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2016 Major Projects of the National Social Science Fund of China

The Collation & Studies of Unearthed Inscriptions on Instruments in the Han Dynasty


Xu Zhengkao

Project Number


(Bronze inscription (inscription on vessels, musical instruments, weapons, instruments for measuring distance, area and weight, imperial seals, coins, bronze mirrors and miscellaneous instruments), inscription on pottery (inscription on brick and inscription on eaves tile), mudcap, inscription on the stone and inscription on the gravestone, and characters carved on bone tags) The above unearthed inscription on instruments are precious materials during the key evolution process of Chinese characters.

This project is aimed to make an accurate interpretation of inscriptions by comprehensively collecting all involved unearthed inscription on instruments in the Han Dynasty, combining with related research results by predecessors and intellectuals and to complete “The Collation & Studies of Unearthed Artifacts and Inscriptions in the Han Dynasty”. With the support of the above approach, the project sorts out common fonts and changes of various types in different stages of development in the Han Dynasty. It has adopted the method of combining synchronic with diachronic period and compared the unearthed inscription on instruments of the Han Dynasty with characters in bamboo slips of the Han Dynasty. Under the background of the development and evolution of Chinese characters, the project discusses the general features of the unearthed inscriptions, especially their unique characteristics compared with those of the Pre-Qin Dynasty, and compiles anThe CollectionofInscriptions on Instruments of the Han Dynasty(《出土两汉器物铭文文字编》)covering the inscriptions and variants thereof. The project provides the necessary physical and theoretical basis for the studies on Chinese characters in synchronic and diachronic periods. At the same time, it tries to excavate the value of the unearthed inscriptions in the Pre-Qin period in terms of the examination and interpretation of Chinese characters. Combining with the handed-down documents, the project argues the historical and cultural connotations such as functionaries, geography, administrative regions and literature in the Han Dynasty, which supplements or corrects the shortcomings of handed-down documents through the effective excavation.。Besides, the project has explored the vocabulary, grammar and phonetic features of the unearthed inscriptions in the Han Dynasty, which provides more authentic and reliable linguistic data for the study of the development of Chinese language in the Han Dynasty and shows real features of language in the Han Dynasty accordingly.

Since the beginning of the project, it has carried out researches in an orderly manner according to the plan. Until now, the project team has completed the collection work of “Unearthed inscription on general instruments of the Han Dynasty”. The collection work of bronze mirrors, potteries, mud, and inscription on stone and gravestone proceeds as planned. The academic paper ofStudies on Famous Inscription on Mirrors of the Eastern Han Dynasty(《东汉镜铭句段研究》) andThe Supplementary Interpretation of the Unearthed Stone “Xuan San Zao Fei(玄三早绯)” and “Xun Er Jiang Fei(勳二绛绯)” in Cao Cao’s Mausoleum(《曹操高陵出土石牌“玄三早绯”“勳二绛绯”补释》)have already completed and the whole process of project has smoothly proceeded as expected.