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On Yuan Dynasty 'Newspapers': The Existence of 'Dibao' 邸報 and 'Guanbao' 官報 Reexamined

From: Journal of Song-Yuan Studies
Volume 42, 2012
pp. 343-374 | 10.1353/sys.2013.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The question as to whether or not 'newspapers' (報紙) existed in the Yuan Dynasty has been debated generally by scholars in the field of Chinese communication history, but particularly by those interested in Chinese journalism and publication history. With it not as yet being settled definitely, this problem is worth a further review and discussion. Given that in the dynasties prior to and posterior to the Yuan (Song 宋 and Ming 明, respectively) the existence of different types of 'newspapers' is well attested, the real question is whether the Yuan Dynasty forms an exception. This article first analyses prior scholarship and then moves on to query Yuan sources. In it, a traditional philological approach is combined with an analytical approach of the concepts 'Dibao ' and 'Guanbao '. This article first argues that 'Dibao' did not exist in the Yuan dynasty; secondly, that 'Dibao' actually were one type of 'Guanbao'; and thirdly that, although the absence of 'Dibao' in the Yuan is a fact, other forms of 'Guanbao' may have existed, i.e. as will be shown in the last part of this article, at least one form called 'Chumu' existed.

As scholars in the past have used the term 'Court Bulletin' (Dibao 邸報) as a generic word referring to 'newspapers' (baozhi 報紙), the question as to whether or not a 'Court Bulletin' existed in the Yuan Dynasty has come to rephrase the question as whether or not 'newspapers' existed in Yuan China. In the past, two important pieces of evidence have been used to support the existence of a 'Court Bulletin' in the Yuan and those scholars who deny the existence of a Yuan 'Court Bulletin' have, in turn, based their argumentation on precisely these two pieces of evidence. The first piece of evidence was discussed widely since its exposure to the public in 1927, but the second piece of evidence was newly discovered in 2010 with very little research so far completed on it. In the following, I will re-examine these two pieces of evidential material respectively.

The 'Huang Wang bu bian ' as Evidence in the Debate on the Existence of a 'Court Bulletin' (Dibao 邸報) in the Yuan Dynasty

The Existing Debate on 'Huang Wang Bu Bian'

The first to favour the idea that a 'Court Bulletin' (Dibao 邸報) existed in Yuan China was scholar and journalist Ge Gongzhen 戈公振 (1890-1935). He based his claim on the following paragraph of the entry 'Huang Wang bu bian' 黃王不辨 ('No Differentiating Between Huang and Wang') from Zhou Mi's (周密 1232-1298) Gui Xin Za Shi: Xuji 癸辛雜識·續集 ('Sequel to "Miscellaneous Information from Gui Xin Street'"):

浙之東,言語黃王不辨,自昔而然。王克仁居越,榮邸近屬也。所居 嘗獨毀於火,於是鄉人呼為"王火燒"。同時有黃瑰者,亦越人,嘗 為評事。忽遭台評,云其積惡以遭天譴,至於獨焚其家,鄉人有"黃 火燒"之號。葢誤以王為黃耳。邸報既行,而評事之鄰有李應麟者為 維揚幕,一見大驚,知有被火之事,亟告假而歸。制使李應山憐之, 饋以官楮二萬。及歸,則家無患,乃知為誤耳。

In the eastern part of Zhejiang, since ancient times, the local dialect has not differentiated between the pronunciation of Huang and Wang. Wang Keren lived in Yue (ancient name of Zhejiang) as a trusted servant in Rong's mansion. His home was burnt down (but his neighbourhood remained safe). Fellow villagers therefore called him 'Wang Huoshao' (lit.: Wang who was burnt). Huang Gui, a contemporary of Wang, also from Yue, had been an Arbitor (pingshi ). He was once unexpectedly criticized by the Censorate, who remarked that Heaven had condemned him for the evils he had accrued, by just burning down his home, while his neighbourhood remained safe, and that therefore he was called 'Huang Huoshao' (lit.: Huang who was burnt) by his fellow villagers. This was a [phonetic] mistake caused by taking Wang for Huang. When the court bulletin was issued, Li Yinglin, who worked as an assistant to an official in the Wei-Yang district and whose home was adjacent to Arbitor Huang's, was shocked to read [the news] and about the fire. He asked permission to take leave to go home. Military Commissioner Li Yingshan took pity on him and gave him 20,000 liang in paper money as an official gift. When [Li Yinglin] got home and found the house safe, he then knew that it had been a mistake.

(own translation M.L.)

This is the only historical material used in research prior to 2010 that contains the two characters 'di bao' 邸報 ('Court Bulletin') and that can thus possibly support the existence of a 'Court Bulletin' in the Yuan Dynasty. Based on this passage, two opposing views were formulated...



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