Navigating early Chinese daybook divination manuals

Christopher J. Foster
SOAS University of London,
Published under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.
Abstract: In Early China, ‘daybook’ (rishu 日書) divination manuals were consulted to determine auspicious times for a variety of life events. Recent discoveries of daybook manuscripts written upon bound bamboo strips have revealed much about how these manuals were compiled in the first centuries BC. Multiple different divination systems appear on the same manuscript, resulting in a confusion of running text, lists, and diagrams. In order to navigate these manuscripts efficiently, daybook compilers utilized certain strategies to aid their users. Taking the Han period Zhoujiazhai 周家寨 daybook as a case study, this article surveys the strategies employed in this manuscript to differentiate textual units. Attention is given to the materiality of the writing support, judicious framing with empty space, features of the calligraphy, punctuation usage, indexing, and the presence of both explicit titles and embedded identifiers.

Keywords: Zhoujiazhai, daybook, divination, bamboo-strip manuscripts, China.

The Zhoujiazhai daybook

In China, during the Warring States period (453–221 BC) and continuing into the Han empire (206 BC–AD 220), people were often buried with items they used in daily life for continued use in the underworld. This at times happened to include manuscripts, written on strips of bamboo or wood, bound together with cords. With the development of archaeology as a discipline in China this past century, alongside fast-paced urbanization and unfortunate resurgence in looting in recent decades, many of these buried manuscripts are now being unearthed. These finds include not only some of the earliest versions of celebrated works, such as the Daodejing 道德經 (Classic of the way and virtue, or alternatively the Laozi 老子), but also previously unknown philosophical treatises, poetry, historical anecdotes and annals, law codes, administrative documents, medical recipes, scribal primers, and much more.Tsien (2013), Shaughnessy (1997), Giele (1998), and Giele (2010) offer surveys of the manuscript culture of ancient China in light of these recent discoveries.

One of the most prevalent types of text discovered among the newly unearthed early Chinese manuscripts are rishu 日書 or ‘daybooks’.For an excellent introduction and expert studies on these materials, consult Harper and Kalinowski (2017). These divination manuals consisted primarily of hemerologies, namely methods for selecting good or bad days for various life events, from when to get married or give birth, to the timing of a journey or even putting on new clothing. Divination has a long and esteemed history in China.To situate divination within the broader history of early Chinese religion, see Poo (1998) and Lagerwey and Kalinowski (2009). The earliest extant texts are inscriptions recording divinations performed by the kings of China’s first attested dynasty, the Shang (ca. 1500–1045 BC): the Yijing 易經 (Classic of changes), a treatise on milfoil-hexagram divination, was canonized among the Confucian classics during the Han empire, and has been revered as a wisdom book by many ever since.On the Shang dynasty and the ‘oracle-bone’ inscriptions of the Shang kings, see Keightley (1978) and (1999). Nylan (2001) provides an overview of the Confucian classics, see especially pp. 202–52 for the Yijing. Milfoil-hexagram divination involved casting stalks of a milfoil plant, and counting them to produce mantic number sets, represented by configurations of either three (trigram) or six (hexagram) broken or unbroken lines. Readers interested in the history of ancient China may refer to the surveys in Loewe and Shaughnessy (1999) and Twitchett and Loewe (1986). Recently discovered daybook manuscripts attest to the popular practice of divination in ancient China, not only at the royal court or imperial academy, but also among local communities. Owing to their ephemeral nature, these specific daybooks failed to be transmitted to the present, but elements of their cosmologies, divination systems, technical terminology, and—of special interest to the current discussion—unusual textual layouts, have persisted in the genre of almanacs.Smith (2017) discusses the relationship between early daybooks and later almanacs, from medieval times up to the modern era. In regard to textual layout, I refer for instance to diagrams interspersed among writing, or the use of horizontal registers.

On the archaeologically recovered early Chinese daybooks, multiple (and separate) divinatory systems are often incorporated on the same bound manuscript. Furthermore, they utilize a mixture of running text, lists, and diagrams. Guiding readers through this confusion of information was imperative, and therefore daybooks adopted certain strategies to help define discrete textual units.One may rightfully question whether manuscripts buried in tombs were intended to be read. Donald Harper’s study of daybook fragments found preserved in military installations along Han China’s arid northwest frontier demonstrates that, owing to this particular archaeological context, it is warranted to expect that these types of texts were in fact read and used ‘on the ground’. Soldiers made reference to these daybooks in the course of their daily lives (see Harper 2017). For a nuanced discussion on the interplay between divisions of textual units and reading practices in composite texts, see Krijgsman and Vogt (2019). This paper explores these strategies, taking the Han period Zhoujiazhai 周家寨 daybook as a case study.

In the autumn of 2014, in anticipation of a construction project, archaeologists from the Hubei Provincial Institute of Archaeology and the Suizhou Zengdu District Archaeological Team conducted salvage excavations of a Han period cemetery in Zhoujiazhai Village,Hubei and Suizhou (2017). For an English translation of the report, though abbreviated, see Hubei and Suizhou (2018). which is located just north of the city of Suizhou 隨州 in central China.According to the report, the Zhoujiazhai cemetery is located at 31.74°N, 113.38°E (Google Maps), see Hubei and Suizhou (2017). This region has an extremely wet environment, full of rivers and lakes. Burials here are often waterlogged and sealed off with mud, which is advantageous for the preservation of ancient organic materials, such as bamboo-strip manuscripts. This is because microorganisms living within sealed tombs, which may threaten the survival of these artefacts, eventually run out of fresh oxygen and suffocate, leaving the burial goods unscathed (Liu Guozhong 2016: 6–7).

Such was the case for the tomb labelled M8 at Zhoujiazhai. Tomb M8 preserved 566 pieces of bamboo strips (with ~360 still intact, the others partial or without writing), bearing the daybook materials under discussion here (Fig. 1),These are not the original labels for the strips as they appear in Hubei and Suizhou (2017). For the sake of convenience, I have re-numbered them in this article. Note that there are two separate sections of the daybook (#1–12 and #13–27). Although the numbering is consecutive, this is not meant to imply that strip #12 was followed by strip #13 in the manuscript, as originally bound. along with labels (potentially for figurines also found in the grave), and a wooden board containing a ‘grave contract’ (告地書). Other artefacts discovered in Tomb M8 include writing paraphernalia such as bamboo scroll tubes, a brush holder, and an ink stone, as well as other items such as a liubo 六博 game board, wooden figurines, ceramic ritual vessels, and lacquerware cups (with ‘ear’ handles). The excavators argue that the burial occurred in either 140 or 134 BC, following dates mentioned in the entombed texts. Comparisons of artefact morphology and type (such as with the ceramic wares) against other excavated Han specimens roughly confirm this dating. The finds have not yet been published in full, but high-quality colour photographs of a few sections of daybook materials were recently printed in a brief report in the journal Kaogu 考古 (Archaeology), for which see Hubei and Suizhou (2017).

