July 31, 2012

Collected Civil Examination Papers of the Qi Family of Shouyang

This is a manuscript collection of essays and poems by 12 members of the Qi family over several generations, written during their competitions for the ju ren and jin shi degrees. It was compiled by Qi Junzao (1793–1866), an official and poet, a native of Shouyang, Shanxi Province. Qi Junzao, the fifth son of Qi Yunshi, a historian, grew up in Beijing but returned to Shouyang after his father was exiled. Qi Junzao received a successful provincial ju ren degree in 1810 and a jin shi degree in 1814. He served in the Imperial Library and later officiated as examiner and chief examiner for the civil examinations. In 1837 he became the vice president of the Board of War. He was in charge of coastal defense and the prohibition of opium in Fujian Province in late 1840, when the ports were attacked by the British in the Opium War of 1840–42. Qi’s career culminated in 1851 when he was appointed grand secretary. In 1852 he was honored with the title of grand guardian of the heir apparent. He was granted permission to retire in 1855 but was recalled to the court to be one of the four tutors of the young Emperor Tongzhi (reigned 1862–74). In all, Qi Junzao served four emperors. His name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen. Based on the numerous seal impressions and the contents, it can be assumed that this collection was put together around or after 1854, either by Qi himself or by his order.

Thickets of Poetic Criticism

The author Hu Yinglin (1551–1602) was one of the most prominent scholars of the late Ming period. His contributions cover a wide range of fields, such as historiography, literary criticism of novels and poetry, philology, and bibliography. Of the more than 1,000 writings attributed to him, only about 200 have survived, and among these the two best-known works are the Shaoshishanfang bi cong (Notes from Shaoshishan Studio) on history, philology, and literature, and this work, Shi sou (Thickets of poetic criticism), on poetry. Consisting of 20 sections, the work is divided into four parts, of which the first is nei bian (inner chapters), in six juan, with entries on so-called “ancient-style” and “modern style” verse. Then come wai bian (outer chapters), in six juan, discussing poetry chronologically from the Zhou dynasty to the Yuan. The za bian (miscellaneous chapters), in six juan, include anecdotes, and xu bian (supplemental chapters), in two juan, cover the Ming dynasty. The exact publication date is unknown, but the work possibly was printed before or around 1590. Various editions circulated in China, Japan, and Korea. The intention was to produce a systematic account of poetry from the Zhou and Han through the Ming, with discussions of major poets, line types, and genres, and expositions by Hu Yinglin on poetry, essays, fiction, and drama. The work also was supposed to demonstrate how the famed Seven Poets of Ming represented the efforts of fu gu (revival of antiquity). It includes a preface by the famed dramatist Wang Daokun (1525–93). The book was printed with Korean bronze moveable type.

Inscriptions of the Tomb Tablets of the Yan Family of Wuxing

Wuxing Yan shi chuan jia wan yan lu (Inscriptions of the tomb tablets of the Yan family of Wuxing) is a handwritten copy, by Yan Qifeng of Wuxing, Zhejiang Province, of an original with a different title: Wuxing Yan Qifeng Dizhuang ji lu (Records compiled by Yan Qifeng of Wuxing in his Dizhuang studio). Wan yan in this 1909–11 copy’s title is a refined term for stone tablets. The work bears several seal impressions of Yan Qifeng’s library to prove its authenticity. It is a draft copy made for the Yan family, and it mainly contains inscriptions from the family tomb tablets collected from literary collections and local histories. Such a work would have served as a complement to the family records and would have been considered part of the Yan family genealogy. No mention was made of this work in the biographical essays about Yan Qifeng written by three different scholars, Yang Xianchi, Huang Shisan, and Cheng Jinfang. One possible explanation for this omission may be that the work was never finished. Preserved rubbings of tablet inscriptions are an important source for the study of history and literature and offer examples of various styles of calligraphy. Such inscriptions contain records of the life and family of a tomb owner. Some of the texts are commemorative in nature and in fine verse. Because of the limited space, the inscriptions are always composed in a concise, clear, but also distinctive manner.

Military Penal Codes in Xuanyun Region: Public Notices

The prefaces to this work, written by two contemporaries, Wang Shiqi (1551–1618), a military strategist, and Du Chengshi (who gained his jin shi degree in 1601), an official at the Bureau of Justice, indicate that the author was Wu Yunzhong, a late 16th–early 17th century military strategist. Wu’s name, with a brief biography, was mentioned in a local history entitled Caozhou Fu zhi (Gazetteer of Caozhou Prefecture), according to which, after Wu Yunzhong received his jin shi degree in 1598, he became a vice censor in chief and an education intendant. He was sent by imperial order on an inspection tour to two frontier towns, Xuanhua and Datong, where he carried out a thorough investigation of local government and the military, cleaned up corruption, and saved large amounts of money, thereby becoming highly respected. This work, Xuanyun yue fa [bang shi] (Military penal codes in Xuanyun region: Public notices) provides details on military laws and the codes for officers in the areas bordering Mongol lands, and it contains valuable information on the Ming court’s relations with the Mongols and the border regions. It focuses on the period from 1368 to 1600, covering most of the Ming dynasty.