Zhou History Unearthed magisterially reconstructs the landscape of early Chinese historiography, a field that has long suffered from a dearth of primary sources as well as contextual information concerning their composition and circulation. Against this backdrop, Yuri Pines uses Xinian, a newly discovered (looted) fourth-century BCE historical text, as an Archimedean point from which to revise and enrich our understanding of preimperial Chinese historiography.

A five-chapter analytical section is followed by a meticulously annotated translation of Xinian. Chapter 1 sets the stage by tracing the evolution of historiography from its beginnings to the fourth century BCE, with Zuozhuan as its focus. Chapter 2 introduces Xinian, which overlaps considerably with Zuozhuan. By exposing their respective internal heterogeneities and then comparing the two texts, Pines infers that the building blocks of pre–Warring States historical texts were detailed local histories produced by court scribes (pp. 31, 60–64). The differences...

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