Specialists on the study of archaeology in the Han and Tang dynasties and exchanges between China and Japan
Mr. Wang Zhongshu is a contemporary famous Chinese archaeologist. His study area is mainly the archaeology of the Han and Tang dynasties and also involves Japanese archaeology and Japanese ancient history. In 1995, Mr. Wang graduated from the history department of Peking University and worked in the institute of archaeology at the China Academy of Science. He worked hard at both work and study and has many achievements to his name. Since 1978, he successively took the post of deputy director of the institute of archaeology in the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the post of director of the institute of archaeology in the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the director of the academic committee of the Chinese academy of Social Science, and also at the same time, he was the professor and tutor of doctors in the graduate school of the Chinese academy of Social Science. Mr. Wang was also appointed as the honorary professor of the National Cuzco University in Peru, the academician of communication in the German Archaeological Institute, and is on the evaluation committee of Japan's Asian history association, (executive director), Guest researcher at the Okinawa Institute and so on.
Jiangbo (hereinafter referred to as Jiang): Mr. Wang, how do you do? It is my honor to interview you. We all know that you were awarded the “Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize” by Japan, after Bajin, Fei Xiaotong. Japan declared that Wang Zhongshu was the representative of excellent archaeologists in Asia and had made significant contributions to the establishment and development of Chinese archaeology. Besides, he also attained great achievements in the study of the exchange history between China and Japan, which has had a great effect on international academic communication, and also shows the glory of Chinese and Asian culture.
In 1950, soon after I entered the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xianai (from 1962 to 1982, he served as the director) guided me on the research of the academy and served as the deputy director of the institute of archaeology. Mr. Xia heard that historical documents and Japanese language were my best subjects in Zhejiang University, so he advocated that I should specialize in the academic study of the archaeology of the Chinese Han and Tang dynasties that combined historical documents and field survey; besides, during the Han and Tang dynasties, Japan and China had a close relationship and the system and culture of Japan were influenced greatly by China, so I could study Japanese archaeology and Japanese ancient history. For about 50 years, I always adhered to the academic guidance of Xianai.
There are many subjects related to Han and Tang Chinese archeology but I put my emphasis on capital and palace systems. I attended and chaired the excavation of the Chang'an site from the Tang Dynasty and the site of Shangjinglongquan mansion in Bohai kingdom, and also wrote reports and papers on it; I also did some research on the Luoyang site in the Han and Tang dynasties and Chang’an in the Tang dynasty and had some discussions on it. Based on the study of capitals and palaces in the Han and Tang dynasties, I tried to do some research on Heijokyo and some Japanese ancient capitals and the palaces in the capitals. I attached importance to the study of bronze mirrors on the instruments, and I also published many essays on it. Based on the above, I also had discussions and put forward my own unique perspective on the bronze mirror, called sanjiaoyuan shen-shoujing which was unearthed in Japan. I was very glad that Japan's academicians value my opinion.
Jiang: all of us know it stands on a compelling tablet that was engraved with a seven-character regulated verse Yiduhuaigu written by you in Edo country’s history museum in Fukuoka. Can you describe it in detail?
Wang: in the Chinese Tang dynasty, scholars exchanged very frequently between China and Japan. Wangwei and Libai wrote poem for Abe no Nakamaro, which has become a favorite tale now. As a young boy, I had started to versify and write ci by imitating the poetry of the Tang Dynasty and the ci of the Song Dynasty. Since 1981, I have been invited to visit Japan constantly and gained knowledge about many Japanese scholars who knew I was good at writing poems. In October 1986, invited by the Ministry of Education, I visited much of Japan with my wife. In Fukuoka, I received a warm welcome from the mayor, and it was the time when the establishment of the Edo country history museum and was going to open. He cordially invited me to write a Han poem (Japanese called the poem of eight lines and poem of four lines a “Han poem”) and was then engraved on the tablet. For it was hard to turn down the warm-hearted offer, I wrote a seven-character regulated verse by combining the history of Edo country. After reading it, The Mayor was very satisfied and also invited me to write an essay in Japanese to explain it. I love Japanese literature, including Japan's poetry (Haka, Haiku). From ancient time to now, there are many Japanese scholars who can write Han poems while few Chinese scholars can write Haka and Haiku, which is out of proportion. For this reason, I wrote some Haka and Haiku and disclosed them at the academic conference held by Japan publicly, which received a warm welcome from Japanese scholars. Besides, some scholars wrote Haka in response to me.
Jiang: people will ask about family background and school experience of a scholar when they talk about him or her. Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?
