Lost in Translation: Junli Diao's New Article on Cataloging Ancient Chinese Names

By David Ratzan

ISAW Library Assistant Research Scholar Junli Diao has just published a new article in Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, in which he makes a case study of the bibliographic fate of 婦好, an elite woman of the Shang era (see below for a link to the article).

From Junli's article:

"In 1976, a Shang dynasty tomb was excavated in Anyang City, Henan Province, which attracted international attention and was considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries after the People's Republic of China was established in 1949. ...

"The name “婦好” ...  frequently appears in oracle bone inscriptions and shows King 武丁 (Wu Ding)'s concern for her well-being. According to oracle bone inscriptions, “婦好” took the lead in military operations and triumphed over small states to the north of the Shang, held ritual services to worship ancestors, and assisted royal affairs at the Shang court. After this elite woman died, the King 武丁 (Wu Ding) constructed this tomb near the palace compound at the capital settlement of the Shang dynasty."

This tomb, and the epigraphic material which it contains, are of prime importance for the study of early Chinese social and political history, and yet, as Junli shows, 婦好 is in danger of being lost again, but this time in translation: the inconsistent Romanization practices in the United States and elsewhere are fragmenting the scholarly bibliography.

Junli's essay is as interesting for the history of scholarship on Early China as it is for the ways in which the simple act of cataloging affects that history. He concludes with a list of other pre-Qin names that are in similar peril and some suggestions for regularization.

For more, see:

'Fu hao,' 'fu hao,' 'fuHao,' or 'fu Hao'? A Cataloger's Navigation of an Ancient Chinese Woman's Name," Cataloging & Classification Quarterly. DOI: 10.1080/01639374.2014.935543.