Zuo Zhuan Analysis

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Compiled between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the Zuo zhuan is considered to be a paramount text to the understanding of Chinese historiography. Along with the Gongyang zhuan, it is a detailed commentary on Confucius’s Chunqiu annals that cover the years 722 to 481 BC. The Confucian affiliation to the Chunqiu renders the work essential to the comprehension of early Chinese history, and the commentaries that followed serve to give further insight on the most important happenings of the time. However, especially within the Zuo zhuan, it is disputed among scholars of ancient Chinese texts whether or not the inclusion or omission of certain events, straying away from previous Confucian recording techniques, and narrative manipulation serve or…show more content…
Egan explains that there are different types of narration within the text that all serve their own purposes and make the Zuo zhuan unique to other texts and historically valuable. While Confucius and other contributors to the Chunqiu are more forward in their narration of their own values and moral standings, the narrator of the Zuo zhuan takes a much more furtive approach, where he attempts to utilize the characters within the story to accurately express history and his opinions. This brings us to his first narrative technique, which Egan describes as “silence of the narrator” where “as the author removes himself from overt control and interpretation of his material, his covert manipulation must increase.” The Zuo zhuan includes numerous scenes of battles and historically notable conversations between war figureheads, which are included because of their significance and the lessons to be learned from them. However, the author of the Zuo zhuan only offers simple introductions and essential background information before describing historical events. The lessons and values of these events lie within the dialogue, speeches, and events themselves, as “it is rare that the cause or significance of an event is specifically identified.” Therefore, only provided with necessary historical data, it is up to the reader to come to conclusions about the significance of the material in the Zuo zhuan, which is arguably more meaningful than being directly explained or told what to gather from reading, like in the Chunqiu
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