The Silk Manuscripts from Zidanku, Changsha (Hunan), are the only pre-Imperial Chinese manuscripts on silk found to-date. Dating to the turn from the 4th to the 3rd centuries BC (Late Warring States period), they contain several texts concerning basic cosmological concepts, including one manuscript (Manuscript 1) with a diagrammatic arrangement and surrounded by pictorial illustrations. As such, they constitute a unique source of information complementing and going beyond what is known from transmitted texts.
This is the first in a two-volume monograph on the Zidanku manuscripts, reflecting almost four decades of research by Professor Li Ling of Peking University. While the philological study and translation of the manuscript texts is the subject of Volume Two, this first volume presents the archaeological context and history of transmission of the physical manuscripts. It records how they were taken from their original place of interment in the 1940s and taken to the United States in 1946; documents the early stages in the research on the finds from the Zidanku tomb and its re-excavation in the 1970s; and accounts for where the manuscripts were kept before becoming the property, respectively, of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York (Manuscript 1), and the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution (Manuscripts 2 and 3). Superseding previous efforts, this is the definitive account that will sets the record straight and establishes a new basis for future research on these uniquely important artifacts.
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