88 results in English
Collected Songs and Verses of Li He
Li He (790–816), courtesy name Changji, was a Chinese poet of the late-Tang dynasty, known for his unconventional and imaginative style. A native of Changgu, Henan Province, Li was unsuccessful in the imperial examination. He died at age 27, having worked, despite his distant royal ancestry, as a poor minor official. About 240 of his poems survive. Although his works were admired by the late-Tang poets, none of his poems made their way into the popular anthologies, such as Tang shi san bai shou (300 Tang poems). As indicated ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Romance of the Three Kingdoms in Illustrations
Sanguo yan yi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), written by Luo Guanzhong (circa 1330–1400), a late-Yuan and early-Ming author, is a historical novel set in the third century, in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. The part-historical, part-legendary, and part-mythical story chronicles the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who vied with each other to restore or replace the declining Han Dynasty. The novel follows literally hundreds of characters, with plots, personal and army battles, intrigues ...
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Romance of the West Chamber with Chen Meigong’s Critical Comments
Ding juan Chen Meigong xian sheng pi ping Xi xiang ji (Romance of the West Chamber with Chen Meigong’s critical comments) is a work by Wang Shifu (circa 1250–1307), a successful playwright of the Yuan dynasty, with commentary by Chen Jiru (also called Chen Meigong, circa 1558–1639), a painter-calligrapher and man of letters. This is a late-Ming edition in two juan, with two juan of explanatory text, one juan of Pudong shi (Poems of Pudong), and one juan of Qiantang meng (Dream of Qiantang). It was printed ...
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The Story of the Secluded Chamber, with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments
You gui ji (Story of the secluded chamber), also entitled Bai yue ting ji (Story of the Moon-Worshipping Pavilion), is one of the five greatest Ming-dynasty long poetic dramas, called chuan qi. Attributed by some to Guan Hanqing (1220–1300), the Yuan playwright, and by others to Shi Hui (born 1295 or 1296), a native of Hangzhou and a Southern-style playwright at the end of the Yuan and the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the play has 40 scenes in two juan. The story takes place at the end of ...
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The Four Cries of the Gibbon
This drama is by Xu Wei (1521–93), a literary writer, painter-calligrapher, and playwright. A native of Shanyin, Zhejiang, Xu Wei used various pseudonyms, among them Qingteng Jushi (Resident of the Green Vine House). Despite his talents and early achievements in painting, poetry, and essay writing, he failed in eight attempts to pass the civil examinations and never achieved a jin shi degree. He served under General Hu Zongxian, the supreme commander of the Jiangsu–Zhejiang–Fujian coastal defense against the Japanese pirates, but lost his post after the general ...
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The Four Dreams of Linchuan
Linchuan si meng, also called Yumingtang si meng (The four dreams of the Jade Tea Hall), is a collection of four major dramas by the famed Ming-dynasty dramatist Tang Xianzu (1550–1616): Zi chai ji (The story of the purple hairpin), Nan ke ji (Record of southern bough), Handan meng (Record of Handan), and most famously Mu dan ting (The peony pavilion). These dramas are called dreams, because dreams play a large role in the plot of each. Various editions of this collection appeared during the Ming and Qing dynasties ...
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Ten Misidentifications, or Riddles of the Spring Lantern Festival, a New Yonghuaitang Edition
Ruan Dacheng (circa 1587–1646) was a well-known late-Ming poet and dramatist from an influential family in Huaining, Anhui Province, and also a corrupt politician of unsavory reputation. He received his jin shi degree in 1616. While in office, he allied with Wei Zhongxian (1568–1627), a powerful eunuch, and was dismissed after the eunuch’s downfall. He retired to his native town, and later to Nanjing, and began writing poetry and drama. In 1644 he joined the court of the Ming loyalist Southern Ming (1644–62) regime, and rose ...
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The Swallow’s Message, Huaiyuantang Edition with Commentaries and Punctuations
Ruan Dacheng (circa 1587–1646) was a well-known late-Ming poet and dramatist from an influential family in Huaining, Anhui Province, and also a corrupt politician of unsavory reputation. He received his jin shi degree in 1616. While in office, he allied with Wei Zhongxian (1568–1627), a powerful eunuch, and was dismissed after the eunuch’s downfall. He retired to his native town, and later to Nanjing, and began writing poetry and drama. In 1644 he joined the court of the Ming loyalist Southern Ming (1644–62) regime, and rose ...
