The Annotated Literary Anthology by Xiao Tong


Wen xuan (Selected literature) is one of the earliest collections of Chinese poetry. It includes verse from the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC), the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), and later. It was compiled around 520 during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589) by Xiao Tong (501–31), the eldest son of Emperor Wu of Liang (but who died before ascending to the throne), and a group of scholars he had assembled. Many annotated editions of the Wen xuan appeared after Xiao Tong’s death, of which the seventh-century version by Li Shan is considered the most authoritative. Another annotated edition, Wu chen zhu wen xuan (Annotated Wen xuan by five officials) was issued by five court officials during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (713–41) of the Tang dynasty. That edition was simpler and less complex than Li Shan's earlier work and it was not officially adopted by academics of the day. During the reign of Emperor Xiaozong of the Song dynasty (1174-1189), the poet You Mao (1127–1202) printed a version of Li Shan's annotations that had a lasting effect on later readers. Shown here is the only extant copy of a Song edition of Wu chen zhu wen xuan, which was printed in 1161 in Jianyang, Fujian Province, by Chen Balang in his printing house, Zonghua Shufang, some 19 years before You Mao’s version. The title is not listed in the catalogue of Si ku quan shu (The complete collection of the four treasuries), the largest collection of Chinese books. One of its noteworthy features is that a number of characters in the book are circled in red. These characters, including xuan, jiong, zhen, shu, and xu, represent taboo names, the use of which was to be avoided during the Song dynasty. The work was originally in the collection of Ji gu ge, the library and printing shop of Ming scholar Mao Jing (1599–1659). It has a number of seal impressions. In 1903, book collector Wang Tongyu (1856–1941) acquired it, and it eventually became part of Mi yun lou, the library of the famed bibliophile Jiang Ruzao (1877–1954).

Last updated: November 5, 2015