non-sinitic state of Yue: SPP 176

Sino-Platonic Papers has released a completely new issue (not something from its archives): “The Submerged History of Yue,” by Eric Henry of the University of North Carolina.

This work uses passages in early Chinese texts, archeological findings, and comparative historical legend to build up a picture of the history and culture of the ancient state of Yue, located in the Mount Guiji area of present-day Zhejiang province. The article stresses the non-sinitic nature of this state and shows that it continued to exist in Southeast China long after the supposed date of its destruction.

The article is divided into the following sections:

  • The Distinctiveness of Yue
  • Material Remains
  • Chronology, Kinglists, and Survival
  • Language and Folklore
  • The Genesis of the Legend of Xi Shi
  • Conclusion

This is followed by two appendices and a photograph of the tomb of a Yue king.

The work is also available as a PDF (1 MB).

Here’s a bit of linguistic information:

It can also be deduced from surviving cultural and linguistic hints that the Yuè language belonged to the Austroasiatic family, which includes, among its modern members, Vietnamese, Mường, Chrau,Bahnar, Katu, Gua, Hre, Bonan, Brou, Mon, and Khmer, or Cambodian. In spite of the scantiness of surviving ancient evidence, Jerry Norman and Tsu Lin Mei, in a 1976 article, were able to demonstrate, based on ancient references to Yue words and dialectal survivals of non-sinitic words in the Mǐn dialects of Fújiàn, ten cases of words cognate with modern Vietnamese that were current in the Yuè cultural area in ancient times.*

* The modern Vietnamese words for which Norman and Mei demonstrate the existence of ancient southeast coastal cognates are: chết (to die), chó (dog), đồng (shaman), con (offspring), đằm (moist, soaked), sam (crab), biết (to know), bọt (scum, froth), bèo (duckweed), and kè (type of small fish).

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