Remarkably, the Zhoujiazhai daybook is the second such discovery in this locality. In March of 2000, archaeologists excavated another tomb from the nearby Kongjiapo 孔家坡 cemetery (also labelled M8). From this tomb, they secured another cache of over 700 bamboo-strip pieces (some intact and others only in fragments), and one wooden board with writing, which date to the same period as the Zhoujiazhai find. Among the strips were daybook materials and a calendar.Hubei and Suizhou (2006). Harkness (2011) includes an English introduction and analysis of this daybook, see especially pp. 97–160. The content of the Zhoujiazhai daybook is said to parallel that of the Kongjiapo daybook, and scholars have already begun to use the new Zhoujiazhai data to correct reconstructions of the previously unearthed Kongjiapo strips, which are less-well preserved.A comparison of the Jianü 嫁女 (Marrying off a daughter) parallels is made in Li et al. (2017), and of the Sui 歲 (Year) parallels in Fan and Luo (2021). An initial survey of the available photographs reveals that while the content of the Zhoujiazhai and Kongjiapo daybooks are closely aligned, the placement of parallel texts differs across these two witnesses: they are not exact copies.‘People were not copying the same book over and over again; they were assembling pieces of written information according to conventions that had become customary for them and that are recognizable on examination as what we call the “daybook text type”’ (Harper and Kalinowski 2017). Once the Zhoujiazhai daybook is published in full, a comparison of these manuscripts promises to yield greater insights in local norms for textual production in early China.

Preliminaries for reading early Chinese manuscripts

Before conducting a close analysis of the Zhoujiazhai daybook, it is helpful to review how Chinese writing, manuscripts, and—on account of the content of this example—calendrics worked in these early periods. Grasping these preliminaries will highlight unexpected features in the Zhoujiazhai examples. To demonstrate these preliminaries, consider a line from the manuscript, though taken in the abstract:This is after the direct transcription given in Hubei and Suizhou (2017: 16). The character ‘胃’ is read as the word wei 謂 meaning ‘to be called’.

入月二旬三日命胃危,不可合男女。 The twenty-third day of the month is called ‘Danger’, [on which day] it is not permitted to unite men and women.

The Chinese writing system employs a logosyllabic script. This means that each character generally stands for a spoken syllable, which constitutes a word. Thus, we have written characterYet another level of analysis that could be examined here is script type, which is to say the conventions governing how characters were written, from calligraphic styles to basic orthography. The ancient scripts (guwen 古文) of China are illegible, for the most part, to readers of modern Chinese who are familiar with standard script (kaishu 楷書), which is now orthodox. For an introduction to Chinese writing, its historical evolution, and varieties of script, see Boltz (1994) and Qiu (2000). The Zhoujiazhai daybook was written in a Western Han clerical script (lishu 隸書). Clerical script is similar enough to standard script that, for the example given here, legibility is not a problem and thus further clarification is not warranted. On the myriad intricate issues involved in reading excavated palaeographic sources from ancient China, see Galambos (2006) and Williams (2005). → modern Mandarin pronunciation → Old Chinese reconstructionAkin to how the Old English of Beowulf sounds dramatically different from the modern English spoken today, Chinese likewise underwent radical changes in pronunciation over time. The Zhoujiazhai manuscript, composed over two millennia ago, records a language closer to Old Chinese than what is spoken today. Reconstructions for Old Chinese are taken from Baxter and Sagart (2014), with updated versions available online. → word in English translation:


rù / yùe / èr / xún / sān / rì / mìng / wèi / wēi / bù / kě / hé / nán / nǚ

*n[u]p / *[ŋ]wat / *ni[j]-s / *s-N-qwi[n] / *s.rum / *C.nik / *m-riŋ-s / *[ɢ]wə[t]-s / *[ŋ](r)[o]j / *pəj / *[k]ʰˤa[j]ʔ / *kʕop / *nʕ[ə]m / *nraʔ

enter / month / two / week (of ten days) / three / day / name / be called / danger / not / permit / unite / man / woman

Punctuation was not required for comprehension in these early texts, and was only occasionally used on the excavated manuscripts. The text was usually oriented vertically, and read from top to bottom:

In Ancient China, writing is found on a variety of media, from turtle plastrons (i.e., the turtle’s underbelly) and other animal bones, to bronze ritual vessels, stone tablets, jade seals, and sheets of silk. Of concern here is the practice of writing via brush and ink on strips of wood or, in this case, bamboo, which were then bound together to form longer manuscripts. With the influx of archaeologically excavated specimens, it is now possible to start piecing together the chaîne opératoire behind bamboo-strip manuscripts. A bamboo stalk was cut into culm tubes, then split into strips, which were planed and prepared to receive writing (e.g., via a ‘kill-green’ process that removed the green surface of the bamboo, helping the ink to adhere and preventing insect damage).Recently it has been observed that ‘batches’ of strips, deriving from the same culm, were often used in the production of a single manuscript. This fact is betrayed by the presence of a spiralling line (incised or painted on in ink) running along the versos of the strips. Until the Zhoujiazhai daybook is published in full, it is unclear if its strips hold such verso lines. It is possible that the verso lines were themselves a strategy used for delineating textual units, though again this has yet to be demonstrated in full (see Staack 2015). These strips were bound together with a hempen or silk cord, often in either two or three rows. Small notches were at times carved into the sides of strips, to help hold this binding cord in place and minimize gaps between strips when bound, lending the manuscript a more continuous surface.Most bamboo-strip manuscripts found today have lost their binding cords and present as isolated (and often fragmentary) caches of strips, although rare exceptions of bound manuscripts have been found; see Tsien (2013: 108–9, 123) and the insert of Lishi wenwu chenlieguan (2013). The placement of the binding cord on the manuscript can often be reconstructed based on the presence of notches, gaps in the writing, evidence of rubbing, or cord remnants still stuck onto the strips. Writing may have been applied either before or after the binding. Indeed, this was not necessarily a static process—manuscripts could have been bound and unbound multiple times, with strips added or taken away, even if the process was not always an easy or convenient one.The potential dynamism of manuscript production in early China further necessitated the adoption of clear indicators for navigating a daybook like the one from Zhoujiazhai. Note, however, that daybook manuscripts often include texts on multiple registers, limiting how sections could be inserted or removed after initial compilation without damaging or disorienting other content. For complications associated with the rebinding of manuscripts, see Richter (2018).

