Historical Identity in the Shangshu


NING YI, Professor, Institute of Historiography, Beijing Normal University. Specialties: ancient Chinese historiography, classical Chinese thought. E-mail: bnuyi_ning@163.com XIANHUA WANG, Professor, School of History & Culture, Sichuan University. Specialty: ancient world history. E-mail: e2waxi@gmail.com


The Zhoushu 《周書》 section of the Shangshu 《尚書》, reflecting on the dynastic changes from Xia to Shang and from Shang to Zhou, understands “heavenly mandate” as the common element that brings about all changes within a historical continuum. For Zhoushu, it is “heavenly mandate” that makes historical continuity possible. Furthermore, “heavenly mandate” is understood to manifest itself with the hopes of the common people and to be realized by the freewill of the king. Thus historical changes can be accommodated. The Chinese idea of historical identity continued to be enriched after the Chun Qiu 春秋 Period. But in terms of its characteristic understandings of history, it remained much the same as in the Zhoushu: Interpreting history with a common element recognized therein, with the stress always on continuity though historical changes are accommodated from a humanist perspective.