The Myth of the Qin Unification of Writing in Han Sources

Galambos, Imre (2004) The Myth of the Qin Unification of Writing in Han Sources. Acta Orientalia, 57 (2). pp. 181-203. ISSN 0001-6446

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This study explores the unification of the script that allegedly happened in 221 BC when the Qin ruler united China and assumed the title of the First Emperor. By re-examining the earliest sources where the unification is described (i.e. the Shiji, the Hanshu, and the Shuowen jiezi). This paper argues that there was a political and ideological agenda behind ascribing the process to a single person, namely, the victorious Qin ruler. In reality, however, the archaeological material from the periods before and after the reign of the First Emperor does not reflect this vision of a sudden and comprehensive shift in writing. Even edict plates issued by the Qin government and attached to the new standardised weights as a verification of them being standardised did not reveal a presence of a uniform script. Moreover, the weights themselves showed a certain degree of deviation from their face value, revealing that the idea of a “standard”, even if it existed, was much loser than today. Epigraphic material shows that the script changed gradually, over decades, even hundreds, of years and not as a one-time effort of a single person. My contention is that this idea of unification was a Han creation that developed mainly during the 1st century AD.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World / történelem > D0 History (General) / történelem általában
P Language and Literature / nyelvészet és irodalom > PI Oriental languages and literatures / keleti nyelvek és irodalmak
Depositing User: Katalin Barta
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2017 08:57
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2017 08:57

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