The general intention when reading a bamboo-strip manuscript is for the user to begin with the rightmost strip. They would then follow the text from the top of that strip down to its bottom, or until they encountered an empty space with no writing. The reader would next proceed to the strip immediately to the left, and again follow the text from top to bottom. This continued for the duration of the reading session. Note that empty space may be preserved in the upper and lower margins of a manuscript, akin to leaving space around the edges of a page in modern print books. This is especially true when the uppermost and lowermost binding cords run close to the extremities of the strips, as is often the case when the manuscript was bound by three cords.The Western Han Laozi manuscript held by Peking University is one example of bamboo strips bound by three cords where space was left at the upper and lower margins of each strip. See Beijing daxue (2012), and Foster (2017) for an introduction in English. Manuscripts with only two binding cords tend to place them more centrally, and at times the writing runs flush to the strips’ extremities. The Warring States Guodian Laozi witness offers an exemplar; see Jingmenshi bowuguan (1998), and Cook (2012) for an introduction in English. The Zhoujiazhai daybook was bound by three cords in this fashion.

Because the Zhoujiazhai daybook entails hemerological calculations, it may prove useful to introduce the mechanics behind early Chinese timekeeping and calendrics. Parts of the day were named based on observations of the sun’s movement (sunrise, midday, sunset, etc.), while later clepsydras (water clocks) of varying sophistication were developed to track hours of uniform length. For longer periods, such as days and months, one basic system was a numerical count that followed a lunar year (the first month, second month, etc.; the first day, second day, etc.). An alternative system was also prevalent in early China, however. Ten ‘heavenly stems’ (jia 甲, yi 乙, bing 丙, ding 丁, wu 戊, ji 己, geng 庚, xin 辛, ren 壬, and gui 癸, respectively; Tbl. 1), were paired with twelve ‘earthly branches’ (zi 子, chou 丑, yin 寅, mao 卯, chen 辰, si 巳, wu 午, wei 未, shen 申, you 酉, xu 戌, and hai 亥, respectively; Tbl. 2) in a repeating pattern. The first stem was matched with the first branch (jiazi 甲子), followed by the second stem matched with the second branch (yichou 乙丑), and so forth, until concluding with the final pairing of the tenth stem and twelfth branch (guihai 癸亥) after sixty iterations (the least common multiple of ten and twelve). This system is referred to as the heavenly stems and earthly branches sexagenary cycle (Tbl. 3). It will feature prominently in the texts introduced below.

Table 1: Heavenly stems
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Table 2: Earthly branches
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Table 3: Heavenly stems and earthly branches sexagenary cycle
甲子 1 甲戌 11 甲申 21 甲午 31 甲辰 41 甲寅 51
乙丑 2 乙亥 12 乙酉 22 乙未 32 乙巳 42 乙卯 52
丙寅 3 丙子 13 丙戌 23 丙申 33 丙午 43 丙辰 53
丁卯 4 丁丑 14 丁亥 24 丁酉 34 丁未 44 丁巳 54
戊辰 5 戊寅 15 戊子 25 戊戌 35 戊申 45 戊午 55
己巳 6 己卯 16 己丑 26 己亥 36 己酉 46 己未 56
庚午 7 庚辰 17 庚寅 27 庚子 37 庚戌 47 庚申 57
辛未 8 辛巳 18 辛卯 28 辛丑 38 辛亥 48 辛酉 58
壬申 9 壬午 19 壬辰 29 壬寅 39 壬子 49 壬戌 59
癸酉 10 癸未 20 癸巳 30 癸卯 40 癸丑 50 癸亥 60

Signalling textual units in the Zhoujiazhai daybook

Having briefly reviewed how Chinese writing, manuscripts, and calendrics worked in these early periods, it is possible to examine more closely how the Zhoujiazhai daybook signaled divisions in textual units to its readers. The rightmost strip of the first section (#1–12),The order for the Zhoujiazhai strips follows that given in Hubei and Suizhou (2017: 16–17), but until the entire cache is published in full this arrangement remains tentative. The diagram on the bottom register of the manuscript helps to secure the positioning of strips #2–12, but strip #1 is not anchored by this diagram and it is therefore possible that it is misplaced. There are, however, strong reasons to suspect that strip #1 is accurately positioned. The content on strips #2–12 parallels that of a text titled Jianü 嫁女 (strip #172) in the Kongjiapo daybook. As will be discussed shortly, the title Jianü is written on Zhoujiazhai strip #1, associating it with strips #2–12. Furthermore, following the reconstruction of the Kongjiapo Jianü in Li et al. (2017), the content spanning Zhoujiazhai strips #1 and #2 appears on what was once a single strip in the Kongjiapo version (殘7+殘8+173). Yet if Zhoujiazhai strip #1 is positioned immediately before strip #2, a discrepancy arises between how Jianü begins on this manuscript and the content that opens Jianü in the Kongjiapo daybook. Note also the slight discolouration to Zhoujiazhai strip #1, and the seeming disparity in its length, when compared to strips #2–12. Since these could be effects of photography or digital editing for publication, they cannot be addressed at this time. strip #1, contains writing at the top above the binding cord. This is an unusual feature for manuscripts with three binding cords, where space was often left in the topmost margin. Two partially preserved characters are present, and read jianü 嫁女 (‘to marry off a daughter’). This is, in fact, a title: Marrying off a daughter.The title sishi 死失, or Corpse ghost, is written on another strip in the Zhoujiazhai daybook, as seen in Hubei and Suizhou (2017: 19). In other unearthed daybooks, explicit titles are sometimes written across multiple strips, horizontally as opposed to the usual vertical orientation. This is the case, for instance, on the slightly earlier (Qin period, late third century BC) daybooks found at Shuihudi 睡虎地, a little over 100km to the southeast of Zhoujiazhai. As one example, in the first of two daybooks at Shuihudi, the text Daozhe 盜者 or Thieves writes the initial character of the title, dao 盜, on the top of the verso (that is, the reverse side) of strip #69, while the second character, zhe 者, appears on the top of the verso of strip #70. See Shuihudi (1990: photographs p. 108).

