Depictions of Metals, Minerals, Insects and Plants

Jin shi kun chong cao mu zhuang (Depictions of metals, minerals, insects, and plants) was painted by Wen Shu (1594–1634), a great-great-granddaughter of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), one of the greatest Ming dynasty painters, calligraphers, and scholars. Married to Zhang Jun, also a painter, and residing in Hanshan, Wen Shu was surrounded by nature and excelled in painting birds, flowers, plants, insects, and butterflies. She spent a number of years copying thousands of illustrations from books of traditional Chinese medicine in the imperial collection. Zhang Jun’s handwritten preface, dated the 48th year of the Wanli reign (1620), states that Wen Shu painted most objects by copying them from illustrations in books on materia medica. She painted without adding text, which distinguishes her work from the colored illustrations of the unpublished manuscript, Ben cao pin hui jing yao (Collection of essentials in materia medica), produced in 1505 by Liu Wentai and others. This album in 27 juan contains 1,316 images depicting 1,070 kinds of medical plants. In the upper right corner of each illustration is the name of the herb, handwritten in red by Wen’s father, Wen Congjian, a landscape painter. The work was previously in the collection of Zhang Fang’er, a nephew of Zhang Fengyi, Minister of the Bureau of War. There are two seal impressions, one a white rectangular shape which reads Mingshan Tang, the other the name of the workshop Qing yi fu. The album came into the National Central Library collection during the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–45) at the recommendation of businessman Pan Boshan (1904–43).

Treatment by Incantation

Zhu you ke (Treatment by incantation) is an extremely rare manuscript, said to have been written by a Daoist priest named Zhang Zun. Also known as Mi jue qi shu (The rare book of secrets), the work is in five unnumbered volumes, each designated by a character: qian, yuan, heng, li, and zhen. On the initial qian volume is a note that the original stone tablets of the texts entered the imperial collection in the 13th year of the Kangxi reign (1656) as one of Shi san ke (The 13 ways of treatment). The incantation treatment is the 13th of “13 ways.” The work was probably issued before the early Qing dynasty. The qian volume has an account of its source. It states that in the 28th year of the Chunxi reign (1188) of the Song dynasty, provincial governor Ya Qi was ordered to harness the Yellow River, where he discovered 58 stone tablets carved with secret words. Zhang Zun deciphered the inscriptions, and from then on the treatment of diseases was resoundingly successful. It was said that during the Jingtai reign (1450–56) of the Ming dynasty, a physician named Xu Jinghui, a native of Linqing, Shandong Province, mastered and practiced the 13 ways of treatment and that his house became crowded by patients. Zhang Zun, the author of a postscript in the first volume, the one with the qian designation, wrote that there was another copy of the work, an inferior one. That version was seen in 1724, collated, and hand-copied by Shen Changfa, but the five volumes did not seem consistent with each other and the methods of incantations and taboos varied. It is assumed that the book was copied using different sources. Practicing treatment by incantation was an accepted and respected profession. A zhu you doctor used prayers, magic charms or taboos, and ceremonies to “move the spirit to the essence of qi.” These means could cure not just illnesses and pains; they could stop infants from crying during the night, help women in childbirth, and treat unexpected injuries and bites by insects and animals. Examples of the results promised include “bringing wealth into the home by filling an urn with water,” “exterminating rats by using magic charms,” and “making a tiger by blowing a feather.” The treatments in the book are for both adults and children. They include conditions of the pulse, childbirth, eyes, wind, teeth and stomatitis, ear and nose, orthopedics, sores and broken bones, wounds from arrowheads, incantations, and the like.

