The Indus Dictionary Project
Lǐjì 禮記, the Record of Rites, is a Chinese book of descriptions of ancient customs, rituals, and regulations. It is around 2,500 years old, and is held to be a compilation of much older texts.
One of the texts, the Wángzhì 王制 deals with royal systems or procedures. This includes a paragraph (number 36), which is concerned with the five directions, in other words foreign affairs.
In my opinion, the last sentence of Wángzhì, paragraph 36 resembles the kind of aide memoire that is associated with oral history. It may appear to be a simple list, but it contains layers of information and meaning.
My interpretation of the aide memoire, is that Liji first tells us that pictographs were very important as a tool for foreign affairs, because their meaning was obvious. It then goes on to explain that they could be used for dealing with foreign bureaucracy, and that it was possible to communicate with people face to face, or at a distance.
To illustrate my interpretation of the aide memoire, I have prepared the diagram below.
Please note that my interpretation differs from both the Legge (English)¹ and the Couvreur (French)² translations of the last sentence of paragraph 36.
The last sentence of paragraph 36 refers to each of the cardinal points. The cardinal points are positioned in the diagram according to the Bronze Age convention for maps.
Wángzhì, paragraph 36 uses the cardinal directions as bullet points:
1. James Legge, 1885: Sacred Books of the East: Volume 27: Oxford University Press: http://ctext.org/liji: Accessed: 30 September 2016.
2. Séraphin Couvreur, 1913: Li Ki, ou Mémoires sur les bienséances; texte Chinois avec une double traduction en Francais et en Latin: Second Edition: Volume 1: Hokkien: Mission Catholique: https://archive.org/details/likioummoiress01couvuoft: Accessed: 30 September 2016.