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Zhòuwén (ch. 籀文) refers to a set of 220 or so examples of ancient characters reproduced in the Hàn dynasty etymological dictionary Shuōwén Jiézì, based on fragments of a compendium of roughly 800 BCE known as the Shĭzhòupiān (史籀篇), which was written in the late Western Zhōu script. Zhòuwén refers to the characters from that compendium; it is not the name of the book, nor is it the general name of the script in use at that time (‘late Western Zhōu script’); rather, it is the name of a particular example of that script. The zhòuwén characters help supplement the far larger quantity from late Western Zhōu bronzes as evidence of late W. Zhōu script.
Traditional holds that around the end of the Western Zhōu, the Zhōu King Xuān’s historian, Shĭzhòu (史籀), Historian Zhòu, compiled the written characters into a lexicon of fifteen piān (篇), sections. This account has been questioned by some scholars who thought the script structure and style do not match that period; however, others disagree and uphold the traditional dating. Wáng Gúowéi (王國維) also questioned the traditional interpretation of zhòu (籀) as the historian’s name, pointing out that in ancient times, according to Shuōwén, it had the same meaning as 讀 dú (to study and understand the meaning of books; to read). According to this view, the title of the book was likely taken from the first sentence of the text (as is often done when assigning names to untitled ancient texts like those on bronzes), which presumably contained ‘the historian studies…’. However, numerous scholars believe that Shĭ Zhoù (Historian Zhòu) was the historian listed as Shĭ Liú (史留 Historian Liú) in the Hànshū (Book of Han)’s chapter on Notable Persons Past and Present. (Note that 籀 has at its center the graph 留, and the implication is that the two characters are cognate.) Confirmation of the historical existence of a Historian Liú from the correct period of time has been found on an ancient dĭng tripodal cauldron in the collection of the Shànghǎi Museum, leading to the conclusion that the Shĭzhòupiān was indeed likely written by a Historian Zhòu.
The zhòuwén characters have been described as generally symmetrical and balanced, and are on average (although not always) more complex than the later seal characters. They contain many swirls and circles in place of later squared or rectilinear forms.
- ^ King Xuān reigned 827-782 BCE acc. to Qiú 2000, p.72-3, and before 841 BCE - 781 BCE acc. to the Wiki page on him.
- ^ Qiú 2000, p.72: “The term zhòuwén refers to the characters in the Shĭzhòupiān”
- ^ For a brief summary of the debate, see Qiú 2000, pp.72-77.
- ^ Chén 2003, p.17; Qiú 2000, p.74; Hànyǔ Dàzìdiǎn pp.1677 & 1259
- ^ See overview (in Chinese) of the debate in Chén Zhāoróng (陳昭容) 2003, pp.17-19.
- ^ Chén 2003, pp.17-19
- 陳昭容 Chén Zhāoróng (2003) 秦系文字研究 ﹕从漢字史的角度考察 Research on the Qín (Ch'in) Lineage of Writing: An Examination from the Perspective of the History of Chinese Writing. 中央研究院歷史語言研究所專刊 Academia Sinica, Institute of History and Philology Monograph. ISBN 957-671-995-X.
- 漢語大字典. Hànyǔ Dàzìdiǎn, 1992. 湖北辭書出版社和四川辭書出版社 Húbĕi Cishu Chūbǎnshè and Sìchuān Cishu Chūbǎnshè; Taiwanese reprint (traditional characters) from 建宏出版社 Jiànhóng Publ. in Taipei is ISBN 957-813-478-9.
- Qiú Xīguī (2000). Chinese Writing. Translation of 文字學概論 by Mattos and Norman. Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-071-7.