Literary Anthology of “Zuo zhuan,” The Commentary of Zuo


Zuo zhuan (The commentary, or chronicle of Zuo), is one of the earliest Chinese works of narrative history, covering the years 722‒468 BC, an important source for studying the history of that period. It is traditionally attributed to Zuo Qiuming, a fifth-century historian in the state of Lu, as a commentary to the Chun qiu (Spring and autumn annals), the official chronicle of the State of Lu. But many believe it was an independent work produced contemporaneously with the Annals. It follows chronologically the 12 dukes of the State of Lu, recording the history of the various vassal states of the Zhou Dynasty over a period of 254 years. The work also provides a model of classical Chinese prose and modes of narrative literature for later generations. This edition was printed at the end of the Ming dynasty. The contents of the work were selected with commentaries by Zhang Nai (died 1629), with explanatory notes by Chen Jiru (1558‒1639), a literary scholar, painter and calligrapher, and examined by Zhong Xing (1574‒1624), also a scholar. Zhang Nai, a native of Huating (present-day Songjiang, Shanghai), was a well-known essayist. After receiving his jin shi degree in 1604, he took up the post as Vice Minister of the Bureau of Rites in Nanjing. He was relieved of his post upon accusations by other officials but was later reappointed to the same post. The woodblocks used for the printing of this work came from Qingyun Guan, a famous printing workshop in Suzhou. It is possible that the work was issued by the owner of the workshop, using Zhang Nai as the contributor or compiler. The quality of the red and black printing was inferior to that produced in Wuxing, a great center of printing in Zhejiang. It has three undated prefaces by Zhong Xing, Zhang Nai, and Wei Huan, and several seal impressions of collectors, among them Hao gu tang tu shu ji (Recorded Books of the Hall for Love of Antiquities), the private library of Hu Zhenheng (1569‒1645), a scholar and bibliophile, in Zhejiang.

Last updated: January 10, 2018