After the title, and below the first binding cord, is a line of text that is now familiar from the first part of this paper, which again reads: ‘The twenty-third day of the month is called “Danger”, [on which day] it is not permitted to unite men and women. 入月二旬三日命胃危不可合男女’. Empty space follows, with no additional writing, instructing the reader to continue with strip #2, to the left. This text reads: ‘On the eleventh or seventeenth day of the month, as well as on geng[chen] (#17) or xinsi (#18) days (of the sexagenary cycle), it is not permitted to take a wife or marry off a daughter. 入月旬七=日及庚辛巳不可取婦嫁女’.The Kongjiapo version of Marrying off a daughter gives the day gengchen 庚辰 (#17 of the sexagenary count) instead of just geng 庚 (the seventh heavenly stem). Because gengchen is the day immediately before xinsi 辛巳 (#18) in the sexagenary cycle, it is likely that the Zhoujiazhai scribe mistakenly forgot to write the chen 辰. I therefore follow Li Tianhong et al. (2017: 102, 106 n. 12) by supplementing this word to complete the full day name for the sexagenary cycle; see also Hubei and Suizhou (2006: strip #173, pp. 82 and 151). The writing ends, but after a span of a few centimetres visible marks are again encountered, this time appearing to form a design, partially enclosing the character ri 日 or ‘day’. This writing immediately follows discolouration that evidences the second (central) binding cord.

Broadening the perspective beyond that of an individual strip, to consider the Zhoujiazhai daybook as a bound manuscript of many strips, it becomes apparent that two complementary strategies were employed to signal divisions between larger units of text. The first was to isolate units by framing them with empty space. For example, a significant amount of space buffers between Marrying off a daughter (Text #1), found at the top of strips #1–12, and the diagram with writing at the bottom of those strips, which belongs to Genshan Yu zhi likai ri 根山禹之離開日, or Root Mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days (Text #2).The phrase ‘root mountain’ may describe the shape of the diagram, which presents as an inverted mountain. The first word, gen 根 (‘root’), however, is written as gen 艮 on another daybook from Shuihudi, and the editors of this collection point out that gen 艮, as one of the trigrams, depicts a mountain according to the Shuogua 說卦 [Explaining trigrams] of the Yijing; see Shuihudi (1990: transcriptions pp. 189–90). The interpretation of milfoil divination in the classical text Zuozhuan 左傳 often repeats this assertion, see for instance Zhao 5.1c in Durrant, Li, and Schaberg (2016: 1388–89). Yu 禹 is the name of a legendary sage who, according to early myths, heroically managed devastating floods. He is also said to have founded the Xia dynasty, the supposed (but as-yet unattested) predecessor of the Shang. Empty space is likewise preserved on strips #13–25, mainly between the diagrams and writing for Yu Tang shengzi zhan 禹湯生子占, or Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth (Text #3), at the top, and the writing of *Shengzi 生子, or *Childbirth (Text #4) below.Tang 湯, or Cheng Tang 成湯, was the founding ruler of the Shang dynasty. A ‘*’ before a title is a convention in sinological literature on excavated manuscripts to signify that the title is not given by the text itself, but has been supplied by modern editors. In the case of *Shengzi 生子 or *Childbirth, I am following the editors of the Kongjiapo daybook, who apply this title to a parallel text; see Hubei and Suizhou (2006: strips #379–91, pp. 102–3, 177–78, n. 1). The first Shuihudi daybook also has a text, explicitly titled Shengzi 生子, that covers similar material; see Shuihudi (1990: strips #140–49 recto, photographs pp. 100–1, transcriptions pp. 202–5). In both the Kongjiapo and Shuihudi daybooks, Childbirth is positioned close to diagrams of the human body, as seen in Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, and this might hint at a close affiliation for these textual units if the placement is more than simply grouping similar topics together. The Kongjiapo diagrams are badly damaged, but the Shuihudi human figures are complete, and accompanied by a text titled Renzi 人字 (Childbearing), which is akin to Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth; see Hubei and Suizhou (2006: strips #379–88, pp. 102–3, 176–77); Shuihudi (1990: strips #150–4 recto, photographs p. 101, transcriptions p. 206). It is possible that completely blank strips were also distributed throughout the daybook, to serve in part as more obvious partitions between sections of the manuscript.The Yongyuan qiwu bu 永元器物簿 [Register of items (recorded in the) Yongyuan Era] manuscript found in Juyan 居延 offers an example of this practice. A particularly beautiful photograph is published in the insert of Lishi wenwu chenlieguan (2013). Only a handful of strips have been published currently from the Zhoujiazhai cache, and further data is necessary to determine if blank strips appeared in this particular daybook.Blank strips have been reported among other archaeological finds. For one example, see Hubei sheng (2001: 154). Yet reconstructing if and where such blank strips were inserted into manuscripts is complicated by the fact that binding cords usually have rotted away, leaving few contextual clues for where to insert them into the manuscript scroll, if appropriate.

The second strategy utilized the binding cords as material boundaries for different registers of text. Typically the text of a bamboo-strip manuscript was read continuously from the top of each strip down to the bottom. With the Zhoujiazhai and other daybook manuals, where multiple smaller texts are crowded within the confines of a single writing support’s limited space, this rule can be broken. The binding cord is often used as a convenient device to guide the reader when an exception was being made. The central binding cord divides strips #1–12 of the Zhoujiazhai daybook into an upper and lower register, reinforced by a buffer of empty space. Marrying off a daughter (Text #1) is found in the upper register, and Root Mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days (Text #2) is found in the lower register. Yet while the binding cord separates these two texts, in the other section of the Zhoujiazhai manuscript, strips #13–27 this is not the case. Rather empty space separates Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth (Text #3) from *Childbirth (Text #4); in fact, *Childbirth straddles the central binding cord, and thus ignores this material divide.

With *Childbirth, the Zhoujiazhai daybook employs the physical constitution of the writing support to serve as a material divide in a different manner. *Childbirth is structured around the twelve earthly branches, offering a formulaic analysis for giving birth to either a male or female child on days which incorporate a select branch. Taboo days and months are noted which are most dangerous for the infant’s survival, followed by a fortune for the type of person they will grow up to become, and concluding with the day of their eventual passing. For example, strip #13 reads:


For a zi 子 day (the first earthly branch): When a son is born [on this day], should he survive his third day, and the fifth day of the second month, then he will inevitably become a great lord. He will die on the jiazi 甲子 day (the first of the sexagenary cycle) of his fifty-eighth year. When a daughter [is born on this day], should she survive her third day, and second month, then she will have three husbands. She will die on the jiazi day of her thirty-ninth year.

