January 12, 2012

The Book of the Stairway of Virtues

This manuscript has a number of distinguishing features. The text is in Garshuni (Arabic in Syriac characters), but the catchword (a word given at the bottom of one page matching the first word on the next page to ensure the proper page order is kept) is given in Arabic script. Biblical citations are indicated (sometimes in red) in the margin, written sideways (as in, for example, folio 13r, where Matthew 10:16 is cited). The diacritical dots given to the letters are black when the main script is red, and vice versa. In part of the work, the section titles are given in rubricated Arabic script rather than in Syriac. The colophon on folio 71r is in (fully vocalized) Syriac, not Arabic, and gives the date of the manuscript, 1830. At the end of the manuscript, ṣaḥḥa (finis) is written twice in Garshuni, twice in Arabic. The book is intended as a guide for the soul on the proper path toward God. No title is given until near the end (folio 80r): The Stairway of Virtues. Specifically, these virtues are: 1. Faith, 2. Hope in the Living God, and 3. Love of God and Neighbor. On folio 80r, four church fathers—Augustine, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Theophylact—are cited.

January 13, 2012

Thirteen Essays of Guan Gongming

This work consists of essays and a summary of Yi divination purportedly written by Guan Lu (208–55), also known as Guan Gongming. Guan Lu was a famed practitioner of divination during the Three Kingdoms era (220–65). He was known to have been able to diagnose the causes of diseases and foresee a person’s fate by casting lots. A number of works credited to him were listed in the histories of the Sui and Tang dynasties. This manuscript edition was issued during the Qianlong period (1736–95) of the Qing dynasty. A postscript at the end of the second volume states that the work was written in the fourth year of the Qianlong reign (1739). Guan Lu’s name presumably was used to add authenticity to the work. The inscription in the first volume indicates that the text was copied by Chen Dajing, about whom no information exists. Volume two, entitled Bu yi zhai yao (Essentials of divination), has four impressions of Chen Dajing’s seals. In the congratulatory script at the beginning of the work, among the names mentioned is Liu Bowen (1311–75), a military strategist, politician, and man of letters active under the first Ming emperor, Hongwu (reigned 1368–98). This suggests that the original text could have been written during or after the middle Ming period.

Writings of the Orthodox School

Wen zhang zheng zong (Writings of the orthodox school) is an incomplete work of the Song dynasty, consisting of juan 4, 10, 13, and 15, the surviving parts of a compilation originally in 24 juan. It is an anthology of practical writings and official records. The articles were selected based on the authors’ literary, philosophical, and political standards, such as emphasis on rationalism, the use of correct notations, the pursuit of elegance, and respect for the ancients, moral ethics, and the like. The author, Zhen Dexiu (1178–1235), a native of Pucheng, Fujian Province, changed his family name from Shen to Zhen to avoid using the same name as Emperor Xiaozong (reigned 1163–89). Zhen Dexiu was a famous politician and renowned writer who, together with Wei Liaoweng, was one of the two promoters of Neo-Confucianism of the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). A descendant of Zhu Xi, the founder of Neo-Confucianism, Zhen further developed Neo-Confucianism and expanded its influence. By combining doctrines of Buddhism and Daoism with Neo-Confucianism and expressing his thoughts on the improvement of the personality and administration of the country, he adapted Neo-Confucianism to the times and succeeded in making it the mainstream philosophy of the Song dynasty. This book embodied the literary conception of Neo-Confucianism and reflected the main literary thought of its day, and it deeply influenced Chinese literature in subsequent generations. For this work, Zhen selected a large number of official documents dating from the Spring–Autumn period (770–476 BC), which he annotated as guides for posterity. These official documents were important tools in politics, which evolved over time, with increasingly varied types and formats. Zhen considered the documents from the Spring–Autumn period as simple, direct, and rich in content, and regarded the imperial edicts of the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) as brief, simple, and imbued with sympathy for the common people.

