Standard Characters of the Classics Compiled for Free Schools


Shown here is a Wanli edition (1573‒1620) of Yi xue zheng zi (Standard characters in classical texts for free schools). The first compiler of this work was Shen Li (1531‒1615), a native of Henan. After he achieved his jin shi degree in 1565, Shen Li assumed a number of posts, including vice minister at the Ministry of Personnel, grand academician at the East Hall, and minister of the Ministry of Rites. Eventually he became a junior guardian of the heir apparent. His work at the Ministry of Rites is noted particularly because of his denunciation of deviations from orthodox answers in the examinations and rejection of improper writing styles. His long-time tenure in the government was mostly successful and he was favored by the emperor. As indicated in his preface to the work, dated 1604, after Shen Li was appointed to an official post the compilation was continued by Guo Yijing and edited by Gu Chong and Zhang Ti. The latter was also responsible for printing the work at his own expense. It consists of three juan, including the first compiler’s preface or editorial guide, which Shen Li signed Longjiang Laoren (The Old Man of Dragon River). Shen Li’s style name, Longiang, means Dragon River. This work follows the format of Shuo wen jie zi, an early second-century Chinese character dictionary from the Han dynasty. The work lists the character types and outlines the texts of the Four Classics, known as Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects, and Mencius.

Last updated: January 10, 2018