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A Romance at a Post-House
Qing you chuan qi (A romance at a post-house), also known as Qing you ji, is a play in two juan, written by Wu Bing (1595–1647), a famed late-Ming playwright from a family of officials in Changzhou. After achieving his jin shi degree, Wu Bing assumed the post of magistrate of Puqi, Hubei Province. Among his other posts were assistant superintendent of education in Jiangxi and service in the Bureau of Rivers and Canals, the Ministry of Works. He was known as an able, just official, but he later ...
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The Story of the Jade Box, with Li Zhuowu‘s Critical Comments
This work is by Mei Dingzuo (1549–1615), who based it on a Tang-dynasty romantic work entitled Liu shi zhuan (The story about the woman Liu) by Xu Yaozuo, and another work, Ben shi shi (Stories in verse), by Meng Qi. Mei had a large circle of literary friends, among them literary scholars Wang Shizhen and Wang Daokun and playwright Tang Xianzu. After repeatedly failing to pass the civil examinations, Mei devoted himself to writing poetry, novels, and dramas, and eventually became a prolific author. Among his best-known works are ...
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Romance of the Three Kingdoms with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments
Sanguo yan yi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), written by Luo Guanzhong (circa 1330–1400), a late-Yuan and early-Ming author, is a historical novel set in the third century, in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. The part-historical, part-legendary, and part-mythical story chronicles the lives of feudal lords and their retainers, who vied with each other to restore or replace the declining Han Dynasty. The novel follows literally hundreds of characters, with plots, personal and army battles, intrigues ...
Contributed by National Central Library
Newly Compiled Stories on the History of the Five Dynasties with Commentaries (Incomplete Copy)
One of the popular entertainments among the common people during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) was storytelling. Historical events were particularly popular subjects. Stories often were told with the commentaries of the storytellers and thus were called ping hua (stories with commentaries). Some ping hua were published after being polished by the literati, but not many are still in existence. The author of this work is unknown. It is a collection of popular literature containing stories from the Five Dynasties (907–60), prior to the Song dynasty. It begins ...
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Akogi
Noh is a classical Japanese performance art that developed into its present form during the 14th and 15th centuries under the patronage of the shogunate. It became one of the favorite pastimes of the ruling class in Japan. Noh drama consists of dance and music. An utai-bon (book of lyrics) was made for each song in the drama. Noh was most popular during the 17th century, so many utai-bon, or Noh libretti, were published at that time. Shown here is a part of an utai-bon of Kanze-ryū style, one of ...
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The Tales of Ise
Ise monogatari (The tales of Ise) is a collection of some 125 brief episodes, combining elements of prose and poetry, that dates from the early Heian period (9th−10th centuries). The protagonist is believed to be modeled on Ariwarano Narihira (825−80), a handsome aristocrat who had many romantic affairs. The main character’s romances, friendships, heartbroken wandering life, and various other stories are narrated in a style that owes much to waka (literally, Japanese poems). The work had a great influence on later Japanese literature, including Genji monogatari (The ...
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Album of Appreciation of the Fragrance of Spring
Takuhanga is a printing technique in which a cloth-covered cotton ball containing black ink is patted on wet paper placed on an intaglio-engraved woodblock. The technique derives from takuhon, the art of rubbing found in Chinese copybooks printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy. This late-18th-century takuhanga album includes poems in the Chinese style celebrating the spring scenery of Kyoto written by learned men from the city who were students of Chinese literature, including Iwagaki Ryūkei (1741−1808). The drawings are by prominent Kyoto artists from the time ...
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Tsukishima
Tsukishima is a Kōwaka-mai (dance drama) ballad that dates from the Muromachi period (1336−1573). It is also called Hyōgo or Hyōgo tsukishima. The literal meaning of “tsukishima” is "making an island," and the ballad is based on an episode in which Taira no Kiyomori (1118−81), a general and noble, built a new port in Fukuhara, Hyōgo. The story starts with Kiyomori's decision to build the port. To ensure the success of the construction, 30 people are captured in order to be made human sacrifices to the gods ...
