Oldest Confucian classic is fake in parts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am


A book that is supposedly the oldest Confucian classic, Shang Shu (Book of Historical Documents), has been declared a fake in parts by a Tsinghua University professor.

By comparing the present edition of Shang Shu with ancient documents written on bamboo strips - known as 'the Tsinghua strips' - Professor Liu Guozhong, a specialist in ancient documents and their protection, found that part of the present edition contains some passages that could not possibly have been edited by Confucius, Xinhua reported.

All Shang Shu passages - of which the present edition has 58 - are said to have been edited by Confucius (551 to 479BC), based on 100 government documents from earlier times.

Liu found that at least two passages from the present Shang Shu, based on an edition dating back 1,700 years, to be entirely different from passages with the same titles written on the Tsinghua strips from about 2,000 years ago.

The present edition had served as a textbook on politics for Chinese emperors for more than a thousand years.

A carbon dating test in 2008 proved that the Tsinghua strips, which the university said had previously been smuggled out of the mainland, were more than 2,000 years old.

Some historians said they could be from the middle of the Warring States period - before the first Qin dynasty emperor unified the country and burned all historical records and Confucian classics in 221BC.

Liu said that meant the passages in the Tsinghua strips should be from the genuine edition of Shang Shu.

Chinese historians have questioned the authenticity of the present edition of Shang Shu for hundreds of years.

Following the First Emperor's order to burn all books, the Shang Shu was lost and found several times until someone claimed to own a copy of it during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD316 to 420), and that is where the present edition came from.

The Tsinghua strips were given to the university in July 2008.