A final line offers an overview of how the ten heavenly stems correlate to masculine and feminine qualities, as a general guide for giving birth to a son in particular.

In *Childbirth, the divination for each earthly branch is placed on a single bamboo strip. Even though space may remain on a given strip following the earthly branch divination, for example with zi (strip #13), yin (#15), si (#18), shen (#21), you (#22), and hai (#24), writing does not continue immediately afterward. Rather, the divination for the next earthly branch is then begun afresh on the next strip to the left. The formulaic opening of Each divination, headed by one of the twelve earthly branches as an index, allows for quick and easy referencing, divvying the text up into smaller coherent units that the user may focus on or ignore depending on the particular circumstances of the birth in question. A similar phenomenon occurs with Marrying off a daughter, as each bamboo strip begins with a different taboo date, though the pattern is not quite so obvious as it is with the twelve earthly branches in *Childbirth. Neither the Root Mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days nor Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, which explain their respective diagrams, follow this rule, but instead have text that runs continuously across multiple bamboo strips.

Beyond exploiting material features of the manuscript to signal divisions in textual units, calligraphy was also used to guide a reader’s experience of the text. The earthly branch divinations of *Childbirth are formulaic, and each ends with the character si 死, meaning ‘to die’.There are two exceptions, on strips #17 and 19. Strip #17 is broken with text missing. The text on strip #19 appears to be corrupted. The final stroke of this character is elongated in a dramatic fashion when space remains at the end of a column. Strip #13, for instance, holds four examples of the character si 死, and while each of the first three are embedded in running text and fit within the typical square area allotted for individual characters, the final instance at the end of the divination extends with a flourish towards the bottom of the strip. Elongated strokes are a common stylistic feature of Han calligraphy seen on other unearthed manuscripts of varied types, and here the calligraphic flourish helps highlight that the text of a strip is finished, and reinforces the sanctity of the empty space that remains. Elsewhere in *Childbirth (#14, 16, 20, 23) the concluding si 死 does not have an elongated final stroke, but rather runs flush against the binding cord, prohibiting this calligraphic feature. Elongated strokes do not function this way in Marrying off a daughter (compare strips #4 and 7), while in Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth elongated strokes are incorporated within the block of text.

Other calligraphic features were used to indicate textual divisions. On strips #18–21, a block of text appears towards the top of the strips, placed between two diagrams with representations of the human body. The content of this unit, Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, is similar to that of *Childbirth, below, which could easily confuse the reader. The characters in Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, however, are written in a much larger size than those of *Childbirth, to the order of 2:1, which distinguishes these potentially related but ultimately separate units of text.

In addition to explicit titles, the Zhoujiazhai daybook also has instances of pseudo-titles or labels, which I will call embedded identifiers. For example, the first line of text in the lower register of strip #3, which falls underneath the diagram, reads ‘This is called the Root Mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days. 是謂根山禹之離日也.’ Ostensibly, this line describes the content of the diagram above the text, but it also provides a name (‘this is called the…’), which implicitly serves as an embedded identifier for the diagram + text combination. The top of strip #18 contains a similar implicit pseudo-title for another diagram + text: ‘This is (the diagram for) Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth. 此禹湯生子占也.’ Curiously, in both of these cases an embedded identifier is found in explanations associated with a diagram. Marrying off a daughter, where no such diagram accompanies the writing, is given an explicit title offset from the rest of the text.The Root Mountain diagram has the same embedded identifier in both the Kongjiapo and first Shuihudi daybooks, hinting at broader stability in this practice for this diagram + text unit. Examples of Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, though, show less consistency. The human figures in the first Shuihudi daybook have both an explicit title of Renzi 人字 (Childbearing) and open their brief explanatory text with the phrase renzi (Shuihudi 1990: strip #150 verso, photographs p. 101). The heavenly stem and earthly branch signs of the sexagenary cycle and season labels surrounding the Shuihudi human figures largely correspond (with slight variations) to those at Zhoujiazhai, but the explanatory text, while similar in nature, differs significantly from Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth. The Kongjiapo daybook diagrams are too fragmentary to compare. Analysis of these patterns may reveal regional habits in daybook compilation or even local divisions of labour (e.g., between diagram artists and scribes). See Chen Songchang (2019) for discussion of similar topics with the Mawangdui *Tianwen mixing zazhan 天文氣象雜占.

Punctuation was occasionally employed in early Chinese manuscripts to signal textual units. A variety of marks may be found that announce the commencement, conclusion, or separation of sections of text, including circles, triangles, squares, thick lines, diagonal lines, and hook-shaped symbols.A recent survey of punctuation mark types and functions may be found in Chinese in Cheng Pengwan (2017: 178–230), and in English in Richter (2015). Strips from the Zhoujiazhai daybook contain an occasional ‘double line’ punctuation mark (‘=’), which has varied uses, including ligature or duplication, dictated by context. For example, on strip #2 the date is given as: ‘On the eleventh or seventeenth day of the month… 入月旬七=日’, and to the bottom right of the character qi 七 (‘seven’) is a double line ‘=’. The editors of the Zhoujiazhai daybook suggest that this is a ligature of yi 一 (‘one’) and qi 七 (‘seven’), which following after xun 旬 (the ancient Chinese ‘ten-day week’) would indicate two dates: the eleventh and seventeenth. Another example can be found in the text on the lower register of strips #5–6, which states: ‘This is called a split-up= day=. It is not permitted to… 是謂離==不可…’. The ‘=’ punctuation indicates a repetition of the phrase ‘split-up day’, so that the line would read ‘是謂離日離日不可…’ or ‘This is called a split-up day. On a split-up day it is not permitted to…’.

