National TreasureOld-Script Document of Antiquities (Guwen Shangshu), Volume 6

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  • Ink on paper
  • L26.3, total W328.0
  • Tang dynasty/7th century
  • Tokyo National Museum

The Document of Antiquities (Ch. Shang shu) is another name for the Chinese classic Book of Documents (Ch. Shu jing), which records Chinese history from the time of the legendary rulers Yao and Shun, more than 2,000 years B.C., to that of Mugong, one of the four rulers of the state of Qin during the Spring and Autumn Annals period (770 B.C.-403 B.C.). According to tradition, Confucius compiled this collection of historical documents, which was originally written in the early-Chinese ligu (J. reiko; ancient squared characters) script. During the Tang dynasty (618-c.907), however, on the orders of Emperor Xuanzong (685-762), the text was revised and rewritten in the new script current in that era.

This transcription, known as the Old-Script Document of Antiquities (J. Kobun Shôsho), consists of seven sheets joined together with twenty-one lines ruled in black ink and annotations transcribed in small characters in two lines on each page. During the mid-Heian period (794-1185), Japanese annotations in black and red ink were also added to facilitate in the reading of the Chinese text. Although portions at the beginning and the end of the document are missing, most of the main text-chapter one, first section, "Vow on Mount Tai" to chapter five, "Wusheng"-remains. This handscroll was brought to Japan in the Nara period (710-794) before the Document of Antiquities underwent its widespread revision under Xuanzong, and it is therefore thought that it was transcribed at the beginning of the Tang dynasty.

On the back of this manuscript, as well as those of the editions of the Tôyô Bunko Archives and the Imperial Household Agency, is copied Genpisho, a document on the research of era names by the Kamakura-period (1185-1333) scholar Takatsuji Naganari. Postscripts by the Chinese geologist Luo Zhenyu (1866-1940) and by the scholar of East Asian history Naitô Konan (1866-1934) were added to this document.