The Shishan Medical Records

This work, in three juan with a supplement and in three volumes, was written by Wang Ji (1463–1539), famed physician and member of a Ming dynasty medical family, and originally published in 1520. The manuscript was put together by his disciple, Chen Jiao. This edition was printed by Chen Jiao in the tenth year of the Jiajing reign (1531). The preface was written by Cheng Zeng and is also dated 1531. Included are two portraits of the author, inscriptions by Li Fan, Cheng Wenjie, and Chen Jiao, and the author’s recommendation. Wang Ji (style name Shi shan ju shi), a native of Qimen, Huizhou, Anhui Province, studied Confucian teachings in his early years and, after unsuccessful civil examinations, devoted himself to medicine. He was the author of 13 works, among them this collection of his cases. Wang Ji basically followed the teachings of the famed Yuan dynasty physician Zhu Zhenheng (circa 1281–1358), as is known from one of his other books, Tui qiu shi yi (Ascertain the master’s meanings). Ancient Chinese medical cases record the process and result of treatments. Such medical records could be found as early as in the Western Han (206 BC–8 AD), the earliest being a collection of 25 cases of Chun Yuyi (205–150 BC). Such records could be brief or lengthy. Each record contained the name, sex, age, social status, shape of the body, cause of the disease, symptoms, diagnoses, prescription, prognosis, and so forth. These records also reflect the physician–patient relationships. Early medical cases were issued mostly as appendices to other works. From the mid- and late-Ming dynasty, physicians began to publish them as individual works, thus creating a new form of medical writing to be examined, referenced, and used for education. These works have since become valuable historical sources. This work records not only clinical experience; it also provides information on various diseases, especially those suffered by the male population, such as syphilis, which was seen as a health crisis in the region south of the Yangtze River, where flourishing trade and commerce helped to spread the disease.

Compendium on Treatments for Infants

Quan ying yao lan (Compendium on treatments for infants), in two juan and two volumes, was written by Min Daoyang and reprinted in the sixth year of the Longqing reign (1572) in the Ming dynasty, with a preface by Zheng Maokan, a postscript by Gong Bangheng, and an inscription by Deng Huaxi. This is the only extant copy of this edition. According to the preface in a later Qing edition, the book was originally in the collection of a feudal prince. It has impressions of the seals of two pharmacies, called Mingshan Tang and Anle Tang. The work is actually a compilation of various sources of different schools, combining both medical views and quackery. According to the preface by Zheng Maokan, Min Daoyang was influenced by Confucian teachings, wrote poetry, and was skilled in Chinese medicine. Besides writing a number of books, he concentrated on collecting prescriptions for infants. One day in 1572 he was invited to attend to a patient named Guo, a censor, and on that occasion acquired a prescription book from Guo’s sickroom. After revising the manuscript and making additions and new classifications, in the winter of the same year Min Daoyang took the manuscript to Nanjing, where, with the generous financial support of another censor, he had it printed. Ever since the Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese physicians generally held that diagnosis for infants was difficult. Writing against this background, Min Daoyang emphasized that the key to diagnosing an infant was to examine the patient by his or her appearance, especially the countenance. To make the book more readable, Min included several directions written in rhyme and added illustrations to aid learning and memorization. One of his focuses was the causes, diagnoses, and treatment of smallpox, often a dangerous disease among infants. He followed the principles of Ming physician Wei Zhi in treatment, indicated preferences among various theories, and provided many different drug formulas.

