July 31, 2012

Preliminary Edition of Works from the Dreamless Garden

Chen Renxi (1581–1636) was a late Ming official and scholar, who achieved his jin shi degree in 1622 and became a member of the imperial Hanlin Academy. His brother Chen Lixi had this work, Wu meng yuan chu ji (Preliminary edition of works from the Dreamless Garden), printed in 1637. It includes 35 juan of Chen’s main work, eight juan of his previously unpublished writing, two juan of short essays, and one juan on his family genealogy, in 16 volumes. As the main part of the work contains detailed information on the borders near Liao (also known as the Khitan Empire), the work was listed in both Jin shu zong mu (The general catalog of banned books) and Wei ai shu mu (Catalog of works against custom or law) during the Qing dynasty. Attached to the text is his hand-drawn illustration entitled Shan hai guan nei wai bian tu (Illustrated inner and outer frontier of the Shanhai Pass). The chapters include details on the geography of the frontiers, land tilled by the military, the sea, and other topics, based mostly on the author’s own experience and observations. The work also contains important records of the history of the late Ming and early Qing. An interesting feature of this work is that the 35 juan of the main work are arranged into 14 chapters, adding 14 characters, one character for each chapter. The 14 characters form a verse couplet. There are a number of names of printers and engravers, and prefaces and postscripts. The author’s own preface is dated 1633. Only a few copies of this work have survived, making this one of great value.

The Romance of Jinhua Temple

Jinhua si ji (The romance of Jinhua Temple) is a late Yuan manuscript copy, in one volume, of a work of Chinese fiction produced in Korea. The exact date of its first publication and its authorship are unknown. A young Chinese student named Zixu had a dream while sleeping at the Jinhua Temple in Jinling (present-day Nanjing). In his dream, he attended a feast hosted by the four greatest founders of Chinese dynasties: Han Gaozu (reigned 206–195 BC), Tang Taizong (reigned 627–49 AD), Song Taizu (reigned 960–76), and Ming Taizu (reigned 1368–98). Their conversation dwelt on which rulers deserved to be known as dynastic restoration figures. They agreed on Liu Bei (161–223), the founding ruler of the state of Shu during the Three Kingdoms era and bestowed on him the title of Zhaoliedi (Emperor of Brightness and Righteousness), while they considered Cao Cao, ruler of the state of Wei circa 200–220, as a mediocrity. Among high officials, Zhuge Liang (181–234), a chancellor of the state of Shu, was chosen as the most eminent prime minister with an outstanding cabinet. Upon learning that he was not invited to the banquet, Yuan Taizu, a Yuan dynasty emperor, was outraged and embarked on an assault using the Jurchens and Turks as his soldiers, but he was quickly defeated by the Han Chinese emperors. The Han Chinese-centered ideology is a theme in the novel, with the emperors attending the banquet presented as legitimate rulers of China, while the bona fides of historic figures were questioned. This is one of the Chinese novels that were popular in Korea. The story is also known as Jinhua si meng you lu (Record of a journey in a dream at Jinhua Temple).

Records of Zixia, the Purple Gorge

Cao Zongzai (1754–1824) a native of Haining, Zhejiang Province, a city famous for its dramatic views and for the spectacular tidal bore in the Qiantang River, produced a number of poetry collections. Among them was this manuscript, which he compiled in his studio, Dongshanlou (East Mountain Hall), in two juan, in one volume, entitled Zi xia wen xian lu (Records of Zixia, the Purple Gorge). Another collection of Cao’s was called Xiachuan shi chao (The Xiachuan poetry collection). In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, local literati wrote about the scenery of Haining and its surrounding region, which became a popular theme for literary and artistic works. Xiachuan, a town to the northeast of Haining, was well known for its 12 scenic views immortalized by Ming poet Xu Ying in her verse. Cao Zongzai compiled extensive collections of poems for his various local history projects. He and 19 literary friends composed poems to match Xu Ying’s poems about Xiachuan, which they collected in this anthology in 1803 and later incorporated into the 1812 local gazetteer edited by Cao Zongzai. The manuscript includes lists of local authors of the Ming dynasty who stayed in Zixia (The Purple Gorge), with details of their deeds, virtuous characters, and depictions of the sites. Thus, the work is as much a local directory of famous personalities as a poetry collection. The anthology has a preface dated 1828, written by Lu Jinghua, who was also a poet.

