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Williams, Crispin L. (2005) Interpreting the Wenxian covenant texts: Methodological procedure and selected analysis. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028887

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Abstract

The thesis interprets a selection of phrases from the Wenxian covenant texts, using a methodological procedure presented and discussed prior to the analysis. This is the first detailed study of these texts and the first attempt to describe and demonstrate a procedural approach for the analysis of an excavated Chinese text. These covenant texts, excavated in their thousands in 1980 - 81 from sixteen pits in Wenxian, Henan, were written on stone tablets using ink and brush. They have been dated to the early fifth century BC. A single covenant is repeated on many tablets, each individualized with the name of a covenantor. The covenants, which are highly formulaic, call on spirits to sanction various stipulations, mainly concerned with loyalty in serving the covenant lord and prohibitions on dealings with various named and un-named enemies. They are significant for our understanding of many aspects of early China, from script development to religious belief and political organization. In form and period they are very similar to the Houma covenant texts, excavated in 1965 at Houma, Shanxi. Chapter Two of the thesis presents the methodological procedure I constructed to analyse the Wenxian texts. A number of key terms used in the palaeographic analysis and transcription of characters are first defined and discussed. The methodological procedure is then set out. In Chapter Three this procedure is applied to the analysis of eighteen characters and the seven phrases in which they are found in the Wenxian texts. In the final chapter I conclude that the methodological procedure facilitated this analysis and I discuss methodological issues raised by the study. I suggest that this procedure is transferable to the analysis of other Zhou-period texts and that an awareness of the steps of the process can aid the assessment of transcriptions and annotations of published excavated texts.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028887
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28887

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