A Complete View of the Canal from Jiangsu to Beijing

Jiangsu zhi Beijing yun he quan tu (A complete view of the canal from Jiangsu to Beijing) is made of a long continuous sheet of paper folded into accordion-like leaves. It has 21 folds, each 24.1 centimeters high and 13 centimeters wide. The title at the beginning is handwritten in ink and the calligraphy is in the official script style. The work was printed in the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), but the author and the date of publication are unknown. The three-line inscription on the left indicates that the work was acquired in the eighth month of the year of Gengxu (a continuous numbering system on the Chinese calendar in a 60-year cycle) and repaired at a shop near the city gate. There are also several seal impressions, among them a white square seal with the surname Du, a red square seal with the name Fu’an, and another white seal with the name Yang Jianxin. These seals most likely identify earlier owners of the work. The subject of the painting is the Great Beijing–Hangzhou Canal, known as the Grand Canal, the longest canal or artificial river in the world. The canal furthered a growing economic market in China's urban centers ever since the Sui period (581–618). From the Tang to the Qing dynasties, the Grand Canal served as the main artery between northern and southern China and was essential for the transport of grain and other commodities to Beijing. Convenient transport also enabled the emperors to lead inspection tours to southern China. In the Qing Dynasty, the emperors Kangxi and Qianlong made 12 trips to the south, on all occasions but one reaching Hangzhou. This painting is damaged both at the front and at the end, and lacks the section south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Shown here is the canal starting at Lingkou Zhen, near Wujin Xian, Jiangsu Province, and winding its way north until it reaches the boundary of Linqing Zhou, Shandong Province. The map shows where the canal crosses the Yellow River, but not where it reaches Beijing. The painting is executed in meticulous detail, with clear indications of tributaries, lakes, mountains, forests, cities, bridges, monasteries, pagodas, temples, canal locks, embankments, sandbanks, sluice gates, as well as distances between points. Some of the tributaries are depicted so densely that they resemble cobwebs. This kind of printed map is very rare.

Historic Records of the East Capital of the Northern Song

Dongdu shi lue (Historic records of the east capital of the Northern Song) is a history of the nine courts of the Northern Song (960–1127), mainly consisting of a series of biographies, beginning with Taizu Jianlong (reigned 960–63) and ending with Qinzong Jiankang (reigned 1126–27). The book is divided into 12 juan of general historical information, five juan on high official families, 105 juan of biographies, and eight juan of supplements on the non-Chinese dynasties of Liao (Khitan), Jin (Jurchen), Xi Xia (Tangut Empire), and Jiaozhi (Giao Chỉ, Vietnam), for a total of 130 juan. The author was Wang Cheng, a 12th-century official and the son of the compiler of Song shi lu (Records of the Song dynasty), who like his father collected extensive historical records to complete this work. The descriptions are brief, to the point, and appear impartial. Many writers of the later Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) used this book as a source. During the Northern Song, the capital Bianliang (present-day Kaifeng Shi, Henan Province) was called Dongdu, the east capital, as opposed to Luoyang, the west capital. This copy dates from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). In this edition, a different character was used for the author’s name and some of the contents were revised. The book was, however, included in the bibliography, Si ku quan shu ti yao (Annotated bibliography of the Siku Collection) and became the accepted version. The woodblocks used were those of the first edition from Meishan, Sichuan Province, during the Shaoxi reign (1190–94) of the Song dynasty, but this is still considered the first Ming edition. The printing is superior and is, in fact, the very best example of Song printing blocks. At the end of the table of contents is the notation of the printer of the Song edition, which states: “Printed by the House of Cheng of Meishan, and submitted to the authorities. Duplication prohibited.” This is probably the earliest copyright statement in the history of Chinese publishing.

Records of the Southern Song Imperial Library

This work is an account of the Imperial Library (Zhong xing guan) during the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). It was compiled by Chen Gui (1128–1203), who received the jin shi degree in 1150 and became an official at the library. Issued circa 1265–74, it traces the history of the Imperial Library from the beginning of the Southern Song. The work records the names of library officials, their stipends, their positions, and their daily activities; and provides information on the library’s basic functions, including book acquisition and arranging, collection maintenance, as well as editing, compilation, and printing. This copy is missing one volume on the history of the library.  It is accompanied by a 10-juan supplement, which lacks the volume on the stipends. Juans 7 and 8 of the supplement provide the names of officials and titles up to the year of 1269, but they were printed using a different type, probably during the early years of the Yuan dynasty. This work is included in Si ku quan shu (The complete collection of the four treasuries), which was compiled during the Qing dynasty and used, as its source, the Ming encyclopedia Yongle da dian (published during the Yongle reign of 1403–24). The book was rarely seen after the Ming dynasty. Some hand-copied editions could be found in private collections, but they often contained errors. This copy was previously in the collection of Huang Raopu (1763–1825), a bibliophile and collector of Song edition books. It later it went to the collections of five other famous collectors before coming into the possession of the National Central Library. The work is similar to another compilation, Lin tai gu shi (Stories of the Imperial Library), by Cheng Ju (1078–1144).

