Chinese Classics From 300 B.C. Discovered

I just read this very interesting article in the New York Times. About 2,500 muddy bamboo strips were given to the Tsinghua University in Beijing for study by Li Xueqin, a historian and paleographer at the university. After painstakingly cleaning the strips for 3 months Li and his team found inscriptions of some of the earliest known Chinese classics. It is believed that the bamboo was illegally excavated from a historian’s tomb who lived during the Warring States period, around 300 B.C..
These writings along with two other collections, also dated from around 300 B.C., include: The earliest known copy of the “I Ching,” and the oldest version of Lao zi’s “Dao De Jing,” as well as  texts attributed to Confucius. I have included an excerpt from the article below.
It’s simply extraordinary in its implications, said Mr. Li. “It would be like finding the original Bible or the ‘original’ classics,” he said in an interview at Tsinghua, as the inscribed bamboo strips lay in boxes of distilled water in a cool room on a floor above us. “It enables us to look at the classics before they were turned into ‘classics.’ The questions now include, what were they in the beginning, and how did they become what they became?” he asked.

It’s important to know that about 100 years after the texts were buried, the first Qin emperor conducted a “literary holocaust” in China, Ms. Allan said. He ordered books burned and banned private libraries, shaping the intellectual tradition for thousands of years by standardizing the written Chinese language. That required all texts to be rewritten, during which unwelcome theories were discarded.

As Mr. Li, 80, said, his eyes twinkling: “The classics are all political.”
By predating that censorship, the bamboo strips show us the true core of China’s philosophical, literary and historical thought, Ms. Allan said.

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