Wang: I was born in Ningbo city in Zhejiang province, in which Tianyige library was very famous throughout the world. My father was a teacher of the Chinese language in Ningbo middle school and also the chef editor of a supplement in the newspaper office; besides, he was also employed as the long-term member of the committee on Tianyige literature. I was influenced by my father at a young age; I was deeply interested in classical literature and historical literature.
At the end of summer and at the beginning of the fall in 1946, I took the university entrance exam and passed gaining entrance to Xiamen University, Beijing University, Wuhan University, Fudan University successively. In the end, I chose Zhejiang University for which I took an exam in Hangzhou, and studied in the history department. In 1949, when the New China was founded, I transferred to Beijing University as the departments at Zhejiang University were adjusted. My teachers were Tan Qixiang, Zhou Yiliang, Zhang Zhenglang and so on which benefited my study of ancient history a lot.
In August, 1950, commended by Zhang Zhenglang, I came to work in the archaeology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. At that time Zhang Zhenglang was the standing deputy director of day-to-day business at the archaeology institute, and he gave me a lot of help. Another deputy director was Xianai; he also gave me a lot of help and guidance. Mr. Xia made my research direction clear to me, and also took me all over the country to field excavations. I have been involved in archaeological research for about 50 years and my academic career is still continuing smoothly.
Jiang: Now, I want to know how you learnt Japanese.
Wang: in 1945, I graduated from the high school, and got a book Out of Your Ivory Tower translated by Luxun from my father’s bookcase, which was a Japanese literary book (HaKuriyagawa was the writer). I read it many times and never got bored doing so, and from then on, I fell in love with Japanese culture. Therefore, I decided to take Japanese as my second foreign language to study and studied it very hard. At that time, Xia Yuxun, a professor at Zhejiang University gave me great encouragement and help. During the summer vacation in 1948, I stayed at the school and read many Japanese literary works day and night. Then, I used Japanese to write short stories and essays, and showed them to Mr. Xia to read and revise. Well, I was surprised that he thought they were the work of Japanese writers.
In 1949, I transferred to the history department in Beijing University and often listen to lectures on Japanese history, which was given by Zhou Yiliang. I once wanted to be a graduate student of Mr. Zhou after graduating to specialize in Japan's history. However, the school didn’t have the relevant mechanism and my dream didn’t come out. When I came to the archaeology institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the deputy director, Liang Siyong heard that I was well versed in the Japanese language from Zhou Yiliang when he visited the institute, so he asked me to translate a paper from Umehara Sueji to test the Japanese level of young students who wanted to enter our institute. After reading Umehara Sueji’s paper, I told Liang Siyong that the content was good but the grammar was not, so they shouldn’t be used as the standard to test Japanese levels. After listening to what I said, Liang laughed very aloud and said Umehara Sueji was the first person to study Japanese archaeology and the low level of grammar is because he just studied in primary school and never studied in middle school and college. Now, I think I was very reckless and abrupt, which was irreverence to Mr. Umehara Sueji.
Jiang: we know you participated in or presided over writing the field archaeological reports including Huixian excavation report, Changsha excavation report, Liudingshan and Bohai Town-Noble Cemeteries and Capital Site of Bohai kingdom in Tang Dynasty and so on. My monographs include Han Civilization (in English), Outline of Han Archeology (in Chinese and Korean), Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing (in Japanese), See the Ancient Japan from China (in Japanese) and so on, which all have already been published at home and abroad. In addition, Discussion on the Comprint of Kind Dian and the Comprint of Hannu Kind, discussion on the Era of Ancient Graves in TAKAMAZ, Japan and People Buried There, Issues on Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing, Another Discussion on Paraphrase of Zai and Yin years’ articles on Gwanggaeto Stele, Discussion on if the “Womantu Country” Existing or Not, Discussion on the Influence that Dome in Chang’an City of Tang Dynasty Put on the Dome in Katano, Japan and so on, about 100 in total, among which about 40 articles have been compiled into Chinese and Japanese Archaeology·Proceedings of Ancient History. Everyone wants to know how you finished them.
Wang: I should say that I was not a writer who has a high output. From the 1970s to the 1980s, there was some rule that scholars lead by the leader should finish 2-3 high-quality papers, so I just obeyed the rule. Until now, I always obey it.
Jiang: speaking of the ideas and methods in research, Wang Guowei stressed that we should refer to “materials underground” and “materials on paper”, namely the “Dual Evidence Act”. Xianai once said that archaeological materials and historical documents were “like the two wings of a bird, the two wheels of vehicle, and we couldn’t lose either of them”. Many people think your research achievements are because you combined archaeological materials and historical documents. Can you talk about it?
