Studies of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions from the Yin Ruins, Vol. I: General Notes, Text, and Translations

By Keightley, David N. | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, April-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Studies of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions from the Yin Ruins, Vol. I: General Notes, Text, and Translations


Keightley, David N., The Journal of the American Oriental Society


Studies of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions from the Yin Ruins, vol. I: General Notes, Text, and Translations. By KEN-ICHI TAKASHIMA (with translations up to plastron #259 by PAUL L-M. SERRUYS). Special Publications no. 107A. Pp. xxvi + 817. Studies of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions from the Yin Ruins, vol. II: New Palaeographical and Philological Commentaries. By KEN-ICHI TAKASHIMA. Special Publications no. 107B. Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China: INSTITUTE OF HISTORY AND PHILOLOGY, ACADEMIA SINICA, 2010. Pp. iv + 724.

A most valuable book! Although the work took more than twenty years to complete, and underwent three major revisions, we now have a series of translations--Shang Chinese to English--of the 632 plastrons from Yinxu 127, one of the most important finds in the 1930s (and transplanted to Taiwan in the 1940s). (1) The analyses are "principally palaeographical, philological, and grammatical" (Takashima I: 4 n. 4). The charges, mingci, are "regarded in this work as declarative" rather than interrogative (I: 17--which I approve of). They are mainly or entirely from the reign of the Shang king Wu Ding (1: 4).

There is a list of "Abbreviations, Conventions, Symbols, and Terminology" (I: xviii--xxxvi), which is well worth studying. There is a lengthy introduction (I: 1-89), which deals with, among other things, "The Problem of Dating and Related Issues" (I: 3-12), "The 'Question' Question" (I: 17-71), "The Reconstruction of Old Chinese and Its Word Formation" (I: 71-75), and the "Writing System" (I: 75-89). A difficult book in part! For example, we find in the introductory text for volume I:

As for the reading of (=) all the Qieyun traditions (SYHB [Shiyun huibien], p. 107, under) have the fanqie which points to a palatized affricate with a low vowel and the -m coda in MC, tracing back to something like * tjam in OC. (I: 33. [MC = Middle Chinese; OC = Old Chinese])

This is not easy.

But the main text is the translation and commentaries. BB I (obverse) is treated at pp. 90-96; the number for Heji is also given: HJ 68340 (0 = obverse). (2) After four general notes about the appearance of the plastron and its graphs (I: 90-91), Serruys ("S") gives the translation for BB 1.1: "At renzi day [49] divination, (diviner) Zheng tested: Starting from the present day, we shall destroy the Zhou" (with three footnotes). Then Takashima ("T") translates the same inscription, "Crack making on the renzi day [49]. Zheng tested: Starting from the present, in five days (or: in five days from now) we (will) (be able to) harm (or: smite) the You." (3) Serruys and Takashima next translate the eighteen other inscriptions BB 1. Then there follows the postscript under five headings, dealing with various items such as the elapsed time of the inscriptions, the duochen, etc.

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