January 31, 2012

Survey of the Legitimate and Illegitimate Dynasties in History

This work, in four juan and four volumes, is a manuscript edition without prefaces or postscripts. The author, Shen Defu (1578–1642), lived during the Ming dynasty. A native of Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, Shen was known mainly for his literary works. He received the degree of ju ren in 1618. The following year he participated in the examination held by the Bureau of Rites (for the degree of jin shi), but he failed. Shen had devoted his time to writing and his main work, Wanli ye huo bian (Miscellaneous notes on the dynasties up to the Wanli period), was completed during 1606–7. After the unsuccessful examination, he returned home and compiled this supplement to his earlier work. The supplement is a history of the dynasties beginning with the western Jin (265–316) and ending with the Sui dynasty (581–618). The work was published posthumously. Some official persecution of authors at the time related to the naming taboo, which prohibited speaking or writing the given names of exalted persons in China, such as the emperors. Given that this work includes use of the usually taboo name of  Kangxi (reigned 1662–1722), it can be assumed that it was issued prior to the Kangxi period. The title of the work refers to the historically prevalent theory of legitimism in China, the doctrine of regime legitimacy based on the mandate of Heaven, which had a profound influence on the historiography in ancient China.

Interpretations of Astronomical Principles Issued by the Imperial Order

Compiled by order of the Qing emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736–95), this work of 80 juan, in 32 volumes, was never printed. It has an editorial guide at the beginning, but no prefaces or postscripts. The first entry in the editorial guide states that it is necessary to know about astronomy, the interchange of sun and moon, and the five constellations in order not to be misguided by alchemists and their claims about disasters and fortunes. This statement suggests that the work may have been a product of Catholic missionaries who wished to use science to challenge superstition. The wording of the text also may indicate Catholic missionary authorship. The reason why the work was never advertised or printed may relate to the struggle between the missionaries and the alchemists. At the time of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns (1662–1735), Chinese alchemists fought vehemently against the publication of Li xiang kao cheng (Compendium of calendrical science and astronomy), a calendar printed in 1723. The compendium was compiled by Chinese but based on Western theories and the methods and tables of calculation of the missionaries. As a countermeasure, in 1740 the alchemists published a book on geomancy and occultism, entitled Xie ji ban fang shu (Treatise on harmonizing times and distinguishing directions). The Catholic missionaries may have initiated this work to counter the latter publication.

Expanded Edition of the Collected Works from the Lotus Studio

This is a printed edition of writings by Yang Yikui (flourished 1592–1607), possibly printed in Zhejiang Province. Si ku cun mu (Catalog of books not included in the general catalog of the Si ku Collection) lists the original title as a work in two juan from a private collection in Zhejiang, one consisting of poetry and the other of essays. As the title indicates, this is an expanded edition in nine juan and in four volumes, published during the Wanli period, in which Yang’s later writings were added to the original selections. A poet and essayist, Yang Yikui achieved his jin shi (doctoral degree) in 1592 and served with distinction at various posts, becoming a commissioner at the Yunnan Provincial Administration Commission. The preface to one of his other works, Yi cheng (Records of the border regions), was dated 1615. This book may have been published at the same place and at the same time. The preface was written by Zhang Jiude, a Ming dynasty minister of the Bureau of Works.

Selected Writings by Dong Zhongfeng

This work is a collection of writings by Dong Qi (1483–1546), selected by Dong’s follower, Tang Shunzhi (1527–60), who was a Confucian scholar, a member of the Hanlin Academy, and a man with military knowledge. Dong Qi, a native of Guiji, Zhejiang Province, achieved his jin shi (doctoral degree) and a second degree at the highest imperial examination, and entered the Hanlin Academy. As a result of a conflict with the influential eunuch official Li Jin, he was sent from the capital to be a prefect of a county. After Li’s death, Dong returned to the Hanlin Academy and assumed various high posts. He was posthumously named secretary of the Ministry of Rites and given the title wenjian. A child prodigy, Dong was an orator and scholar of great reputation who wrote numerous works. Among his followers were many famous authors. This work was handwritten by his grandson, Dong Xiang. The same handwriting can be seen on the end label of the table of contents. The original was printed by Wang Guozhen in 11 juan. This edition has 12 juan, as Dong Xiang added one juan when he copied the work. The remainder of the work is the exact text of the Wang edition.

Humming of an Insect

Printed during the reign of Tianqi (1621–27) of the Ming dynasty, this literary work lists the names of the author and editors. It was written by Li Tingxun, a native of Sanyuan Xian, Shaanxi Province, and edited by two fellow-members of a scholarly society, Xiong Jiarui and Shi Dingyu; three of his disciples, Kong Shengzhen, Ma Yiyuan, and Wei Jizheng; and Li Tingxun’s son, Li Menghe. Li Tingxun achieved his jin shi (doctoral degree) in 1595 and became prefect of Ningling Xian, Henan Province. The work is arranged chronologically, beginning with the 36th year of the Wanli reign (1608) and ending in the third year of the Tianqi reign (1623). No biographical information about Li Tingxun is found in the local gazetteer (entitled Sanyuan Xian zhi) of his hometown, Sanyuan, nor was this work listed. The first two Chinese characters, xi ji, in the title literally mean “small animal” or “insect marinated in vinegar,” a metaphor that describes a person of meager knowledge, and that was probably used here to emphasize the modesty of the author and to mark him as a humble man presenting his literary work. The author’s preface at the beginning of the first volume is dated 1623.

Manuscript Collection of Essays from the Sheiyu’an Studio

This manuscript, a draft of a book published in 1889, consists of three works by Sun Shijun of the Qing dynasty. There are two juan of essays called Shei yu an wen chao (Manuscript collection of his essays); one juan of poems entitled Shi ou cun (Occasional poems); and one juan of a genealogical work entitled Zu pu ni gao (Draft of family genealogy). Sun was a native of Gui’an (part of present-day Huzhou Shi, Zhejiang Province), about whom Feng Xu, a member of the Hanlin Academy, wrote a biographical work. The essays include prefaces the author wrote for other contemporary works by renowned personalities, among them the painter Wu Junqing (1844–1927), and biographical essays, including those on a number of women. The poetry manuscript consists of six leaves with 15 poems. An inscription on the cover of the book based on the manuscript indicates that the printing began in the tenth year of Guangxu reign (1884) and took five years to complete. No printed version of the poetry volume has been found. The printed version of the genealogical work, which traces nine generations of the Sun family, was given a new title, Sun shi xian de zhuan (Biographies of the virtuous ancestors of the Sun family). The entire work was edited by Sun Shijun’s two sons and a nephew and has a number of handwritten corrections made by a person or persons unknown. There is a preface by Lu Yanwei (dated 1886) and a postscript by Cheng Wan (1883).