In the above cases, the double line punctuation does not reflect textual divisions. The only other punctuation I have noticed on these sections of the Zhoujiazhai daybook which may function in this way is found on the lower register of strip #9. A small black dot is drawn at the beginning of the series ‘一目二目二目二目二目一’ (rendered vertically in the manuscript). Although this series is written as Chinese characters, it is a diagram rather than text proper and hence left without translation. This diagram represents a counting system known elsewhere as Rong liri 戎曆日 or the Rong calendar,Rong, as a proper name, refers to warlike ‘barbarian’ tribes from China’s western regions in antiquity. Versions of this diagram are found in the Kongjiapo (strip #殘26), Zhoujiatai 周家台 (strips #131 and #261), and Peking University (Liubo 六博, strips #25–26) daybook materials. Indeed, the example on Zhoujiatai strip #261 is nearly identical to this version, only lacking the dot punctuation. Rong liri is the embedded title given to the diagram in the text on Zhoujiatai strip #131, though in that example the editors read the written character mo 磨 as li 磿 -> li 曆 for ‘calendar’. For the Zhoujiatai daybook and Peking University Liubo, see respectively Hubei sheng (2001) and Beijing daxue (2014). On the survival of this diagram on medieval Dunhuang manuscripts, see Kalinowski (2003), especially p. 299 for a comparison. so the dot signals that the Rong calendar is an integral unit, separate from its surrounding contexts. This was necessitated perhaps by its close proximity to the Root mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days.This version of the Rong calendar consists of non-verbal components that could be mistaken for additional writing (yi 一 as ‘one’, mu 目 as ‘eye’, and er 二 as ‘two’), albeit making for nonsensical content (‘one, eye, two, eye, two, eye, two, eye, two, eye, one’). The punctuation therefore makes it clear that this is not a continuation of the written instructions to the Root mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days (Text #4), and bolsters the separation already signalled by leaving empty space on strip #8 between the end of the writing on strip #7 and this diagram. That the Zhoujiazhai daybook does not employ more empty space to distance the Rong calendar from the Root mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days could suggest some relationship between the two.

The incorporation of diagrams alongside texts is one of the distinctive features of the newly excavated daybook manuscripts. These images naturally attract a reader’s attention, and help guide them to discrete textual units. There are three such diagrams in the Zhoujiazhai daybook.Detailed introductions to these diagrams are given in Kalinowski (2017), on which my discussion is based. See especially pp. 184–85 (for the Rong calendar), 185–87 (for Root mountain), and 189 (for Childbearing). The Rong calendar on strip #9 consists of thirty horizontal lines, either inside or outside boxes. Each line represents a day, beginning from the first day of the chosen month, so a user would count horizontal lines from top to bottom, and the divination for a given day would depend upon where its associated horizontal line falls among these boxes.

The Root mountain diagram on strips #2–12, reminiscent of an inverted mountain, dwarfs the Rong calendar diagram on strip #9. It utilizes the sexagenary cycle of day-counts employing paired heavenly stems and earthly branches. Beginning with the stem-branch pairing for the first day of a given month, the user alternately assigns a heavenly stem or earthly branch to the spaces marked ri 日 or ‘day’, continuing the sexagenary cycle. This proceeds from the top-right corner of the diagram, across each horizontal row, down to the bottom of the diagram, then returning back to the top corner, repeating as necessary to finish the count. Doing so produces a set of paired stems and branches that are ‘split’ by the central vertical column, which bears spaces containing an image akin to the character shan 山, the word for ‘mountain’. These are considered to be the ‘split-up days’, for which the appended text describes how certain activities are either auspicious or inauspicious. Kalinowski (2017: 185–187) focuses specifically on the version in the first Shuihudi daybook (strips #47–60 recto). The Zhoujiazhai and Kongjiapo versions have an additional horizontal row of eight spaces, for 38 total, compared to the Shuihudi exemplar, which has 30 spaces total. Kalinowski argues that the Shuihudi version is better suited for this counting practice, but warns that the added horizontal row in the Zhoujiazhai and Kongjiapo versions cannot be dismissed as merely a copyist’s mistake (p. 186). On a perhaps related note, consider the additional ri 日 fitted into the leftmost spot in the third row from the top.

The last diagram, Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth, consists of two human figures, drawn on strips #13–17 and #23–27 respectively.Another version, found in the first Shuihudi daybook (strips #150–54 recto), is explicitly titled Renzi 人字 (strip #150 recto), or Childbearing, which is thematically analogous to the Zhoujiazhai embedded title of Yu and Tang’s divination for childbirth. The Kongjiapo daybook also included this diagram (strips #379–88), but only traces of it now remain, as the section of the manuscript on which it was drawn is damaged. Other versions of the diagram are found on a number of other excavated daybooks and medical treatises (e.g. at Zhoujiatai, Mawangdui 馬王堆, and in the Chinese University of Hong Kong collection), with a particularly beautiful example drawn in bright red on the Peking University Han daybook: see Beijing daxue (2011: pl. image #3). They are hard to miss, as the ample use of black ink catches the eye. These figures can be used as a key for divining a child’s fortunes based on the date of their birth. The first consideration is the season in which the child was born. The figure to the right is labelled ‘spring, summer’, while the figure to the left is labelled ‘autumn, winter’. Once the correct figure has been determined, the next consideration would be the earthly branch of the day on which the child was born. The twelve earthly branches are written in succession around the figures, placed beside different parts of the body (head, shoulders, armpits, etc.). The instructional text found between the two figures (strips #18–21) explains what each body part portends for the child.

Concluding thoughts

A variety of strategies adopted in the Zhoujiazhai daybook help readers navigate between and within multiple textual units. These include the exploitation of the material divisions in the writing support itself, such as using binding cords to demarcate upper and lower registers, or isolating each earthly branch divination on an individual bamboo strip. Empty space frames textual units. Explicit titles are present, as are embedded identifiers. The calligraphy hints at textual divisions, whether through the elongation of a character’s final stroke or by writing in drastically different sizes. In one instance, it appears that a punctuation mark, a dot, offsets a separate diagram. The diagrams themselves can capture a reader’s attention and direct them to a given textual unit. These are the strategies apparent in the Zhoujiazhai daybook strips published thus far.

While these are among the most common strategies employed to signal different textual units in early Chinese daybooks, they do not form an exhaustive list, and a few other options were sometimes used. For instance, other early Chinese daybook manuscripts use a bright red colour to write text, punctuation, and diagrams, in contrast with the typical black ink. The Peking University Han period Liubo 六博 offers a pertinent example, as it includes Rong calendar diagrams much like the one found on Zhoujiazhai strip #9 that are written in bright red.See Beijing daxue (2014: 186, 196, 210), strips #25 and 26, following the manuscript’s current arrangement, though the inclusion of these strips in the manuscript is open to debate. Another, albeit rarer, strategy was to invert some writing. For example, a calendar among the Zhoujiatai #30 Qin cache inverts one text as a way of affiliating its content with the date heading a different register from the one on which it was written (Hubei sheng 2001: strip #49, pp. 15, 95, 97, n. 11). Inverted text can also be seen among the Qin period Liye 里耶 and Han period Juyan 居延 (xin 新) caches, though on administrative documents.An introduction to these examples, and discussion of their relationship to the inverted text in the received version of the Shiji 史記, may be found in Wang Zhiyong (2015).

