On the Fall of States


This complete scroll of a Tang dynasty manuscript was unearthed in Dunhuang, China. The text is written in ink on yellowish paper in a regular script, in well-spaced columns with beautiful characters. The scroll contains a work entitled On the Fall of States, by Lu Ji (261-303), a writer of the Western Jin dynasty. Modeled on Jia Yi’s On a Visit to Qin, it describes the rise and fall of the Eastern Wu in the Three Kingdoms period, as well as the meritorious contributions of the Lu family. Famous among ancient works on administration, On the Fall of States argues that the key to a country's fortunes is to assess and employ people wisely. Compared with the text as presented in the Record of the Three Kingdoms and the Literary Anthology, the manuscript unearthed at Dunhuang has numerous variant characters, nonstandard popular characters, and differences in wording. These changes show the evolution of characters in the process of the transmission of texts, and are an example of how scribes altered written texts in the manuscript age. The scroll is part of a collection of manuscripts from the 4th to the 11th centuries that was discovered in 1900 in the sutra room of the Mogao Cave; in 1910, the Chinese authorities directed that this collection be transferred to the Library of the Capital, the predecessor to the National Library of China.

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Physical Description

One scroll, 137.7 × 28.8 centimeters


Last updated: March 8, 2016