井底之蛙

2/15/2007

Has anyone seen the scissors?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:07 pm

Tang-dynasty scissors, via wikipedia

 

Perhaps they are not as interesting as pigs, but I had a question about scissors. I was reading the 海王 chapter of Guanzi in the Rickett translation, Guan Zhong is advising Duke Huan. The Duke is in favor of raising revenues by increasing taxes. Guang Zhong says that instead the king should rely on controlling the trades in salt and iron as in effect an indirect tax. (This section seems to date from the Han, far later than the actual time of Guan Zhong). In discussing the need for iron he says

“Each woman must have a needle and scissors before she can carry on her work. Each person who cultivates the soil must have a digging fork, a plow and a hoe before he can carry on his work. Each person who builds and maintains hand carts and small and large horse-drawn wagons must have an axe, a saw, an awl, and a chisel before he can carry on his work.”

So far so good. But scissors? In the Han? I found out from wikipedia that scissors were known in Egypt as early as 1500 B.C. But in 汉语大词典 the earliest reference to scissors (剪子) is from the Tang. The actual quote from Guanzi, as least as I found it on-line, is 一女必有一鍼一刀 ,
which I would translate as knife rather than scissors. So is Rickett wrong, or did 刀 once mean scissors? When did the Chinese start using them?

2 responses to “Has anyone seen the scissors?”

  1. A. E. Clark says:

    If a direct answer is hard to find, can one draw any inferences from the history of Chinese decorative papercutting or the game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (which is unauthoritatively reported to have originated in China)?

  2. I have a copy of Temple’s The Genius of China at the office; I’ll try to remember to see if he’s got an answer on Monday.

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