Origins of Chinese
and Mesopotamian History-Writing

International Academic Online Conversation: 16–30 Oct. 2021

中国和两河流域早期历史书写 : 10月16–30日国际学术线上交谈


Our lecture series aims to explore the common features and differences in early history-writing practices of ancient China and Mesopotamia. This event is open to everyone.



Sat 周六
20:00 China (UTC+8)
08:00 ET (UTC-4)

The ruler, the adviser and the scribe: negotiation of foundational history in early China


Through a study of a chapter from the Shang shu 尚书 (Venerated Scriptures) as well as two texts from the recently discovered Tsinghua manuscripts, this talks aims to highlight how history-writing served to promote the interests of different groups of ancient Chinese elites.


Shang shu 尚書: “Announcement at Luo” 洛誥 (PDF) Tsinghua Manuscripts 清華簡: *“Lady Wu of Zheng disciplines the child ruler” 鄭武夫人規孺子 (PDF) Tsinghua Manuscripts 清華簡: *“Good ministers” 良臣 (PDF)
Yegor Grebnev 葛觉智
Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai (China) 北京师范大学珠海校区(中国)
21:00 China (UTC+8)
09:00 ET (UTC-4)

The historian and the Sumerian gods or the Babylonian regime of historicity?


The Sumerian idea of History as a topic of research had unfortunately faded away from scholarly attention for several decades. This talk brings up this old question by examining the early Mesopotamian concept of time and history through a comparative lens.


Vase Inscription of Lugalzagesi (PDF)

Vase Inscription of Lugalzagesi from Frayne, Douglas R. 2008. Presargonic Period (2700-2350 BC). Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Early Periods 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Laws of Hammurabi (PDF)

Laws of Hammurabi from Roth, Martha T. 1997. Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Writings from the Ancient World 6. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Wang Xianhua 王献华
Shanghai International Studies University (China) 上海外国语大学(中国)
Sat 周六
20:00 China (UTC+8)
08:00 ET (UTC-4)

What does archaeology say? Comments on the practice of reconstructing of the Shang and Xia dynasties


This talk focuses on the notions of historicity in ancient Chinese culture as reflected in the specific case of Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historiographer. The way it narrates the events related to Xia and Shang dynasties has been confirmed in recent archaeology, which deserves special attention from scholars.


Tang Jigen 唐际根
SUSTech, Shenzhen (China) 南方科技大学(中国)
21:00 China (UTC+8)
09:00 ET (UTC-4)

The many arts of writing a Babylonian national history


In the first half of the first millennium BCE, various traditions converged into the writing of Babylonian national histories, produced in and outside the official palace circles. Using three historiographic texts as case studies, this paper discusses the historical context and the milieus in which they were written, as well as the main topoi, differences, and commonalities between them.


The Chronicle of Ancient Kings A (PDF)

Glassner, J.-J. 2004 Mesopotamian Chronicles, Text no. 39

The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar (PDF)

Glassner, J.-J. 2004 Mesopotamian Chronicles, Text no. 24

The Imgur-Enlil Inscription of Nabopolassar (PDF)

Da Riva, R. 2013 The Inscriptions of Nabopolassar, Amel-Marduk and Neriglissar, Text C32

Odette Boivin
University of Münster (Germany) 明斯特大学(德国)
Sat 周六
20:00 China (UTC+8)
08:00 ET (UTC-4)

Shiji and the Simas: genealogy, tradition, and historiography


Sima Qian, a scribe, starts the postface of his history (Shiji) with a genealogy—this talk will explore the interrelation between the scribal profession, genealogical activity, and historiography in the context of Western Han (206/201BCE–8CE). The main purpose of my talk is to understand why the Postface of Shiji opens with a genealogy of the Sima family. Hence, the Postface will be at the center of my talk, with the other documents there to support my arguments.


Shi ji TOC (PDF) Shi ji 130 Postface (excerpts) (PDF) Shi Qiang pan bronze inscription (PDF) Zuo zhuan: Xiang 24.1 (PDF) Zuo zhuan: Zhao 17.3 (PDF) Zuo zhuan: Zhao 20.6 (PDF) Zuo zhuan: Zhao 29.4 (PDF) Zhao Kuan's stele (PDF) Wei Meng's poem “Raft” (PDF)
Griet Vankeerberghen
McGill University (Canada) 麦吉尔大学(加拿大)
21:00 China (UTC+8)
09:00 ET (UTC-4)

From the administrators of temple households to the advisors of kings–the evolution of the Babylonian Managerial Class


This paper traces the transformation of the Babylonian Managerial class, as it evolved from the 3rd millennium temple administrators to the 1st millennium royal advisors. Towards that goal a number of relevant written sources, dating mainly to the first half of the 1st millennium, will be presented and discussed in detail.


Antediluvian Sumerian King List (PDF)

Transliteration by Piotr Stenikeller.

Story of Seven Sages (PDF)

Egbert von Weiher, Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, Teil II (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1983), pp. 48-55.

The Uruk List of Kings and Sages (PDF)

Alan Lenzi, “The Uruk List of Kings and Sages and Late Mesopotamian Scholarship,” JANER 8 (2008), pp. 140-143.

Advice to a Prince (PDF)

AW. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 110-115.

Weidner Chronicle (PDF)

A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Texts from Cuneiform Sources 5 (New York: J. J. Augutin, 1975), pp. 145-151.

Piotr Steinkeller
Harvard University (USA) 哈佛大学(美国)


BNU-HKBU Research Centre for History and Culture United International College Beijing Normal University (Zhuhai)
Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, SUSTech Southern University of Science and Technology
SISU Institute for the Global History of Civilizations Shanghai International Studies University