书契 – Chinese philosophy and culture

shūqì 书契

Documents on Bamboo or Wooden Slips

主要有两种含义:一指书写于简牍上的文字;二指纸张发明以前用竹木制作的券契或文书凭证,竹木正面用文字记录事项,竹木的一侧刻有一定数量的齿,通常会有两份,由当事双方各执其一,便于将来复验。两汉以后,简牍书写逐渐退出历史舞台,但作为券契或文书凭证用的竹木书契仍有使用。

This term has two meanings. One refers to script in general inscribed on bamboo or wooden slips. The other refers to documentary proofs, particularly proof of property ownership inscribed on bamboo or wooden slips before paper was invented. Various activities and matters were recorded on the front side. A number of tooth-like marks were carved on one side. There are usually two copies of the document, each held by one of the two parties concerned for future re-verification. After the Western and Eastern Han dynasties, script inscribed on bamboo or wooden slips gradually fell into disuse, whereas documents of proof carved on the same medium continued to be used.

引例 Citations:

◎上古结绳而治,后世圣人易之以书契。(《周易·系辞下》)

(上古时期的人通过结绳的方法来记录事情,后世的圣人用文字记录取代了这一做法。)

In Chinese high antiquity people tied knots to keep records. The sages of later generations, on the other hand, used writing for the same purpose. (The Book of Changes)

◎书者文字,契者刻木而书其侧,故曰“书契”也。一云:以书契约其事也。(陆德明《经典释文·尚书音义上》)

(“书”指的是文字,“契”是在竹木的一侧刻上与事项有关的标识,所以称之为“书契”。另一种说法是:“书契”是就有关事项进行约定的文书凭证。)

The character shu refers to written characters, whereas qi means the marks made on one side of bamboo or wooden slips to record matters and activities. Another interpretation is that shuqi refers to documents that guarantee the validity of a pledge or proof. (Lu Deming: An Interpretation of Confucian and Other Classics)

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