Yizhoushu 逸周書 "Superfluous [chapters of the] Book of Zhou" is a history of early China, covering the reigns of the early Western Zhou dynasty 西周 (11th cent - 770 BC) rulers from King Wen 周文王 down to King Jing 周景王 (r. 544-521 BCE). The book was originally called Zhoushu 周書 "Book of the Zhou" and is often traditionally called Jizhong zhoushu 汲冢周書 "Book of Zhou from the tomb of Ji 汲". The Yizhoushu can be called a parallel to a part of the much more famous Confucian classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents".
In ancient times it was assumed that the Yizhoushu was a compilation of documents not included in the Shangshu, in other words, rated to be of minor value by Confucius as alleged compiler of the Shangshu. While this assumption is without substantial prove it can be sure that the book Yizhoushu is a compilation created during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent-221 BCE), although some of the chapters might origin in the Western Zhou period. Other chapters, on the other hand, were revised or even written during the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 AD), like the chapter Shixun 時訓.
When Liu Xiang 劉向 (79-8 or 77-6 BCE), court librarian of the early Han period, investigated the book he had 45 chapters at hand, while the received version known today has 60 chapters. Some scholars suggest that the received version is a combination of the old Zhoushu known to Liu Xiang and a Zhoushu unearthed from a tomb during the late 3rd century CE.
The Yizhoushu consists of 10 juan and 70 chapters (jie 解). Of 11 chapters only the titles survive. For 42 chapters a commentary was written by the Jin period 晉 (265-420) scholar Kong Zhao 孔晁. Similar to the Shangshu, there is a short preface to each chapter.
The content of the Yizhoushu is very heterogenous. Some chapters are speeches of the kings to the army (Duxun 度訓, Mingxun 命訓, Changxun 常訓), other chapters speak of disaster relief (Dikuang 糴匡, Dakuang 大匡), other are theoretical explanations of the way of war, or records of certain events and speeches by the kings to each kind of occasion. Chapters 30 to 50 describe the conquest of the Shang dynasty’s 商 (17th-11th cent. BC) realm by King Wu of Zhou 周武王 and the establishing of the Zhou kingdom. To strenghten their reign, for instance, the king made an address to the old ministers of the Shang who would serve the new dynasty (Shangshi 商誓). The Duke of Zhou 周公 surveyed the place where the capital of Luoyang had to be established (Duyi 度邑). Some chapters are theoretical and speak about astronomy (Shixun), posthumous titles (Shifa 謚法), the dynastic cycles (Shiji 史記) or state offices (Guanren 官人, Zhifang 職方).
The oldest and perhaps 'genuine' chapters of the Yizhoushu are Shifu 世俘, Shangshi, Huangmen 皇門, Jigong 祭公, and Rui liangfu 芮良夫. Others (Duyi, Ke Yin 克殷) can be identified as at least reporting historical events as reflected in contemporary documents like bronze inscriptions.
For the most part of history the Yizhoushu was neglected by scholars because some of the paragraphs in the book do not correspond with the established theories of Confucianism and its interpretation of history. Any surviving prints have treated very negligent and are therefore full of printing errors.
There are more than ten different versions of the Yizhoushu surviving of which the oldest is a print from 1354 from the provincial academy in Jiaxing 嘉興, Zhejiang. This version served for the reprint in the first series of the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊. The Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 compared several versions and published a text-critical edition, known as the Baojing Study version 抱經堂本.
Quite a few Qing scholars studied the Yizhoushu which shall be mentioned here in brief: Zhu Youceng 朱右曾 (Zhoushu jixun jiaoshi 周書集訓校釋), Ding Zongluo 丁宗洛 (Yizhoushu guanjian 逸周書管箋), Pan Zhen 潘振 (Zhoushu jieyi 周書解義), Chen Fengheng 陳逢衡 (Zhoushu buzhu 周書補注), Tang Dapei 唐大沛 (Yizhoushu fenbian jushi 逸周書分編句釋), Wang Niansun 王念孫 (Du Yishoushu zazhi 讀逸周書雜志), Yu Yue 俞樾 (Zhoushu pingyi 周書平義), Sun Yirang 孫怡讓 (Zhoushu jiaobu 周書斠補), Liu Shipei 劉師培 (Zhoushu buzheng 周書補正), and Chen Hanzhang 陳漢章 (Zhoushu houan 周書後案).