Treatise on Diagnoses and Treatments of Zang and Fu Organs with Illustrations of Human Body

This printed edition, in eight juan, with two juan of supplements, in six volumes, was published in the 34th year of the Wanli reign (1608). The work has some characteristic features of Ming printing, its woodblocks being cut with extreme care and precision, the typeface mostly cut in square shape, and the binding stitch-bound. The author of the original work is unknown. The preface dated 1606 by Qian Lei, a Ming dynasty physician from Siming (present-day Ningbo Shi, Zhejiang Province), states that he had acquired a book entitled Zang fu zheng zhi tu shuo ren jing jing (Treatise on diagnoses and treatments of zang and fu organs with illustrations of the human body) from the estate of the court physician Wang Zongquan, under whom he had practiced medicine. Qian issued this edition under the same title based on the book he acquired, and added the two juan of supplements. The work deals chiefly with the so-called 12 meridians, regular and divergent, and the eight extra channels, of traditional Chinese medicine, whose main function was to strengthen the exterior–interior relationship of the 12 regular channels and so form closer ties between all parts of the body. The entries in the book, with illustrations, explain the inner organs zang (such as the heart, lungs, and liver) and fu (such as the gall bladder and stomach), their functions, the symptoms of diseases, and treatments. The preface notes that at the time of the book’s printing Qian was already elderly, so his son Qian Xuan and his grandson Qian Shizhong joined him in compiling the work.

Exercise Essays from the Enfutang Hall

The compiler of this manuscript, in two volumes, was Yinghe (1771–1839), a Manchu official and writer, who achieved his jin shi (doctoral degree) in 1793. He entered the Hanlin Academy and became a compiler there two years later. In 1799 he was appointed subchancellor of the Grand Secretariat, and a year later was made a vice president of the Board of Rites. In 1801 he was given the concurrent post of minister of the Imperial Household, where his great-grandfather also once served. In the same year he was transferred to the Board of Revenue. In 1804 he became a grand councilor. In 1829 he was deprived of his offices, his property was confiscated, and he was banished to Heilongjiang Province, northeast China, together with his two sons. While in exile, he studied local conditions in Qiqihar, the provincial capital, and wrote two works about the region. Later pardoned and permitted to return to the capital, he bought a garden in the Western Hills and lived out his remaining years. He was posthumously given the rank of a third-grade official. In his last years, he edited his own writings, collectively known under the title En fu tang quan ji (Complete collection of works at the Enfutang Hall), among which was this work. The essays were written in the examination hall style. In 1800–9, as part of his official career, Yinghe directed two provincial and two metropolitan examinations. Many renowned scholars and officials achieved their positions by taking examinations that Yinghe conducted and styled themselves as his disciples. An inscription on the cover of volume one, written by the author himself, acknowledges his teacher Li Jing’an as the editor of the work.

The Mailo System in Buganda: A Preliminary Case Study in African Land Tenure

The basic unit of the mailo system is a square mile, hence the derivation of mailo, which is also equivalent to 640 acres. The term is used in Uganda to describe a land tenure system that came into effect when the kingdom of Buganda signed an agreement with the British-administered Uganda Protectorate there in 1900. Buganda runs along the northwest shore of Lake Victoria, in present-day south-central Uganda. This work is by Henry W. West, who was assistant commissioner for lands and surveys in the early 1960s and the foremost expert on the mailo system in newly independent Uganda. The book traces the roots of customary land tenure in the region prior to British influence and explains the origins of the Baganda people and how land became a sensitive issue, because peasant occupancy rights were ignored in the 1900 agreement. Traditional land use and control are discussed in detail, with the obutaka (clan rights) exercised by each clan head, and how the system evolved in the formative years up to 1927. West reviews the relative rights of the kabaka (king) and obutongole (chiefs) and defines instances in which there were hereditary rights. Other subjects include land registration, title settlement, landlord and tenant, and planning in rural areas. Statistical abstracts cover land use; population information by tribe, gender, and density; and ethnic group distribution.