The unearthing of the Guodianchu Scroll partially changed the history of Chinese academia and philosophy. It can completely correct the misconceptions and biases people have toward Chinese culture.
The Guodianchu Scroll has 804 [wooden] panels and 13,000 characters. It was unearthed in 1993, in Chu’s cemetery, Jingmen City, Hubei Province. It was written about 2,300 years ago during the War Era. Its main content revolves around Confucianism and Daoism before the Qin Dynasty (Qin was the first dynasty in China. During his reign, the Emperor Qin destroyed much of Confucianism’s texts.) The scroll includes the earliest version of the article “Lao Zi,” and numerous articles by Confucius and his disciples. Twelve of them had never been circulated in the world. Five years after its discovery, the scroll created shockwaves among academia, and had quickly become the top literature research topic and focus of domestic and overseas scholars.
During the “International Guodianchu Scroll Academia Discussion Conference,” the experts pointed out that the scroll was the discovery of the millennium. Only the Book of Jizhongzhu, which was found 1,700 years ago, could be compared with it. Through the scroll, one can clarify the changes and modifications that Confucianism and Daoism underwent through history, and it gives traditional culture its proper identity. Some of its core thinking and values are still applicable for people today.
Since the Song Dynasty, scholars had become skeptical of the ancient writings, and there were many books written on Confucianism. But their main form of bibliography and sources were limited to Lunyu (by Confucius), Zuozhuan, Record of History, and some others. People considered other ancient writings that related to Confucius as subjects that were too difficult to deal with or were fakes. Some people even suggested that Lunyu was not completed until the Han Dynasty (the dynasty after the Qin Dynasty), and that one should not trust it completely. But a score of unnamed articles in the scroll have given people a new understanding of Confucius’ way of thinking.
People always believed that Confucianism and Daoism were conflicting philosophies. From the Guodianchu Scroll’s article “Lao Zi,” we can see that both are from the same origin, and their ideas support one another. Lao Zi himself didn’t criticize Confucianism, but clearly supported and agreed with the concepts of holiness, benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, filial piety, and compassion. And from other historic materials we can see that Confucius also very much admired Lao Zi. The experts pointed out that the scroll article “Lao Zi” has no formulation of writing style, no art of war, or political or anti-Confucian characteristics.
The scroll filled a huge void in the history of Confucius and originated the idea of the concordance of Confucianism and Daoism in the earlier era. It helped people understand the pattern of development of Confucius’ belief of benevolence as well as Mencius’ emphasis on humanity. The scroll was used to bring new evidence into later modifications of Chinese historical philosophy.
The Guodianchu Scroll includes the basic values of Confucianism, highly regards heaven and Gods, considers mind and nature, and has cultural importance even today.
The scroll suggests that humans and nature should exist harmoniously. The scroll’s definition of “Loyal” is “To constantly point out the emperor’s shortcomings is loyalty to such an emperor.” One can’t find this concept in later Confucian scriptures.
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