Wang: my point is that archaeological research should fully combine documents and records, especially the study of archaeology of an historical era. There is a huge amout of Chinese ancient literature and scholars should choose to read based on their special need. However, it is important that we should understand literature history, bibliography and so on, so we can find related literature and records and evaluate them. We should seek truth from facts when we quote literature.
Now, I will say something about my study of Gwanggaeto Stele. It involves the exchange of history between China, Korean peninsula and Japanese archipelago. In the tablet inscription, there is a sentence: er wo Yi xin mao nian lai du hai po bai chan kou kou (renna, or Jialuo) xin luo yi wei chen min, generally called “article of xinmao year”; it involved the relationship between Woguo and countries on the Korean peninsula, so it received great attention from academia. About the punctuation and explanation of “Yi xin mao nian lai du hai”, there was no agreement among scholars from China, Japan and Korea. After reading all kinds of ancient books, in Ge Hong’s book Baopuzi: “(Zuoci) sailed the area south of the Yangtze River beyond Fuhu and Nanjing to avoid going over land”, and Tao Hongjing’s Zhenhao: “(Ping Zhongjie) sailed the sea when Hu disturbed China” and some other examples, I made the conclusion that “Lai du” was a common verb collocation in Ancient Chinese. Therefore, I think it should be punctuated and explained like this : “er wo yi xin mao nian lai du hai, po bai chan (ji), (re na or jia luo), xin luo, yi wei chen min.” my pionon received recognition from Japanese scholars and I also believe it is correct.
Again, there was always the statement “wo mian tu guo” Japanese academia, which was taken as the Wo country or one of 30 countries in wo di recorded in The History of the Three Kingdoms· History of the Wei Dynasty· Dongyi Biography and History of the Later Han Dynasty·Dongyi Biography. However, based on my textual research, there is no so-called “Womantuguo”. The reason for the mistake is that Ruchun wrote a sentence: “there are people from Mare Undarum”, which described the Wo people with black faces, like black Wei people. How the character “wei” was misunderstood as another “wo” in History of the Han Dynasty·Geography ; again, based on Hanyuan and the Compiling of the Chronicles of Japan written by Jianliang, “wo mian tu guo” was also the clerical error of “wo mian shang guo”. So many errors leaded to this. All scholars stress the existence of “Wo mian tu guo” and took great efforts to study it. If things go on like this, they would write “thousands of words and be remote from the subject”.
Jiang: your research has received attention from Japanese academia, which greatly contributed to the survey on “Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing”. Can you introduce it simply?
Wang: for a long time, many Japanese scholars think Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing belongs to the “hundreds of pieces of Bronze mirror” that the King in the Wei dynasty gave Queen Himiko of Yamataikoku in Japan and recorded in The History of the Three Kingdoms· History of the Wei Dynasty· On the contrary, I investigated it based on the form, dermatoglyphic pattern, and the inscriptions of Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing and t thought it was not a Wei mirror but was made in Japan when craftsmen from Wu country sailed to Japan in Three kingdoms period. That was in line with the inscription on the mirror that “it belonged to Jingshi (the name of a place, in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, Sunquan once found a capital here) originally but born here”. It powerfully proved that Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing was not from the Wei dynasty and was not made in China but in Japan. I should point out that there hasn’t been any pieces of Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing unearthed for 26 years since my essay Issues on Japanese Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing after many scholars carefully researched everywhere in China and the Korean peninsula; on the contrary, more and more Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujings have been unearthed and the number has reached about 50. Therefore, the so-called Sanjiaoyuan Shen-shoujing was the Wei mirror, which didn’t have a foothold anywhere.
Jiang: “we should study the history of all of a country’s races, which was related to the history of this country when we study a country’s culture, as it is unavoidable that the cultures in different races will influence each other; the exchange between different cultures, the culture of one country can make up the shortages of another country”, Feng Chengjun once said, and he was a famous historical geographer and translator. Your achievement on the research of the exchange history between China and Japan, and Japanese ancient history can be said to be the classic mode that “one country can make up the shortages of another country”. Well, why did you choose the exchange history between China and Japan, and Japanese ancient history as your academic research and did you learn anything from it?