Reflecting upon the manuscript culture of Early China, and particularly that of the Western Han period (206 BC–AD 9) when the Zhoujiazhai daybook was produced, the strategies outlined above can be considered to be standard but not regular. That is to say, certain conventions were widely recognized as being the best way to signal divisions in textual units, from the use of explicit titles, punctuation, or empty spaces, to the exploitation of material features of the writing supports, such as binding cords and the bamboo strips themselves. Yet whether or not a given strategy was adopted at any particular time was largely a matter of localized decision-making by the scribe(s) who produced a manuscript for a specific audience. In fact, for each of the strategies listed above, the Zhoujiazhai daybook presents moments both where they were adopted faithfully, and where they were ignored. The central binding cord divides strips #1–12 into upper and lower registers separating Marrying off a daughter (Text #1) from Root mountain (diagram) for Yu’s split-up days (Text #2), yet *Childbirth (Text #4) straddles the central binding cord on strips #13–25, preferring to isolate each earthly branch divination on individual bamboo strips instead. Marrying off a daughter could have elongated the final strokes of the concluding characters in its divination statements, as seen in *Childbirth, yet the scribe opted not to do so. These are just a few examples.

In the above survey of strategies employed to signal discrete textual units in the Zhoujiazhai daybook, the methods adopted largely rely on visual information.See the excellent discussion on manuscript formatting in Krijgsman (2018). This may be due to the fact that a multitude of competing divination systems were included in daybooks such as this one, whose initial compilation (and theoretically later re-compilations) could be rather fluid. These daybooks also functioned in practice as reference works, to be digested sporadically and in piecemeal fashion, potentially by a single reader in isolation. Information needed to be pulled out of a confusion of data easily and quickly. Yet manuals like the Zhoujiazhai daybook participated in a special genre of texts—as a type of technical literature—and were therefore not necessarily representative of early Chinese textuality at large.Krijgsman (2018: 15–16) argues that producers of technical manuscripts, including daybooks, who were impacted keenly by their own experiences in the pragmatic use of such manuals, spurred on the development of visual formatting that eventually spread to other genres. Other methods for signalling textual units may be found, for instance in scribal primers such as the Cang Jie pian 蒼頡篇, where lists of vocabulary terms are grouped into longer chapters via shared rhyming relationships, producing an aurally unmistakable unit of text when a manuscript is read aloud.For rhyming in daybooks, see Krijgsman (2021). As such, attempts to uncover who actually consulted these early Chinese manuscripts, and how such texts were used ‘on the ground’, require attention not only to their content, but also to the logic behind their presentation.To this end, it is likewise crucial to consider archaeological contexts, which are absolutely vital to the reconstruction of audiences and their relationships to the manuscripts in question.


This article began during my Stanley Ho Junior Research Fellowship in Chinese Studies at Pembroke College (Oxford), and was completed during a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship. I am grateful to the editors, especially Yegor Grebnev, and to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and corrections. I thank Luo Yunbing 羅運兵 for giving permission to use the photographs published in Hubei and Suizhou 2017.


