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Accumulation and Aggregation in the Construction of Local Narratives of Ancient History: The Historical Narratives of the Ancient State of Yue and Their Interpretation

Articles
Xiqi LU (Xiamen University)
Year: 
2013
Volume: 
11
Number: 
2
Page: 
23-83
Abstract: 

Narratives about the history and culture of the ancient state of Yue in south China, developed not only through the "accumulation" of historical legends and documents but also through the "aggregation" of different narratives from multiple places. Narratives about Yue in the pre-Qin period can be divided into three basic types: 1. narratives and interpretation produced by the people of Yue themselves; 2. narratives of Yue in documents from the ancient state of Chu, and 3. the narratives of Yue in documents from the Central Plains. During the western Han these three knowledge systems gradually became integrated into a single narrative. It was on the basis of this narrative that Sima Qian compiled the "Genealogy of the House of King Goujian of Yue" chapter of the Records of the Grand Historian. This more systematic narrative of Yue was largely accepted by subsequent scholars, who also incorporated material from the supernatural tales (zhiguai) tradition into their own accounts. Thus the narratives of Yue became richer and more complex. Historical narratives about other locales and indeed about China as a whole probably underwent similar processes of accumulation and aggregation. After the Qin-Han political unification, these narratives were unified into a single knowledge system. Up to the present day, historical narratives continue to be formed out of knowledge from different times and different places, in a process of "local historical narrative formation through accumulation and aggregation".

Journal of History and Anthropology