UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Two philological studies on the Mawangdui Laozi manuscripts Herforth, Derek Dane


This thesis focuses on some of the philological problems encountered in the study of two Chinese manuscripts of the Laozi dating from the late third century B.C. The MSS. were recovered in late 197 3 from an early Western Han tomb unearthed at Mawangdui in the suburbs of Changsha, Hunan. The Introduction summarizes the details of the excavation of the tomb and discovery of the MS. documents. The main features of the MSS. themselves are then described with attention given to the graphic style, methods of dating and the arrangement of the text. The Introduction concludes with a discussion in the light of the new MS. evidence of some of the problems of the authorship and textual history of the Laozi. Part One treats substitution variation between the two MSS. as well as between the MSS. and the transmitted versions of the text. A typology of this sort of variation is proposed in which all substitution variants can be classified as one of the following: taboo graph, semantic variant, miswriting, simplified graph or loan character. The first four types are briefly discussed with examples. The remainder of Part One is devoted to a detailed examination of the phenomenon of loan characters and the; analysis of some twenty problematic variants of this type from the two MSS. Part Two is a collation of the acknowledged quotations from the Laozi found in the Hanfeizi with the two Mawangdui MSS. and the transmitted versions of Laozi as recorded in a modern variorum. Because of the large number of variables involved, due especially to our lack of knowledge about the transmission of the Hanfeizi, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions on the basis of this collation. The evidence seems to suggest, however, the existence in pre-Han times of discrete textual traditions cf the Laozi and that some of the variation in the extant transmitted texts may derive from these separate pre-Han traditions.

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