bronze inscriptions. Preliminary statistics shows that more than 800 pieces of inscriptions were collected over the past 30 years. The book recorded these materials and will assist significantly in research on the spread and inheritance of ancient Chinese civilization.

Editor: Yu Hui

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