November 25, 2014

The Noble Knights-errant of the Water Margin, with Commentary by Li Zhuowu, in 100 Juan

Shown here is chapter one of an important version of one of the great classics of Chinese literature, Shui hu zhuan (The water margin), which is attributed to Shi Nai'an (circa 1290−circa 1365). The early editions of this work were issued in two kinds of format; one was unabridged and the other concise. The unabridged text appeared arranged in 70, 100, or 120 juan (chapters), the earliest being of 100 chapters. This edition, Li Zhuowu xian sheng pi ping Zhong yi shui hu zhuan, 100 juan (The noble knights-errant of the water margin, with commentary by Li Zhuowu, 100 juan), was published by Rongyutang. The book is a fictional account of events during the Song dynasty. The novel is a detailed narrative and its contents represent the most complete and unabridged edition in 100 chapters. Rongyutang in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, was famous for its printing of plays and fiction. The illustrations included in chapter one of this work (on folios 50−51) are precise and exquisite and played an influential role in the history of Chinese engraving.

Dream of the Red Chamber in 120 Chapters

Xin jian quan bu xiu xiang Hong lou meng (Newly printed complete illustrated edition of the Dream of the red chamber) is also known as the Cheng-A edition. It is the first printed edition of the classic novel written by Cao Xueqin (circa 1715−63), one of China’s greatest novelists. Included here are the preface and comments by Zhang Ruzhi at the tops of the pages, the table of contents, and three chapters. The book was in the collection of Zheng Zhenduo (1898–1958) before entering the collections of the National Library of China. When Cao died, only 80 chapters of this book of 120 chapters existed. Scholars specialized in studying this work have grouped its various editions into two main versions: the Zhiyanzhai (Rouge Ink Stone Studio) version and the Cheng−Gao version. The Rouge edition, which originated from the handwritten text in 80 chapters by Cao Xueqin, retained the original form of the novel. The Cheng−Gao edition, called the Cheng-A version, dating back to the 56th year (1791) of the Qianlong reign of the Qing, was assembled by Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E and printed with wooden movable type in 120 chapters. The later version was reprinted many times and was the most widely circulated. Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E also published another edition, which is called the Cheng-B version.

Explaining and Analyzing Characters, in 15 Juan

Shuo wen jie zi (Explaining and analyzing characters), often abridged as Shuo wen, was compiled by Xu Shen (circa 58−circa 147), a Confucian scholar and linguist of the Eastern Han dynasty. This is the first Chinese dictionary to use the principle of organization by sections with shared components, called bu shou (radicals), and to analyze the form, meaning, and pronunciation of each character, using the liu shu (six categories of Chinese characters) theory, to give the rationale behind them, as well as their interrelation. It is the forerunner of later dictionaries. The earliest extant editions dated from the Tang, in two Dunghuang manuscripts, but none was complete. The surviving editions derive from two sources. One was Shuo wen jie zi xi chuan, compiled by Xu Kai of the Southern Tang (937−76) during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, in 40 juan, known as the Younger Xu edition. The other was a work proofread and revised, by imperial order, by Xu Xuan, Xu Kai’s older brother, in the third year (986) of the Yongxi reign (984−87) of the Song emperor Taizong. It is known as the Older Xu edition. In the late Ming period, Jiguge, the publisher in Changshu, Jiangsu, acquired a copy of the Older Xu edition and printed it, using a large printing type. For this reason, the work displays the style and features of a Song edition. Only the prefaces, table of contents, and three chapters are shown here.

