Three Kingdom's Wu Bamboo Slips

Three Kingdom's Wu bamboo slips are now collected in the Inscribed Slip Museum of Changsha, Hunan. There are over one hundred thousand slips, which recorded down the archival documents of Wu State during Three Kingdoms Period. After sorting out the slips, experts found that the Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips had over four million characters in total, and its contents involved politics, economy, military, taxation, and household registration and so on of Changsha County in Wu State.

During Three Kingdoms Period, Changsha County was subordinate to Jingzhou, locating between Shu State. And it was a point of battle. During the reign of Sun Quan, Wu State occupied Changsha County and since then on, it governed the place for over sixty years.

Unearthed from Zoumalou, Changsha, these Three Kingdom's Wu bamboo slips recorded the archival documents of Changsha County in Three Kingdoms Period. Then, why were these important archives placed in a dumb well?  According to analysis by experts, it is related with the Lu Yi Incident in Wu State.

In 238 A.D., a politic tempest which shocked the whole country broke out in Wu State. The incidence was caused by appointment of Lu Yi as Zhongshu and Jiaoshi official to be responsible for taxation by Emperor Sun Quan. By taking advantage of firmly trust from Sun Quan, Lu Yi used his power and rights to obtain bribes, which aroused strong dissatisfaction of other officials in the imperial court. Finally, all the officials protested to the Emperor. In order to pacify the dissatisfaction of ministers in the court, Sun Quan ordered to execute Lu Yi and investigate and assess to responsibilities of his accomplices. The incident caused a big earthquake inside the imperial court of Wu State. It was the Lu Yi Incident recorded in historical records. Experts find that the latest contents recorded in the Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips was in 237 A.D., namely the year before Lu Yi Incident, which proves that these slips were buried upon the occurrence of the incident. According to analysis by experts, a lot of officials were get involved in Lu Yi Incident. At the time, the whole country was in panic. The officials of Changsha County were afraid of being investigated due to the incident, so they hid the archives and account books in the dumb well. It can be seen from this that Lu Yi Incident caused huge impact on Wu State.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a traditional Chinese novel with each chapter headed by a couplet by Luo Guanzhong in late Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty. Luo Guanzhong created the novel by combining folklores, dramas and The History of the Three Kingdoms. Romance of the Three Kingdoms tells about historical stories, among which many are mythical. While the Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips unearthed from Zoumalou, Changsha are archival documents of Wu State and true historical records.

Feather arrows in Three Kingdoms Period had sharp metal arrowhead at the head and feather at the end to keep balance. To produce such kind of arrows required certain technology. Ordinary soldiers were incapable of producing it. Where did the arrows for military use come from during Three Kingdoms Period? Experts find the answer in Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips. In the Wu bamboo slips, there are many titles such as stove master, sickle master, forging assistant and assistant for master and so on. After verification, experts find that the masters and assistant were craftsmen in troops. At that time, these craftsmen were called "All Sorts of Workmen". All the weapons including arrows used by officers and soldiers in the troops were made by these craftsmen. According to historical records, craftsmen of some troops were as many as tens of thousands. The Three Kingdom's Wu bamboo slips not only recorded the history facts that craftsmen were forced to follow troops but also told us that heavy taxation were levied upon peasants of Wu State. The wooden slips recording taxation among Wu bamboo slips were called "Taxation Slips". The words on the slips recorded the detail information of taxation on people. During Three Kingdoms Period, taxation of Wu State was mainly levied upon currency, fabric piece goods, crops and fur and so forth. According to records in the History of the Three Kingdoms- Volume of Wu, at that time, the grain yield per mu of Wu State was about three hu. One hu is equivalent to 20L today. The Wu bamboo slips recorded that each peasant household had to hand in one hu and two dou per mu as taxation, which was 40% of the yield of grain one mu according to calculation. It can be seen that how heavy the taxation of Wu State was. The record of craftsmen being forced to follow the army and heavy taxation on people in Wu bamboo slips was a microcosm of the social unrest and hardships of people during Three Kingdoms Period.

During Three Kingdoms Period, people not only used bamboo slips to record archives and accounts, but also used them during social interactions. For example the business card used today had become popular as early as in Three Kingdoms Period 1700 years before.

Among the unearthed Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips, experts also find slips recording name and job title, which had similar function with today's business card. In ancient China, this kind of slip recording name and job title was called "Calling Card". On this calling card, it is inscribed with "Student Huang Chao visits again. Yuanbao from Yiyang, Changsha."  During Three Kingdoms Period, it was very popular among the officials and officers in the imperial court to bring calling cards. According to documents, Xiahou Yuan, a general of Wei State had a son named Xiahou Rong. It was said that Xiahou Rong was very clever from childhood. He was able to compose poems when he was seven and had extremely good memory. After hearing the news, the Emperor of Wei, Cao Pi called him to the palace and wanted to test him. The test method was to let all officials in the court hand in a calling card with his name and title. There were over one hundred calling cards. Xiahou Rong read them one by one, and then recited them without omission of one word. This was the origin of the idiom "Recite one hundred of calling cards". Though the calling cards only recorded names and titles of the officials at the time and the information amount was not much. But, they were historical evidence of China as state of ceremonies. They provide important information for later generations to research the etiquette culture in China.

The Three Kingdoms' Wu bamboo slips unearthed from Zoumalou, Changsha was confronted with thee hazard of decay upon excavation as they had gone through so many years. Experts on historical relics spent seven years to restore them. They have become important data for research of politics, economy, military and society during Three Kingdoms Period.

 

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