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Ibuki Dōji, the Boy from Mount Ibuki
This picture scroll of an otogizōshi (Japanese fairy tales of the Muromachi era, 1392−1573), recounts the childhood of Shuten Dōji, the oni (demon) who would one day be subdued by the real-life warrior, Minamoto no Yorimitsu. It tells the story of Shuten Dōji’s birth and his childhood on Mount Ibuki in the old province of Ōmi, protected by wild animals and feeding on magical herbs that prevented old age and death, up to the time he went to live on Mount Ōe-yama in the former province of Tanba ...
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Taishokan
Taishokan is a story loosely based on the life of Fujiwara no Kamatari (614−69), who was a famous court official. In the story, the daughter of Kamatari is married to the emperor of China. When she hears that her father is going to build the main hall of the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara, she sends him Mugehōju, a precious crystal with divine powers, as a gift. While a military escort is sailing to Japan with the crystal, dragons attack the ship and the treasure is carried down to the ...
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Military Epic about the Life of Yoshitsune
Gikei ki tells a fictional story based on the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, a famous military commander of the 12th century. In the book, Yoshitsune’s elder brother Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun in the history of Japan, becomes suspicious of his younger brother’s ambition after his glorious victories in a series of battles. By order of Yoritomo, Yoshitsune is expelled from Kyoto, hounded, and finally forced to commit suicide. The tragic story of Yoshitsune has long been popular in Japan and was often described in novels and dramas ...
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Story of the Moon and the Sun
Tsukimitsu no sōshi (Story of the moon and the sun) is one of the otogizōshi, Japanese fairy tales of the Muromachi period (1336−1573). In the story, Hō’ō and Sansō, sons of a very wealthy man in Magada-koku, Tenjiku (an old name for India), were exiled by their stepmother to Shiomizu Island. Their dead birth mother changes herself into a large bird of paradise in order to protect and raise them. The boys eventually are rescued by their father, and grow up to be tsuki (the moon) and hi ...
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A Collection of Japanese Paintings
This picture book is by Hishikawa Moronobu (died 1694) a representative artist in the earliest days of ukiyo-e. It consists of 20 pictures depicting popular scenes from classical Japanese literature, including Ise monogatari (The tales of Ise), Genji monogatari (The tale of Genji), and yōkyoku (chants of Noh plays). Moronobu was the first artist who put his signature on printed books. On the colophon of this work, he identifies himself as Yamato-e-shi (artist of classical Japanese paintings), thereby showing his professional confidence in himself as an artist. The National Diet ...
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Painting of the Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion during the Spring Purification Festival
This rubbing scroll combines two works: Lanting xu tie (Calligraphy of the preface to the poems composed at the Orchid Pavilion) by Wang Xizhi (321−79), and Liu shang tu (The floating goblets), originally a painting, by the Song artist Li Gonglin (1049−1106). Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736−95) commissioned this scroll, which was reprinted from the Song rubbing with the missing parts added, based on the fragment of Lanting tu (Illustrations of Lanting) by Zhu Yiyin (1536−1603), Prince Yi of the Ming dynasty. The missing part of the ...
Contributed by National Library of China
Rubbings of Inscriptions on Mao Gong Ding, the Duke Mao Tripod
Mao Gong Ding, the bronze tripod cauldron, was excavated at the end of the Daoguang period (1821−50) in Qishan County, Shaanxi. Dings were used widely as ritual vessels and became hierarchical symbols during the Zhou dynasty (circa 1046−256 BC). This is the most famous ding, originally belonging to Mao Gong. There are 497 characters on the inside of the vessel, the longest bronze inscription known to this day. The inscription records the history of the late Western Zhou (circa 1046−771 BC), specifically the reign of Emperor Xuan ...
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The Noble Knights-errant of the Water Margin, with Commentary by Li Zhuowu, in 100 Juan
Shown here is chapter one of an important version of one of the great classics of Chinese literature, Shui hu zhuan (The water margin), which is attributed to Shi Nai'an (circa 1290−circa 1365). The early editions of this work were issued in two kinds of format; one was unabridged and the other concise. The unabridged text appeared arranged in 70, 100, or 120 juan (chapters), the earliest being of 100 chapters. This edition, Li Zhuowu xian sheng pi ping Zhong yi shui hu zhuan, 100 juan (The noble ...
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Dream of the Red Chamber in 120 Chapters
Xin jian quan bu xiu xiang Hong lou meng (Newly printed complete illustrated edition of the Dream of the red chamber) is also known as the Cheng-A edition. It is the first printed edition of the classic novel written by Cao Xueqin (circa 1715−63), one of China’s greatest novelists. Included here are the preface and comments by Zhang Ruzhi at the tops of the pages, the table of contents, and three chapters. The book was in the collection of Zheng Zhenduo (1898–1958) before entering the collections of ...
