Analysis of the Artificers’ Record by Yanzhai, in Two Juan


The author of this work, Lin Xiyi (1193−1271), courtesy name Suweng, style name Yanzhai, was a native of Fuqing, Fujian. Lin received his jin shi degree in 1235, became a vice director at the Bureau of Evaluation, and later was an official at the Central Drafting Office serving the Grand Secretariat. Kao gong ji (The artificers’ record), as seen today, was included in the ancient ritual text Zhou li (The rites of Zhou) to substitute a missing part. Zhou li, originally called Zhou guan (The offices of Zhou), consisted of six chapters: “Offices of the Heavens” on general governance; “Offices of the Earth” on taxation and division of land; “Offices of Spring” on education and social and religious institutions; “Offices of Summer” on the army; “Offices of Autumn” on justice; and “Offices of Winter” on population, territory, and agriculture. By the time of the Western Han (206 BC−8 AD), the last chapter no longer existed; it was replaced by Kao gong ji. The text contained design codes of various handicrafts and described the techniques of working and the technologies used by more than 20 different kinds of craftsmen and artificers. In his analyses, Lin’s Neo-Confucian ideas prevailed over Han Confucianism. There were no previous detailed analyses available on the systems of ancient craftsmanship, and the text that did exist was abstruse and difficult to understand. The explanations provided by Lin, in contrast, were easy to understand. The additional text relating to Kao gong ji, taken from San li tu (Illustrations of three classics of rites), made it easier for initiates to learn their craft. Parts of the Song edition were indecipherable and there were numerous corrections and additions made in the Yuan dynasty. Six characters at the central column of the leaves read: “supplementary edition, fourth year (1317) of Yanyou of Yuan.” There were also missing pages. Nevertheless, Fu Zengxiang (1872—1949), the famed bibliophile, was overjoyed to acquire a copy of the Song edition from another collector, as described in the preface of his work Cang yuan qun shu ti ji (Notes on Books at Cangyuan). A handwritten inscription at the front is by Qing poet Cha Shenxing (1650−1727). This work had been collected by various bibliophiles, as indicated by a number of seal impressions, such as Ye shi Luzhutang cang shu (seal of Ye Sheng (1420−74)), Mao Bao zi Huabo hao Zhi’an (seal of Mao Bao), and Deshulou cang shu (seal owned by Cha Shenxing).

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Title in Original Language

鬳齋考工記解 : 二卷

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Physical Description

2 juan, 4 volumes


  • Revised edition

Last updated: June 25, 2015