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The First Emperor's Taboo Character and the Three Day Reign of King Xiaowen: Two Moot Points Raised by the Qin Chronicle Unearthed in Shuihudi in 1975

B. J. Mansvelt Beck
T'oung Pao
Second Series, Vol. 73, Livr. 1/3 (1987), pp. 68-85
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4528373
Page Count: 18
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The First Emperor's Taboo Character and the Three Day Reign of King Xiaowen: Two Moot Points Raised by the Qin Chronicle Unearthed in Shuihudi in 1975
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Abstract

The character zheng 正 is found in most Qin dynasty texts unearthed in Shuihudi 睡虎地 in 1975, including one undoubtedly written during the First Emperor's reign. This shows that, contrary to an opinion repeatedly expressed in Shuihudi studies, zheng was not a taboo character during his reign. The idea that it was has arisen from a wrong interpretation of an eighth century commentator on the Historical Records Shiji 史記, who wrote that "Qin tabooed zheng". It has not been recognised that "Qin" here means "The Second Emperor" and not the First Emperor. The Historical Records suggest that the First Emperor changed the calendar in 221 in such a way that from then onwards the years were to begin with the tenth month. Ignoring this statement, Shuihudi studies frequently argue that two bamboo strips from the find indicate that Qin began the year with the tenth month as early as 25.1 Far from contradicting the Historical Records, however, the two strips rather tend to bear them out. The Historical Records may be wrong about the philosophical background of the calendar change in 221, but not about its date. A late second century commentator on the Book of Han "Hanshu 漢書" wrote that "Qin began the year with the tenth month". Shuihudi scholars have assumed that this statement included the state of Qin in its pre-imperial days, overlooking the fact that "Qin" here means "from the unification of the empire onwards", i.e. from 221 onwards.

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