Abstract des Vortrags


"Waiting for the Sages of Later Generations": Is there a Rhetoric of Treason in the Shiji?


This paper explores five passages in the Shiji in which the author addresses sages and superior men of later generations and encourages them to draw conclusions from the historical facts presented there. All five passages allude to one specific passage in the Gongyang zhuan, a text that transmits the teachings of Confucius relating to the "Spring and Autumn" Annals (Chunqiu). Under the entry relating to the 14th reign year of Duke Ai of  Lu (481) in which the capture of a unicorn is recorded,  the Gongyang commentary reports on Confucius' reaction to this event: the arrival of this auspicious animal meant to him that the time had come to devote his work to sages and superior men of later generations.

Closer examination of the five Shiji chapters in which the allusion to the Gongyang zhuan occurs reveals that they all discuss aspects related to the rule of a sage. These aspects are all – directly or indirectly – related to measures taken by Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (r. 141-87), implying that this emperor can scarcely be regarded as a sage ruler. Importantly, in all five cases the intention behind this emperor's  deeds is given more weight than the deed itself. However, as will be argued, the historiographer's critical assessment is more than merely a warning addressed to his emperor in the hope he might change his mind and become a sage ruler in the end. Rather, by using this allusion to the Gongyang zhuan the historiographer passes a final judgement on his own emperor, by devoting his work, very much like Confucius before him, only to the readers of a future generation. By doing so, the historiographer incurred the risk of being charged with high treason, but this did not prevent him from fulfilling the duty of  an "excellent scribe" (liangshi), namely to compile a "true record" (shilu).

(Dorothee Schaab-Hanke)