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Ramayana
The oral tradition of the Burmese Ramayana story can be traced as far back as the reign of King Anawrahta (active 1044−77), the founder of the first Burmese empire. The story was transmitted orally from generation to generation before being written down in prose and verse and as a drama. The earliest known written Burmese version of the Ramayana is Rama Thagyin (Songs from the Ramayana), compiled by U Aung Phyo in 1775. A three-volume copy of the Rama story called Rama vatthu was written on palm leaf in ...
Contributed by The British Library
The Tale of Kiều
Truyện Kiều (The tale of Kiều), written by Nguyễn Du (1765−1820) is regarded as the most significant poem in Vietnamese literature. It was composed in Lục-bát (6-8) stanzas and its original title in Vietnamese is Ðoạn Trường Tân Thanh (A new cry from a broken heart). However, it is better known as Truyện Kiều or Kim Văn Kiều. The story is based on a 17th century Ming Chinese novel, which Nguyễn Du discovered while he was on an ambassadorial mission to China in 1813. The plot portrays the chaotic ...
Contributed by The British Library
Buddhist Texts, Including the Legend of Phra Malai, with Illustrations of The Ten Birth Tales
The legend of Phra Malai, a Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition said to have attained supernatural powers through his accumulated merit and meditation, is the main text in this 19th-century Thai samut khoi (folding book) held in the Thai, Lao, and Cambodian Collections of the British Library. Phra Malai figures prominently in Thai art, religious treatises, and rituals associated with the afterlife, and the story is one of the most popular subjects of 19th-century illustrated Thai manuscripts. The earliest surviving examples of Phra Malai manuscripts date back to the ...
Contributed by The British Library
Dharma Wonder Boy
This early-18th century work by an unknown artist is a typical example of Nara-ehon, the illustrated manuscripts or hand-printed scrolls and books produced in Japan from the Muromachi (1333-1573) through the mid-Edo (1615-1868) periods. The Hōmyō dōji is originally an East Indian story with roots in Buddhism. Like many such stories, it begins with the characteristic phrase, “Once upon a time in the land of the Buddha...” It goes on to tell the story of a child who was chosen to become a sacrifice for a giant snake. The child ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
The Tale of Genji: Commentary on Key Words and Phrases, Volumes 55-57
Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji) is often considered the first great novel in world literature. The author of the work, Murasaki Shibuku, was born around 978 and spent most of her life at or near the imperial court in Kyoto. After a brief marriage to an older man, she entered the service of Empress Akiko (or Shōshi) around 1005 as a lady-in-waiting. The novel consists of 54 books or chapters that recount the life and romances of Prince Genji, the young, handsome, and talented son of an emperor. The novel ...
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The Tale of Genji: Genealogy, Volume 58
Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji) is often considered the first great novel in world literature. The author of the work, Murasaki Shibuku, was born around 978 and spent most of her life at or near the imperial court in Kyoto. After a brief marriage to an older man, she entered the service of Empress Akiko (or Shōshi) around 1005 as a lady-in-waiting. The novel consists of 54 books or chapters that recount the life and romances of Prince Genji, the young, handsome, and talented son of an emperor. The novel ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
The Tale of Genji: A Sequel, Volume 59
Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji) is often considered the first great novel in world literature. The author of the work, Murasaki Shibuku, was born around 978 and spent most of her life at or near the imperial court in Kyoto. After a brief marriage to an older man, she entered the service of Empress Akiko (or Shōshi) around 1005 as a lady-in-waiting. The novel consists of 54 books or chapters that recount the life and romances of Prince Genji, the young, handsome, and talented son of an emperor. The novel ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
The Tale of Genji: Index, Volume 60
Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji) is often considered the first great novel in world literature. The author of the work, Murasaki Shibuku, was born around 978 and spent most of her life at or near the imperial court in Kyoto. After a brief marriage to an older man, she entered the service of Empress Akiko (or Shōshi) around 1005 as a lady-in-waiting. The novel consists of 54 books or chapters that recount the life and romances of Prince Genji, the young, handsome, and talented son of an emperor. The novel ...