Wang: archaeology belonged to the field of humanities and an important part of historical science. One country can make up shortages of another country while the archaeology of one country of course can make up the shortages in the archaeology of another country. As an archaeological worker, my emphasis on the exchange of culture between China and foreign countries was mainly influenced by Xianai. As you know, Xianai once cited in his own handwriting from Wang Weiguo when he was young: “the one who can carry forward our country must be the one who thoroughly understands academia of the world at the same time rather than just that of one country”. As I said before, one day in September, 1950 Xianai came to me to talk about the issues surrounding my subject on academic research when he came to Beijing from Hangzhou to serve as the deputy director of Archaeological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Based on my historical literature knowledge and Japanese language level, he suggested that I should take the archaeology of the Chinese Tang dynasty and the exchange between China and Japan as my research subject. Of course, my study on the exchange between China and Japan while studying Chinese archaeology was isolated from my interest in Japanese culture when I was young.
We will get unexpected and important gains when combining archaeological data and historical documents from two countries together. In 1972, the famous ancient grave of Takamatsu was unearthed in Nara, Japan, and inside the tomb, it was full of many beautiful coloured drawings and murals, which became a big discovery and caused a sensation in Japan. The Master of the ancient grave and the year that he or she was buried were the biggest topics that Japanese scholars discussed. After I quickly read the news in the newspaper sent from Japan in Guo Moruo’ home, I started to study it. I was interested that they found a mirror called “Haishou Grape mirror” as it was the same as the “Haishou Grape mirror” found in the grave of Dugu Sizhen from the Tang dynasty. On the epigraph of the grave of Dugu Sizhen it is recorded that the master died in the second year of Wansuitongtian in Wuzhou (in 697) and buried the next year, namely the second year of Shengong (698). Based on this, I judged that its maker should be Prince Renbi who like imitating the system and culture of the Chinese Tang dynasty and also compiled Dabao Episcopal; in Shoku Nihongi, it recorded that Prince Renbi died in May of the second year of Qingyun (705). It received great attention from Japanese academia and some scholars agreed with me. After about 30 years, in October 2004, I was invited to Japan to give a lecture on the year and the master of the ancient grave of Takamatsu, and received a great welcome.
In 1984 in Kyushu Japan, the famous Hanweinu King comprint was unearthed. Just as it is recorded in the History of the Later Han Dynasty·Dongyi Biography, Emperor Guangwu of Han gave it to Emperor Nu of Wo through an emissary (the “Wei” was the simple form of the “Wo” in the comprint). Until the 1950s, the opinions of scholars were not unified, and especially, some even thought it was a fake rather than genuine; their reasons were that the handle of the comprint was S-shaped, the seals were carved rather than molded and so on. In 1956, on the Shizhai Mountain, Jinning County, Yunnan province, China, the Comprint of King Dian was unearthed in Dian country of the Western Han Dynasty.; according to Records of the Historian· Collected Biographies of Southwestern Area, it was given in the second year of Yuanfeng (B.C 109), by Emperor Wu of Western Han. It was remarkable that the handle of it was also S-shaped and its seals were carved rather than molded. Therefore, I wrote the thesis Discussion on the Comprint of King Dian and the Comprint of Hannu King, which said that the comprint of King Dian and the comprint of Hannu King were the same. From then on, no one would argue with it, and as an important object witnessed the exchange history between Japan and China
Jiang: I am interested in what you said, so I want you to go on talking about your important achievements that you made when you studied the comparisons between Chinese and Japanese Capitasl and Palaces.
Wang: about this, there are so many things I want to talk about. because of the limited time, I will just expound thoroughly about the Jiuwei channel and “dome”.
According to documents found in the Japanese academic institution, before the 8th century in the palace of Heijokyo, Japan, the Dgokudenai main hall was built on a demijohn, called “Jiuwei altar”. It was obviously and imitation of the Hanyuan palace in the Palace of the Tang Dynasty, Chang’an. On both sides of the Jiuwei altar, there is a sloping ramp for ascending; the center part in front of the altar was a facility without footsteps. In 1981, Mr, An Junnan, thought that there should be a wood ladder and we couldn’t see it as it had withered and was rotten for many years. Many scholars drew restoration maps of Dgokudenai’s Jiuwei altar to feature a wood ladder in the midpoint of the front of the palace based on their opinions, so it unexpectedly became the final conclusion.
On the other hand, as early as from 1959 to 1960, as a member of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ma Dezhi pointed out that the Jiuwei channel was located at the midpoint at the front of the palace in his excavation report. However, after the large scale excavation of Chang’an that was carried out by the Chang’an city work team from the Institute of Archaeology with An Jiayao serving as the team leader from 1995 to 1996, it proved that the Jiuwei channel should be as the records in New records on two Jing, Jutanlu, Sharjah Record, Chang’an Record, showed, which was divided into two there was one on the right and left. Moreover, they stood up along the pavilions of “Xiangying” and “Xifeng”. Because of this we did not know if a wood ladder existed at the midpoint at the front of the palace or not.
