The Yellow Emperor as Paratext The Case of Shiliu jing 十六經 (Sixteen Guidelines)

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Kun You



The mythological Yellow Emperor has long been familiar to students of early Chinese literature as the patron or alleged author of texts and thus as the origin of important knowledge. This article explores how the Yellow Emperor could be used to organize information in the compilation of heterogeneous texts. I argue that the manuscript text Shiliu jing from the early Han tomb three at Mawangdui derives chronological order from the narrative framing as dialogues between the Yellow Emperor and his interlocuters. The chronological order becomes visible in part through the different titles used for the Yellow Emperor. The recognition of the paratextual function of the Yellow Emperor narrative not only orders the heterogeneous material compiled in the text but also provides additional interpretive cues.

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