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Orality and the Transmission of Interpretations in Two Versions of Huang Kan's Lunyu Yishu: Teaching Lunyu from the National University of the Liang to the Periphery of the Tang Empire


  • Bernhard Fuehrer

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, United Kingdom
    • BERNHARD FUEHRER, Professor, Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Specialties: traditional Chinese exegesis, classical Chinese philosophy, early Chinese literary criticism. E-mail:

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  • Technical note: References to the Lunyu Yishu 《論語義疏》 are to the reproduction of the Genji 元治 redaction in Yan Lingfeng 嚴靈峰, ed., Wuqiubeizhai Lunyu Jicheng 《無求備齋論語集成》 (Taipei: Yiwen Publisher, 1966). The Genji redaction (1864) is a reproduction of Nemoto Sonshi's 根本遜志 (1699–1764) collation work based on the so-called Ashikaga manuscript which dates from between 1521 and 1554. Further reference is given to the Taitokudō 懷德堂 redaction, a collation of a 1477 manuscript copy with old textual witnesses preserved in Japan, established by Takeuchi Yoshio 武内義雄 (1886–1966) and first published in 1923/1924. Takeuchi Yoshio's redaction is accompanied by his collation notes, the Lunyu Yishu Jiaokanji or Rongo Giso Kōkan Ki 《論語義疏校勘記》; both are reproduced in Yan, Wuqiubeizhai Lunyu Jicheng. For the Thirteen Classics I refer to Ruan Yuan 阮元, ed., Shisan Jing Zhushu [Fu Jiaokanji] 《十三經注疏 [附校勘記] 》 (Taipei: Yiwen Publisher, 1985). References to sections (zhang 章) of the Lunyu follow the textual arrangement and segmentation in the Harvard-Yenching Index Series; see Lunyu Yinde 《論語引得》, in Shisan Jing Yinde 《十三經引得》, reprint (Taipei: Yanjing Publisher, n.d.), Vol. 8.


This article explores the received version of Huang Kan's (488–545) Lunyu Yishu and a Tang manuscript fragment that stems from it, with a view to investigating residues of the oral transmission of glosses and interpretations of the Lunyu (the Analects). The discussion is based on close readings of passages that display remnants of the oral transmission of interpretations and attest to pedagogical techniques applied by Huang Kan during the Liang Dynasty (502–557) and by an unknown tutor in Dunhuang toward the end of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The two versions of the Lunyu Yishu are read as texts of oral utterances that bear evidence of two distinct layers of recognizable oral vestiges.