Baxter, W.H. and Sagart, L. 2014: Old Chinese: a new reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Beijing daxue chutu wenxian yanjiusuo 北京大學出土文獻研究所 2011: ‘Beijing daxue cang Xi Han zhushu gaishuo’ 北京大學藏西漢竹書概說 [Overview of the Peking University Western Han bamboo-strip manuscripts]. Wenwu 6: 49–56.
Beijing daxue chutu wenxian yanjiusuo 北京大學出土文獻研究所 2012: Beijing daxue cang Xi Han zhushu (er) 北京大學藏西漢竹書 (貳) [Peking University Western Han bamboo-strip manuscripts, vol. 2]. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe.
Beijing daxue chutu wenxian yanjiusuo 北京大學出土文獻研究所 2014: Beijing daxue cang Xi Han zhushu (wu) 北京大學藏西漢竹書 (伍) [Peking University Western Han bamboo-strip manuscripts, vol. 5]. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe.
Boltz, W.G. 1994: The origin and early development of the Chinese writing system. New Haven: American Oriental Society.
Chen Songchang 陳松長 2019: ’Three research notes on the silk manuscript *Tianwen qixiang zazhan 天文氣象雜占’. Bamboo and Silk 2, no. 2: 274–89.
Cheng Pengwan 程鵬萬 2017: Jiandu boshu geshi yanjiu 簡牘帛書格式研究 [Research on the formatting of strips, tablets and silk-sheet manuscripts]. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe.
Cook, S. 2012: The bamboo texts of Guodian: a study and complete translation. Ithaca: East Asia Program, Cornell University.
Durrant, S., Li, W., and Schaberg, D. 2016: Zuo tradition / Zuozhuan: Commentary on the ‘Spring and autumn annals’. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Fan Guodong 凡國棟 and Luo Yunbing 羅運兵 2021: ‘The Sui chapter of the Zhoujiazhai daybook’. Bamboo and Silk 4, no. 2: 271–90.
Foster, C.J. 2017: ‘Introduction to the Peking University Han bamboo strips: on the authentication and study of purchased manuscripts’. Early China 40: 167–239.
Galambos, I. 2006: Orthography of Early Chinese writing: evidence from newly excavated manuscripts. Budapest: Department of East Asian Studies, Eötvös Loránd University.
Giele, E. 1998: ‘Early Chinese manuscripts: including addenda and corrigenda to New sources of early Chinese history: an introduction to the reading of inscriptions and manuscripts’. Early China 23, no. 24: 247–337.
Giele, E. 2010: ‘Excavated manuscripts: context and methodology’. In M. Nylan and M. Loewe (eds), China’s early empires: a re-appraisal. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 114–34.
Harkness, E.R. 2011: ‘Cosmology and the quotidian: day books in early China’. Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
Harper, D. 2017: ‘Daybooks in the context of manuscript culture and popular culture studies’. In D. Harper and M. Kalinowski (eds), Books of fate and popular culture in early China: the daybook manuscripts of the Warring States, Qin, and Han. Leiden: Brill, 91–137.
Harper, D. and Kalinowski, M. (eds) 2017: Books of fate and popular culture in early China: the daybook manuscripts of the Warring States, Qin, and Han. Leiden: Brill.
Hubei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology and Archaeological Team of Zengdu District, Suizhou City 2018: ‘The excavation of the burial M8 at the Zhoujiazhai cemetery in Suizhou, Hubei’, trans. Ding Xiaolei 丁曉雷. Chinese Archaeology 18: 101–14.
Hubei sheng Jingzhou shi Zhouliang Yuqiao yizhi bowuguan 湖北省荊州市周梁玉橋遺址博物館 2001: Guanju Qin Han mu jiandu 關沮秦漢墓簡牘 [Guanju Qin and Han tombs strips and tablets]. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.
Hubei sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiusuo 湖北省文物考古研究所 and Suizhou shi kaogudui 隨州市考古隊 2006: Suizhou Kongjiapo Hanmu jiandu 隨州孔家坡漢墓簡牘 [Suizhou Kongjiapo Han cemetery strips and tablets]. Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe.
Hubei sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiusuo 湖北省文物考古研究所 and Suizhou shi Zengdu qu kaogudui 隨州市曾都區考古隊 2017: ‘Hubei Suizhou shi Zhoujiazhai mudi M8 fajue jianbao’ 湖北隨州市周家寨墓地M8發掘簡報 [Brief report on the excavation of burial M8 at the Zhoujiazhai cemetery in Suizhou, Hubei] Kaogu, no. 8: 3–21.
Jingmenshi bowuguan 荊門市博物館 1998: Guodian Chu mu zhujian 郭店楚墓竹簡 [Guodian Chu tomb bamboo strips]. Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe.
Kalinowski, M. 2003: Divination et société dans la Chine médiévale: étude des manuscrits de Dunhuang de la Bibliothèque nationale de France et de la British Library. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Kalinowski, M. 2017: Hemerology and prediction in the daybooks: ideas and practices. In D. Harper and K. M (eds), Books of fate and popular culture in Early China: the daybook manuscripts of the Warring States, Qin, and Han. Leiden: Brill, 138–206.
Keightley, D. N. 1999: ‘The Shang: China’s first historical dynasty’. In M. Loewe and E.L. Shaughnessy (eds), The Cambridge history of Ancient China: from the origins of civilization to 221 BC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 232–91.
Keightley, D.N. 1978: Sources of Shang history: the oracle-bone inscriptions of Bronze Age China. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Krijgsman, R. 2018: ’An inquiry into the formation of readership in Early China: using and producing the *Yong yue 用曰 and Yinshu 引書 manuscripts’. T’oung Pao 104, nos. 1–2: 2–65.
Krijgsman, R. 2021: ‘A preliminary analysis of rhymed passages in the daybook manuscripts’. Bamboo and Silk 4, no. 2: 291–335.
Krijgsman, R. and Vogt, P.N. 2019: ‘The one text in the many: separate and composite readings of an early Chinese historical manuscript’. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 82, no. 3: 473–92.
Lagerwey, J. and Kalinowski, M. (eds) 2009: Early Chinese religion. Part one: Shang through Han (1250 BC–220 AD), 2 vols. Leiden: Brill.
Li Tianhong 李天虹, Fan Guodong 凡國棟, and Cai Dan 蔡丹 2017: ‘Suizhou Kongjiapo yu Zhoujiazhai Han jian Rishu Jianü pian de bianci yu zhuihe’ 隨州孔家坡與周家寨漢簡日書嫁女篇的編次與綴合 [The arrangement and re-compilation of the Suizhou Kongjiapo and Zhoujiazhai Han strip Jianü manuscript]. Kaogu 8: 101–6.
Lishi wenwu chenlieguan congshu zhizuo xiaozu 歷史文物陳列館叢書製作小組 2013: Xiaoxue zhi dao: cong Hanjian kan Handai shizi jiaoyu 小學之道: 從漢簡看漢代識字教育 [The way of primary education: understanding Han dynasty literacy education through Han strips]. Taipei: Zhongyang yanjiuyuan lishi yuyan yanjiusuo.
Liu Guozhong 2016: Introduction to the Tsinghua bamboo-strip manuscripts, trans. C.J. Foster and W.N. French. Leiden: Brill.
Loewe, M. and Shaughnessy, E. (eds) 1999: The Cambridge history of Ancient China: from the origins of civilization to 221 BC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nylan, M. 2001: Five ‘Confucian’ classics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Poo, M. 1998: In search of personal welfare: a view of ancient Chinese religion. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Qiu, X. 2000: Chinese writing, trans. G.L. Mattos and J. Norman. Berkeley: University of California.
Richter, M. 2015: ‘Punctuation, premodern’. In R. Sybesma (ed.), Encyclopedia of Chinese language and linguistics. Leiden: Brill. DOI: 10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000346.
Richter, M. 2018: ‘Manuscript formats and textual structure in Early China’. In M. Hunter and M. Kern (eds), Confucius and the Analects revisited: new perspectives on composition, dating, and authorship. Leiden: Brill, 187–217.
Shaughnessy, E. L. (ed.) 1997: New sources of early Chinese history: an introduction to the reading of inscriptions and manuscripts. Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China.
Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian zhengli xiaozu 睡虎地秦墓竹簡整理小組 1990: Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡 [Shuihudi Qin tomb bamboo strips]. Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe.
Smith, R. 2017: ‘The legacy of daybooks in late imperial and modern China’. In D. Harper and K. M (eds), Books of fate and popular culture in early China: the daybook manuscripts of the Warring States, Qin, and Han. Leiden: Brill, 336–72.
Staack, T. 2015: ‘Identifying codicological sub-units in bamboo manuscripts: verso lines revisited’. Manuscript Cultures 8: 157–86.
Tsien, T. 2013: Written on bamboo and silk: the beginnings of Chinese books and inscriptions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Twitchett, D. and Loewe, M. (eds) 1986: The Cambridge history of China: vol. 1, the Ch’in and Han empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wang Zhiyong 王志勇 2015: ‘Ju chutu jiandu kaocha Shiji Han xing yilai jiang xiang mingchen nian biao zhong de daoshu’ 據出土簡牘考察史記漢興以來將相名臣年表中的倒書 [An investigation of the inverted text in the ‘Table for generals, ministers, and notable subjects following the rise of the Han’ in the Shiji, based on excavated manuscripts]. Wenshi 4: 67–78.
Williams, C. 2005: ‘A methodological procedure for the analysis of the Wenxian covenant texts’. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques 59, no. 1: 61–114.
Figure 1. The Zhoujiazhai daybook (sections #1–12 & #13–27).
Source: Hubei and Suizhou 2017: 16–17. I thank Luo Yunbing for his kind permission to use the photographs published in this initial report.
1. Marrying off a daughter
2. Root Mountain (diagram) for Yu's split-up days
3. Yu and Tang's divination for childbirth
4. *Childbirth
5. Areas of binding with traces of binding cords and notches on the side of strips