Contributed by Library of Congress
100 Poems by 100 Poets
This illustrated book of Ogura hyakunin isshu (One hundred poets, one hundred poems) is a collection of one hundred 31-syllable classical Japanese poems (waka), each by a different poet. The collection is organized chronologically from Emperor Tenji (626-671) to Emperor Juntoku (1197-1242). Each of the poets is depicted by a woodblock print created by Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-circa 1694). Morobonu is often considered the first Ukiyo-e artist.
Contributed by National Diet Library
The Tale of Genji
This book is an old movable-type edition of one of the best-known classic works of Japanese literature. It is said to be the first printed version of Genji monogatari (The tale of Genji) and appears in 54 volumes produced in the Keichō Era (1596–1615). This is one of the earliest books for which hiragana types were used, and only two others are extant as scribal copies. Hiragana is a cursive script of the Japanese syllabary. One of the oldest novels in the world, Genji monogatari was written in the ...
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Yoshitsune Leaving for Oshu Province
This picture scroll illustrates the story of Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-89), a military commander at the end of the 12th century, and his legendary retainer Benkei (?-1189). Yoshitsune’s older brother Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-99) became suspicions of his younger brother’s ambition after Yoshitsune achieved a series of military successes. Yorimoto had Yoshitsune expelled from Kyoto. Yoshitsune sought the protection of the Fujiwara family in Hiraizume, Oshū province, but in the end was hounded to death and forced to commit suicide by his powerful brother. The tragic story of Yoshitsune and ...
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The Origin of Tenjin
This is a large illustrated manuscript book of the type called nara-ehon. It depicts the life of Sugawara Michizane (845-903), a leading court scholar, political figure, and literary man of the Heian period (794-1185). Nara-ehon are illustrated manuscripts or hand-printed books and scrolls that were produced from the Muromachi period (1336-1573) through the middle of the Edo period (1600-1867).
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Soga's Robes
Nara-ehon are illustrated manuscripts or hand-printed books and scrolls produced in Japan from the Muromachi period (1336-1573) through the middle of the Edo period (1600-1867). This rectangular nara-ehon depicts the story of the Soga brothers, Soga Jurō Sukenari (1172-93) and Soga Gorō Tokimune (1174-93), and their quest for revenge for their father's death. The Soga Monogatari (Tale of the Soga brothers) tells how, after 18 years of hardships, the brothers fulfill their quest, but also how Sukenari is killed and Tokimune captured and executed by Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-99), the ...
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Satomi and the Eight “Dogs”
This epic novel, entitled Nansō Satomi Hakkenden (Satomi and the eight “dogs”) is a yomihon, or reading book, one of the popular genres of Edo-period (1600-1867) prose fiction. The story depicts the adventures of eight samurais whose last names begin with the Japanese word for dog. The author, Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848), also known as Kyokutei Bakin, worked around 30 years on this, his best-known work. This copy is a first printing, owned by Bakin himself, that shows his corrections of misspellings in the original printing.
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The Complete Library in Four Sections (Siku Quanshu)
Siku quanshu (Complete library in four sections), compiled in the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty, was the largest collection of texts in pre-modern China and has an important historical place in the histories of cultural texts and academic thought in China. The Wenjin ge edition is a manuscript written during the Qianlong reign. It includes a total of 36,304 volumes in 6,144 boxes placed on 128 bookshelves. They comprise 79,309 juan (sections) and were originally kept in the Wenjin Pavilion at the Summer Palace in Rehe ...
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Secret Edition of the Northern Western Wing Corrected by Mr. Zhang Shenzhi
The Yuan dynasty drama, Story of the Western Wing, by Wang Shifu, is the finest dramatic work of traditional China. It ranks with Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion, Kong Shangren’s Peach Blossom Fan, and Hong Sheng’s Palace of Everlasting Life as one of the four great classical dramas of pre-modern China, and has had a far-reaching influence on the literature and theatrical history of China. The plot of the drama is a reworking of the short work, The Story of Yingying (also titled Encounter with an Immortal) by ...
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Annals of Creation
The cover of this work by an unknown author bears the title Translation of the Entire Text of the “Yao Annals of Creation.” In this bilingual text, the Dongba text is in color and the Chinese text is in black. The Dongba glyphs are ancient characters that were used to record the dialect of the western Naxi nationality centered around the Li River in Yunnan. They were developed in approximately the seventh century. The Annals of Creation reflect the understanding of the Naxi people concerning the natural world and the ...
Contributed by National Library of China