Therefore, my thesis Discussion on Dgokudenai’s Jiuwei in Japanese Ancient Miyakonojo mainly referred to Nihon Koki, Shoku Nihon Koki, Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku, and some other Japanese historical records, especially “Kujo picture”, and “Jinweijia picture” and some other ancient pictures. Based on the above, I held the idea that the two footsteps were located on the two edges of the Longwei altar, so there was no wood ladder in the midpoint at the front of the altar. After reading this thesis, many Japanese scholars agreed with it. Besides, Ma Dezhi also recognized the mistake in the investigation of the site of the Longwei Channel because of the limited conditions when unearthing the site of Hanyuan palace. I can say that the publishing of my thesis made the best of both Chinese and Japanese academia, and they maintained the real images of Hanyuan palace’s Longwei channel and Daigokuden palace’s Jiuwei alter.
Scholars believe that, since ancient times, China set up more on the outskirts of the capital building, and the Japanese had no similar facilities outside the capital, which is an important difference between the capital systems.
In 1999, the Chang’an city work team from the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found the site of a dome from the Tang dynasty outside of the main entrance, Mingdemen, in the south of the outskirts of Chang’an, which aroused wide attention. Taking this opportunity to write a thesis, called Discussion on the Influence that the Dome in Chang’an City of Tang Dynasty had on the Dome in Katano, Japan, and it broke the old idea that research on the comparisons between the system of Ancient capitals in Japan and China is always limited to the interior rather than the outskirts of the capitals. In my thesis, mainly according to Nihon Koki, Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku, I affirmed the facts that Emperor Kammu and Emperor Montoku built domes for sacrifices to the gods on the southern outskirts of Nagaokaky, proving that Japanese Mikado sacrificed gods on the winter solstice imitating the system of the Chinese Tang dynasty. Besides, the procedure of sacrificing to the gods, its sacrifices and the funeral oration were the same as the Chinese. According to the historical records, though sacrifices to the gods held in Japan were limited to Emperor Kammu and Emperor Montoku, it was enough to deny there were no ritual buildings on the outskirts of Japanese capitals completely.
Jiang: people always think that academic study should “seek the truths from facts”. You are a model on this aspect. Can you talk about your ideas regarding this?
Wang: Academic progress must be with the limitations of the times, and objective facts are the common pursuance scholars seek in every era. Jiangbo once wrote a detailed article after reading Chinese and Japanese Archaeology·Proceedings of Ancient History. In it, he said my thesis was straight forward, the truths were based on facts, not empty, and did cover its mistakes, which were cited from Peiyan when he commented on the Records of the Grand Historian. Besides, he also said all of its content was based on the obvious evidence, I didn’t believe others very easily, and also it was not based on evidence from one channel, which was cited from Pan Cigeng when he commented on Investigation on Different National History. However, he overestimated me too much, I wish we could use the words I cited from Peiyin, Pan Cigeng and some other ancient and modern scholars to encourage each other.
I should address the fact that we should seek the truth based on the facts and be honest. I have deep friendships with many Japanese scholars and I always respect and appreciate them. However, on many specific academic issues we discuss with each other earnestly, we even have fierce debates, but the results of those discussions and debates often push academic research forward, and also strengthen our friendship.
Jiang: youths say that you have a unique style when you do academic research. Do you have any suggestions for the young to do academic research?
Wang: about this question, I put forward three points:
First: you should have a good knowledge of Chinese history when doing Chinese archaeological work. The difference with Chinese archaeology is that it has a tremendous amount of references.
Second, you should consider the history of neighboring countries when studying the knowledge of a country. To Chinese archaeological scholars, the archeology of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, the archeology of Northeast Asia, the archeology of Austronesian language races and the archeology of South Asia are the most promising academic fields. In our country, we should strengthen the study in these fields. The younger generation of archaeologists should have the aspiration of “having a good knowledge of world history”.
Third, you should look through academic history. The key to a Thesis is to choose the title, so if we have chosen the title, half of the thesis will be completed. When choosing a research topic, we should have a good knowledge of the history of academic research, so we can do the academic work with complete materials and academic growing space. In this way, we can yield twice the result with half the effort, and will not manage to do a difficult job beyond our reach.
Translated by Li Junwei.
Editor: Wang Daohang