Ancient Chinese bamboo slips displayed at UN headquarters


UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 27 — An exhibition on ancient bamboo slips showcasing the early Chinese civilization debuted at the UN headquarters on Tuesday.
Themed on “Chinese Classics Inscribed on Bamboo slips”, the event displays photos and illustrations of the bamboo manuscripts collected by Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious universities in China.
Liu Jieyi, China’s permanent representative to the UN, said he believed the exhibition will deepen the understanding of China’s culture, and contribute to the exchanges and dialogues among different cultures.
“The bamboo slips shown today represent Tsinghua’s major research achievements in recent years,” Liu said at the opening ceremony of the exhibition.
“On these slips 2,300 years ago, Chinese classics including the Book of Songs and the Book of Change were written in the ancient Chinese language. They are not only jewels in the treasure house of Chinese culture, but also the shared wealth of the whole world,” Liu noted.
The Chinese envoy also highlighted that before paper was created, Chinese people had inscribed on these bamboo slips, ideas that are familiar to the ears of today — “harmony without uniformity”, “inclusiveness” and “peace and cooperation among states”.
“Over thousands of years, these ideas have been encoded in the genes of Chinese people, and have been guiding China in its interaction with other countries,” he said.
“Today, in these manuscripts, we find the thoughts in line with the current trends of peace, development and cooperation, as well as the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”
In July 2008, Tsinghua University acquired in Beijing a rare collection of late Warring States period bamboo slips that had been smuggled out of China. Written in the script of the ancient state of Chu, the 2500 slips represent the largest number of Warring States bamboo slips ever discovered.
These bamboo manuscripts were made around 305 B.C., just in the era when Mencius, Chuang Tzu, and other great Chinese philosophers lived. Not affected by the Burning Books and Burying Confucian Scholars Alive event during the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, these manuscripts preserve the original appearance of pre-Qin ancient books.
Tegegnework Gettu, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management of the UN, praised the exhibition as a manifestation of successfully intensive work by Chinese leading scholars, which will have significant influence in many disciplines such as history, archeology, biography and literary studies.
“The Tsinghua slips are a group of bamboo manuscripts that are related particularly to texts traditionally categorized as classics and histories, including material that is at the core of traditional Chinese culture,” Gettu said during the opening ceremony.
The under-secretary-general also pointed out the direct descendent of language on the bamboo slips is still be used by more than one billion people today.
For his part, Chairman of the University Council of Tsinghua University Hu Heping introduced the academic significance of the collection of bamboo slips, which is over 2,300 years ago from now.h “After five years’ intensive work on arranging and transcribing the bamboo manuscripts, we have found a large amount of lost Chinese classic works covering philosophy, politics, history, geography, astronomy and so on,” Hu said.
In addition, he said “the Tsinghua bamboo manuscripts are not only important for us to study the ancient Chinese civilization and scientific achievement from a new prospective, but also bring powerful impact on the inter-cultural communication between China and the rest of the world.”
In China, before the invention of paper, bamboo, wood, and silk were the most important writing materials. The characters on bamboo slips were written with a writing brush and ink. Bamboo and wood slips and tablets probably began to be used around 3,000 years ago.
After Cai Lun perfected paper-making technology between the 1st and 2nd century AD, over the next four hundred years, paper gradually replaced bamboo, wood, and silk textiles as the most important writing material in China.[db:内容2]