Three Kingdoms Bamboo Manuscripts at Zoumalou,
China Central Institute of Fine Arts
From July to November 1996, the Cultural Relics Work Team from Changsha
in Hunan province, in coordination with construction work in the city,
carried out 57 archaeological digs inside the walls of the construction
site on the southwest side of Zoumalou Street in downtown Changsha.
In the process, they excavated several thousand items of all sorts made
of steel, iron, ceramics, and bamboo. Approximately 100,000 bamboo manuscripts
from the Wu Dynasty (AD 222-280) of the Three Kingdoms period were unearthed
from the site designated #96CWZJ22. The earliest date recorded in these
bamboo strips is the 25th year of the Jian'an era under Emperor Xian
of the Eastern Han (AD 220), and the latest is the 6th year of Jiahe
reign of the Wu Dynasty (AD 237). Because of the damp climate of the
South, relatively high underground water level and soil pressure, and
concentrated pollution at the bottom of the dig, the condition of the
bamboo documents is relatively poor, but a small portion are well-preserved.
The documents that have been sorted out include bamboo strips, wooden
tablets, bamboo plates, inspection seals, and sealing-clay boxes. Judging
by the surviving vestiges, the bamboo and wood-strip documents were
bound together to form a volume, generally read from top to bottom,
were first bound and then written on, with several volumes left blank
at the bindery. The bamboo documents record taxes, census registers,
storehouse management, land tax flow, military and civilian opening
of wasteland for cultivation, and correspondence--touching on every
aspect of social economy, government, and law. It is thought these are
documents from Changsha Prefecture, Linxiang County, and neighboring
agencies of the Wu Dynasty.
In this century, bamboo slips have been found continually all over China,
and the total of these items had already surpassed 90,000 pieces. But
there were approximately 100,000 pieces found just at Zoumalou! Discovering
such a vast number of ancient documents in one place at one time is
incredibly rare, and can be called a find of the century. Only a small
amount of historical documentation survives from the Three Kingdoms
period. The bamboo documents unearthed from Zoumalou, which record the
reign of the Wu Dynasty, possess academic value from various perspectives.
Based on this find, one can undergo a reconstruction of fundamental
societal conditions within one administrative division. This type of
research holds tremendous potential towards the understanding of the
Changsha prefecture and Wu kingdom. Subsequent sorting and analysis
can yield even greater results.
Figure 7. Wooden slip regarding gifts, court correspondence, administration,
and routine affairs.
Figure 8. Wooden slip on allocation and transfer of funds and detailed
records on movement of silver, cloth, rice, implements, and other forms
Figure 1. Excavation site, Zoumalou, Changsha, Hunan. October 1996.
Figure 2. Wooden slips pertaining to land rental and taxation. 2480
slips total, 54.3 cm long, 2.6-4.3 cm wide, 0.3-1.0 cm thick.
Figures 3 & 4. Bamboo slip on transferral and allocation of funds,
especially of silver, rice, and other objects between administrative
Figure 5. Wooden slip of legal cases and reports involving society
and economy. 23.4-25 cm long, 6-6.9 cm wide, 0.6-0.9 cm thick.
Figure 6. Bamboo slip of Changsha prefectural administration. 23 cm
long, 1-1.2 cm wide, 0.2 cm thick. Wooden slips with household registrations
with residents' names, professions, ages, physical condition, etc. 23
cm long, 4 cm wide.
Central Academy of Fine Arts
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