Gazetteer of Lin'an during the Xianchun Reign of the Southern Song

This work is a Southern Song local gazetteer, which was published in the fourth year (1268) of the Xianchun reign of the Song emperor Duzong. The author collected extensive material and, based on two earlier gazetteers, Qiandao Lin’an zhi (Gazetteer of Lin’an during the Qiandao reign) and Chunyou Lin’an zhi (Gazetteer of Lin’an during the Chunyou reign), he expanded the text and published the Lin’an gazetteer in 100 juan. The first 15 juan list imperial residences and record details concerning the imperial city (Lin’an, present-day Hangzhou) and central offices. The juan that follow are grouped into categories of territory, such as mountains and rivers, edicts, imperial orders, appointed officials, palaces, culture and education, the military, local customs, tributes, personalities, ancestral temples, monasteries, gardens, antiquities, family tombs, sacrificial rites and ceremonies, artifacts, and so forth. The work is complete, with rich sources. The textual research was detailed and systematic. The maps depicting the imperial city, the capital, the offices, the Qiantang River in Zhejiang (now the eastern province of which Hangzhou is capital), the West Lake (one of the most beautiful features of the city) and the administrative prefecture, the county borders, landscapes of the nine counties and others, are clear and in great detail. Among the numerous historical sources quoted in the work, such as Yu di zhi by Yan Zhu, Huang chao jun xian zhi by Fan Zichang, and Da Song deng ke ji, the majority no longer exist. The Ming and Qing gazetteers on the West Lake all used this work as a source. It is a masterpiece among the Southern Song local gazetteers, and is an important historical resource for studying histories of Hangzhou and the Song dynasty. It was universally praised by historians. Shown here are the prefaces (one of them by the compiler, Qian Shuoyou, 1216−88) and table of contents. Qian Shuoyou, a native of Jinyun, received his jin shi degree in 1241. He was prefect of Lin’an and Pingjiang (present-day Suzhou) among many other posts, including vice director of the Ministry of Revenue.

"Jottings at the Dream Brook Studio," in the Family Collection of Chen Guyu, in 26 Juan

Mengxi bi tan (Jottings at the Dream Brook Studio) was written in encyclopedic form as a collection of hundreds of articles by Shen Kuo (1031−95), a Song polymath, scientist, statesman, and artist. The work was written at Mengxi (Dream Brook) Garden, his estate in Runzhou (near present-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu), thus the title. This work’s extraordinarily broad coverage includes astronomy, physics, mathematics, geology, geography, biological medicine, contemporary politics, military affairs, economics, and anecdotes about the arts and literature. It is also a very important document in the history of Chinese science, summarizing many discoveries during the Northern Song dynasty (960−1127), and thus providing a valuable source on the political, scientific and technological, and economic developments of the time. Among the subjects covered are the first known movable-type printing press (the invention of Bi Sheng, 990−1051). The earliest printed edition of this work was issued in the ninth year (1305) of the Dade reign of the Yuan dynasty. It was printed by Chen Renzi, style name Guyu, at his Dongshan Shuyuan (Academy at the East Mountain), the largest private printing workshop of the time in south China. The reprint was based on an edition from the Qiandao reign (1165−1173) of the Southern Song dynasty and is thus in Song style. The work is in butterfly-fold binding. The pages are spacious, but the text area is very small, in a distinctive style. It is a fine representative of Yuan printing. This is the only copy in existence. It was kept in the imperial collection during the Yuan and Ming and later entered into the collections of famed bibliophiles, such as Wang Shizhong. In 1965 Premier Zhou Enlai facilitated its purchase for a large sum from Chen Qinghua, a collector living then in Hong Kong, and it is now in the collections of the National Library of China. Shown here are the prefaces, table of contents, and four juan of Mengxi bi tan.

Compendium of Materia Medica, 52 Juan; Illustrations, in Two Juan

Ben cao gang mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) is a systematic encyclopedia of traditional Chinese medicine before the 16th century. The work, in 52 juan of text and two juan of illustrations, consists of 1,892 entries, 374 of them added by the author and compiler Li Shizhen (1518−93). Included are about 11,000 prescriptions. It is a priceless legacy of the treasury of Chinese medicine and still applicable. Li Shizhen completed the first draft of the text in 1578, but it was not published until the 21st year (1593) of the Wanli reign of the Ming dynasty, after his death, when it was printed by Hu Chenglong in Jinling. The Jinling copy is the earliest version, drawn and proofread by the Li family and considered the original edition. At present it is kept in the Shanghai Library and in the library of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing. In the 31st year (1603) of the Wanli reign, the work was reprinted in Jiangxi. The later editions were all based on the 1603 edition and spread widely throughout the country. The original 1590 preface by Wang Shizhen (1526–90), the reprint preface by Zhang Dingsi dated 1603, the editorial guide, table of contents, the start of juan one, and illustrations are shown here. Ben cao gang mu was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2011.