On the Criteria and Methods for “Discerning Inauthenticity” in the Context of Early Chinese Texts
This thesis encompasses discussions regarding the various aspects of Chinese bianwei 辨偽 studies ( “Discerning Inauthenticity Studies”). The first chapter delves into the notion of inauthenticity, distinguishing an inauthentic text from a literary forgery in the context of early Chinese texts. It explicitly states that, in this context, the criteria for discerning inauthenticity should exclude consideration of authorship, since the notion of authorship itself might be described as irrelevant in that time period. Besides authorship, the argument based on the notion “additions and interpolations” (fuyi 附益) needs to be removed from the criteria for authenticating early Chinese texts, since this notion does not apply to those early texts of compositional nature. The next section discusses editorial efforts that have been applied to early texts during their two millennia of transmission. Since editorial efforts might be treated by later generations of scholars as evidence to suggest that the texts are forgeries, it is of great importance for us to be aware that a large quantity of pre-modern Chinese texts have undergone long periods of fluidity, and any individual who was involved in the history of a text’s transmission might have had his or her impact on the text. The last section of the first chapter touches on possible motives for literary forgeries and inauthentic early texts. The second chapter revisits previous scholarship that has been contributed to bianwei studies. It first traces back to bianwei studies before its systemization. Then, it re-examines and evaluates the criteria for “discerning inauthenticity” that were first summarized by Hu Yinglin 胡應麟 (1551-1602) and later supplemented and elaborated in Liang Qichao’s 梁啟超 (1873-1929) work. The following section recapitulates the advocacy of utilizing both transmitted literature and archaeologically recovered materials, known as the “Two-fold evidential approach” (erchong zhengju fa 二重證據法), as well as addressing several pertinent issues, including viewing unearthed non-literary artifacts and excavated manuscripts as two equally important kinds of evidence, and the importance of scrutinizing the contextual information of excavated manuscripts. The third chapter begins with a brief summary of the present situation of unprovenienced manuscripts. Since unprovenienced manuscripts are not the discoveries of standard archaeological excavations, this type of material in general lacks external evidence. It is possible that some bits and pieces of information about unprovenienced manuscripts can be recollected so as to form “quasi-external” evidence. Still, this type of evidence is considered by some scholars to be speculative, and cannot completely compensate for the lack of external evidence in authenticating unprovenienced manuscripts. Next, special attention is given to the scientific analyses that have been conducted on unprovenienced manuscript samples. This section contributes to answering the question of whether scientific analyses’ results are reliable and effective in determining the authenticity of unprovinenced manuscripts. The following section discusses the question of whether one could rely on comparing the physical properties of an unprovenienced manuscript sample to those of a scientifically excavated manuscript sample, in order to determine the authenticity of said unproveninced manuscripts. The discussion in the last section of the third chapter suggests that measuring the water content contained in unprovenienced manuscript samples might be a viable criterion to help determine the authenticity of the manuscripts, but the fundamental problem of whether or not the physical properties of the entire set of manuscripts can be represented by that single sample still remains.