A Newly Compiled Matchmaker's Wedding Guide

This book is a matchmaker’s guide to weddings. The traditional Chinese wedding required much involvement by “matchmakers,” a term that came to mean all persons or events that acted as go-betweens in a marriage between two families. The guide is a 24-juan work in two parts, each consisting of 12 juan, printed in Jianyang in the late Southern Song dynasty, or around 1225–79. In Part 1, juan 1 discusses wedding etiquette; juans 2–6 trace the origins of family names; juans 7–9 deal with essential stories; juan 10 records various facts about the marriages of well-known personalities; and juans 11–12 contain some details of the facts in juan 10. In Part 2, juan 1 contains forms of announcements; juan 2 has cautionary warnings about writing marriage contracts; juan 3 advises on how a matchmaker should make an offer of marriage on behalf of a family; juan 4 advises on how to send presents for a betrothal; juans 5–9 contain advice on betrothals for different types of people, including officials and scholars, city employees, relatives, and peasants and laborers; juan 10 advises on betrothals for remarriages and for taking concubines; juan 11 advises how to choose a date for the betrothal; and juan 12 indicates how to welcome a bride and make merry. Issued to meet a practical need, the book now has considerable historical value. This title was not included in the catalogue of Si ku quan shu (The complete collection of the four treasuries) and no new editions and reprints were ever published. This is possibly the only extant copy. The book has a number of seal impressions of several renowned book collectors of later centuries, such as Ji Zhenyi (1630–74), a late Ming and early Qing bibliophile; Mi jun lou, the library of Jiang Ruzao (1877–1954), an industrialist and book collector; and Zhang Heng (1915–63), an appraiser of Chinese painting and calligraphy. There are also inscriptions at the beginning of the work by late Qing and early Republican scholars, such as Yang Shoujing (1839–1915), a historian, geographer, calligrapher and bibliophile, and two scholars, Ye Changchi (1849–1917) and Ye Dehui (1864–1927). A notation by Jiang Biao (1860–99), a member of the imperial Hanlin Academy, records that, when he and a friend acted as matchmakers for two families, on the third day of the eighth month of 1889, the 15th year of the Guangxu reign, they were shown this book by the father of the bride.

A New Compilation of Events from the Xuanhe Period

Xin bian Xuanhe yi shi (A new compilation of events from the Xuanhe period) is a Song dynasty work by unknown authors. The Xuanhe period was 1119–25. The book has two juan, representing two parts, and the title appears at the beginning of each juan as well as in the table of contents. The literary style of the work is hua ben, meaning written versions of storytellers’ tales. They are loosely based on historical figures and events from ancient Yao and Shun times up to the 1127–62 reign of Gaozong, the first Southern Song emperor. With growing urbanization and population growth in Song China, the public demand for orally performed fiction and for printed stories increased greatly. There was also heightened demand for entertainment on the streets and in markets. While traditional stories in China often focused on strange events, Song-era popular stories appealed to readers with a much wider range of topics. Books of such orally transmitted tales normally were made by hand, but as printing with moveable type became widespread, storyteller novels were also printed and widely read by the public. The most common stories were about historic persons and heroes or were love stories. Shui hu zhuan (Water marshes), the classic Chinese novel (known in the West as Outlaws of the Marsh) about 108 outlaws on Mount Liang, originated from one of the chapters of this work. At the end of the book is a handwritten inscription by Huang Peilie (1763–1825), the famed Qing book collector, telling of his first encounter with the book at a friend’s house.  

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).