Teachings of the Confucian School in Shanxi Province

This work was written by Wen Xiangfeng (1577–1642), an official in the late Ming period. He received his jin shi degree in 1610 and held many positions, among them assistant commissioner of Shanxi Province, vice commissioner of the Court of the Imperial Stud, and secretary of the Bureau of Ceremonies in the Bureau of Rites in Nanjing. However, Wen Xiangfeng devoted most of his time to teaching and lecturing and was known locally as a Confucian thinker. In 1621 he became the provincial literary chancellor of Shanxi, where he wrote this book, which was printed in the first year of the Tianqi reign (1621–27). The book is in 16 juan, in 16 volumes, and includes a preface by the author. It was not widely circulated. Wen was a follower of Shao Yong (1011–77), the Song philosopher, cosmologist, poet, and historian, who greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in China. With this work, Wen Xiangfeng hoped that his writing adhered to the doctrines of the Confucian Five Classics. He claimed that his highest aim was to cling to strict ethical and moral standards, to show steadfast loyalty to country and the emperor, which took precedence over blood ties, and to serve, respect, and hold in awe Heaven (symbolic parent of the emperor). He attempted to blend astronomical themes with his theories, devoting himself to Shao Yong’s representative work Huang ji jing shi (Book of supreme world-ordering principles) and discussing Confucian teachings and religious issues. He held negative views on Christianity, which had been brought to China by missionaries. Wen Xiangfeng was also known as a published poet and author of collections of poetry.

Recent Works of Xu Bidong

The author of this work was Xu Fenpeng (1560–1642), also known by his literary name, Bidong. The work was printed by Yu Zhixiao during the Wanli reign (1572–1620) and contains 200 or so entries, in four juan, in four volumes. The title originally given to the work was Si shu jin jian lu (Recent commentaries on the Four Books), reflecting the fact that it consists mainly of the author’s comments on the Confucian Four Books: Da xue (The great learning), Lun yu (Confucian analects), Zhong yong (Doctrine of the mean), and Mengzi (Mencius). Three prefaces accompanied the commentaries, one by the author himself, one by Yu Zhixiao (dated 1612), and a third by Yu Jiquan (also dated 1612). Xu Fenpeng was known to have been a brilliant scholar and historian. At a young age he took first place in the examinations at county and prefectural level, but he refused to serve in the government. To earn his living, he established a school, located at the foot of Bijia Shan (Brush Holder Mountain) in Guangdong Province, and wrote. He used his own revised texts of the classics to teach his students. A prolific writer and publisher, Xu left behind many works. His histories were particularly well known and enjoyed fame even in Japan. He also compiled, edited, and wrote commentaries on the classics, drama, fiction, and even almanacs. In the 1590s–1620s, his reputation was such that commercial publishers in Fujian and Nanjing published his writings, although occasionally he financed the printing of his own books. His works completed by 1602 were published that year by the Nanjing publishing house Guangqi Tang. Xu criticized the common practice of including prefaces written by renowned authors to increase the value of a book and thus wrote the prefaces for most of his own books, which in part may explain the short duration of his fame and his later obscurity. This book has a seal impression with the name Fujinami, a Japanese collector.

Factual Records on Huaiyin

Huaiyin, also known as Huai’an, was a prefectural city in Jiangsu Province, situated on an ancient section of the Grand Canal and the Huai River, major waterways for transporting grain. The Huai linked the Yellow River and Yangtze River, and, like them, originally ran from west to east, flowing directly to the sea. In the 12th century, Jin and Song armies, using flooding as a weapon of war, changed the course of the Yellow River so that it flowed south into the Huai. The Yellow River sediment gradually brought massive blockage to the middle and lower reaches of the Huai River, rendering it a Yangtze River tributary vulnerable to flooding. When Zhang Zhaoyuan, the author of this work, was the prefect of Huai’an, he encountered an impending disaster in the form of a severe blockage to the canal. Zhang took actions to avert the disaster, among them directing that an outlet be built, thus enabling boats to enter the canal, and he was given a promotion for his actions. Huaiyin shi ji (Factual records on Huaiyin), published during the Wanli reign (1573–1620), contains his memorials and official documents. The five most important ones are: “Harnessing the Yellow River and building outlets for the Huai River,” “Understanding the two rivers,” “History of transport,” “Details on river rehabilitation work,” and “Details on readiness for the pirates.” The work has two juan, one of them a supplement, in one volume. It has seal impressions of two well-known book collectors, Chen Ruolin (1759–1832) and Zhang Shouyu.