The Adaptive Commentary of Du Yu (222–284) Schematizing the Presence and Absence of “Norms” (li 例) in the Tri-Partite Annals through the Zuo Tradition

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Pauli Tashima



Du Yu’s 杜預 (222–284) commentary on the Zuo Tradition 左傳 (ca. 4th c. BCE) is often touted as an enduring scholarly achievement from a latter-day perspective, because early Tang scholars treated it as the definitive official interpretation of the imperially approved Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhengyi 春秋左傳正義 (promulgated in 653) . But few studies have analyzed the specific components of Du Yu’s thought that sometimes adapt, other times maintain, previous conceptions of the Annals and Zuo. This paper argues that Du Yu’s schematization of the Annals into three categories of material—Zhou/institutional “general norms,” Confucian/moral “transformed norms,” and historical/neutral “non-norms”—configures older ideas into a new structure of understanding designed to elevate the authority of the Zuo Tradition, unofficial but influential in the Western Jin (265–317), above that of rival Gongyang 公羊 and Guliang 穀梁 traditions during his time. Included in this discussion is Du Yu’s treatment of the Annals as a text that can be checked against a parallel ancient source newly available to him, the Bamboo Annals.

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