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Bamboo strips dispel controversy over ancient classic

(Xinhua)

14:59, April 26, 2012

HANGZHOU, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Several bamboo strips bearing ancient text and dating more than 2,300 years have made their first public appearance in east China's Zhejiang Province.

The literature on the bamboo strips, displayed at the launch of a book introducing the antiques on Tuesday, is an excerpt from Zuo Zhuan, a Confucian masterpiece considered the earliest Chinese work of narrative history.

The exhibit forms part of 160 ancient bamboo strips collected by Zhejiang University in Hangzhou city. More than 120 of the strips are inscribed with the content of Zuo Zhuan.

Researchers said the bamboo strips can disperse some doubts over the authenticity of the ancient book.

Zuo Zhuan, translated as the "Chronicle of Zuo" or the "Commentary of Zuo," is traditionally attributed to historiographer Zuo Qiuming, who lived at the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), as a commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, a chronicle ascribed to Confucius.

The book is considered important material for research of the pre-Qin Period (pre-221 BC), and also Pre-Qin Confucius thoughts.

However, many scholars have questioned the dating of Zuo Zhuan, arguing that it is in fact a work by Liu Xin in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

Cao Jinyan, professor of Zhejiang University's School of Humanities, said the bamboo strips, which were stolen and sold abroad and then purchased by the university in 2009, can date back to 340 BC.

The conclusion was made after researchers from several institutes including the prestigious Peking, Fudan and Zhejiang universities conducted a series of examinations of the antiques after they were returned from abroad, according to Cao.

Miao Zhe, researcher with the Center for Art and Archaeology in Zhejiang University, said the bamboo strips have provided strong factual evidence for the authenticity of the book.

"As a Confucian classic, Zuo Zhuan involves many problems of Chinese literature and history, and it is of great significance for historical research," said Miao, "but before the appearance of these bamboo strips, academia has always been confounded by a lack of research references."

Cao said the bamboo strips, which can also be counted as precious pieces of calligraphy, also make important material for the research of ancient Chinese characters.

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