Annotated Edition of “The Book of Documents”


Shang shu (The book of documents), also called Shu jing (The book of history), is one of the Five Classics of the Confucian canon that greatly influenced Chinese history and culture. Translations of its title into English vary and include Classic of History, Classic of Documents, Book of History, Book of Documents, or Book of Historical Documents. There are many copies and versions of Shang shu, ascribed to Confucius, but its history is obscure. The work is a compilation of speeches by major figures and records of events in ancient China. This copy is a late Song edition compiled by Jin Lüxiang (1232–1303), a native of Lanxi, Zhejiang Province, who lived during the late Southern Song and the early Yuan dynasty. At the onset of the Yuan dynasty, he declined officialdom and retired to his home to teach and lecture at the Lize Shuyuan, one of the four great academies of the Southern Song, near Jinhua. Schooled by the Neo-Confucian philosopher Wang Bo (1197–1274), Jin Lüxiang was interested early on in such subjects as astronomy, rites, and military strategies, but he was also known as a scholar of Neo-Confucianism and classics. One of his earliest works, Shang shu zhu (The book of history with commentaries), in 12 juan, has not survived. Yuan shi (The Yuan history) lists it as a work of four juan. Judging by subtitles and the pagination, the edition presented here is a work of two juan, compiled by Jin Lüxiang late in his life after years of study, research, and collecting commentaries. It probably was printed during the period between the late Song and the early Yuan. Juan one contains documents relating to the prehistoric Yu, Xia, and Shang periods and pre-dynastic emperors Yao and Shun. Juan two deals with the Zhou dynasty. The book has various marking lines, punctuation, tonal and other signs, placed either beside a character, or with a character circled. Beyond the page borders are numerous texts, in small characters, on both sides and on the top and bottom of the pages, which demonstrate an individual style different from that in other annotated classics. In his annotations, Jin followed Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi’s tenets, but he also adopted ideas of other schools and added his own views. This is a very early printed copy, which has suffered damage. To maintain the integrity of the work, missing pages have been copied and added. The work has a number of inscriptions, with one written by Gu Mei (flourished 1653–83), a Qing poet, who also wrote a preface to the replaced pages. Other inscriptions are by Zhou Chun (jin shi 1754) and by three other Qing scholars, Xu Tang, Hang Shijun, and Jiang Yuanlong. The work contains several dozen seal impressions.

Date Created

Publication Information

Jian'an, Fujian, China


Title in Original Language


Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

2 juan, 2 volumes, 17.8 x 12.4 centimeters


  • Only preface and juan 1 are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: January 3, 2018