Heng Xian and the Problem of Studying Looted Artifacts


Heng Xian is a previously unknown text reconstructed by Chinese scholars out of a group of more than 1,200 inscribed bamboo strips purchased by the Shanghai Museum on the Hong Kong antiquities market in 1994. The strips have all been assigned an approximate date of 300 B.C.E., and Heng Xian allegedly consists of thirteen of them, but each proposed arrangement of the strips is marred by unlikely textual transitions. The most plausible hypothesis is one that Chinese scholars do not appear to take seriously: that we are missing one or more strips. The paper concludes with a discussion of the hazards of studying unprovenanced artifacts that have appeared during China’s recent looting spree. I believe the time has come for scholars to ask themselves whether their work indirectly abets this destruction of knowledge

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References found in this work

A Grammar of Spoken Chinese.O. Švarný, Yuen Ren Chao & O. Svarny - 1972 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 92 (1):136.
The Guodian Laozi: Proceedings of the International Conference, Dartmouth College, May 1998.Sarah Allan & Crispin Williams (eds.) - 2000 - Society for the Study of Early China and Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California.

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