July 27, 2016

Treatises by the Venerable Bede and Catalog of Constellations

This manuscript consists of a catalog of constellations with many illustrations in red, purple, and beige. The model for this 800-year-old codex might have been a manuscript at the Cistercian Monastery of Zwettl (Codex 296), in which the illustrations of the constellations are similar but are probably even earlier. The text of this work consists of treatises by the Anglo-Saxon scholar, the Venerable Bede (also called Saint Bede, 673−735), a polymath who wrote or translated some 40 works in many different fields of knowledge. The treatises in this manuscript include De natura rerum (Of the nature of things), 1 recto to 8 verso; De temporibus liber (The book of times), 8 verso to 13 verso; and De temporum ratione (The reckoning of time), 14 verso to 64 verso. The illustrations follow the text and include an astronomical chart, 71 recto to 84 verso; vivid portrayals of the constellations; portraits of unidentified men and women; real and fabulous animals, birds, and fish; a zodiac wheel with the sun and moon in the center; a portrayal of the moon riding in a chariot pulled by oxen; and an image of the sun being carried by horses. The manuscript dates from around 1200; the scribe and the illustrator are unknown. The work is one of 1250 medieval manuscripts in the collections of the Klosterneuburg Monastery Library in Austria.

Psalter of Leopold III, Margrave of Austria

This 11th century manuscript was the prayer book of Leopold III, Margrave of Austria (1073‒1136), who founded the monastery of Klosterneuburg in 1114. Besides a psalter and prayers in Latin, the codex also transmits the so-called Klosterneuburger Gebet (Klosterneuberger prayer), a prayer for the forgiveness of sin in Old High German. Included in the codex are an exchange of letters between Saint Jerome and Pope Saint Damasus I (circa 305‒84; pope from 366 to 384); Jerome’s preface to the book of the Psalms; a commentary on the Psalms by Saint Augustine; the Athanasian Creed; and certain other documents. Leopold was canonized in 1485 and is known as Saint Leopold the Pious. He is the patron saint of Austria. A member of the house of Babenberg, he was born at Gars (present-day Gars am Kamp), near Melk in Lower Austria. The Babenbergs had come to Austria from Bavaria, where the family had risen to prominence in the tenth century, and took possession of the lands along the Danube River between Bavaria and Slovenia. Leopold succeeded his father as margrave of Austria in 1096, when he was 23 years of age. He married Agnes, daughter of Emperor Henry IV and the widow of Frederick of Hohenstaufen, with whom he had 17 children, 11 of whom survived to adulthood. Klosterneuburg is located on the Danube, just north of Vienna. Leopold gave the codex to the monastery with his first donation. He also founded the monasteries of Heiligenkreuz and Kleinmariazell.

Emperor’s Poems, in Manchu Language, on Bishu Shanzhuang, the Imperial Summer Mountain Resort: Two Juan

Bishu Shanzhuang, the Imperial Palace Garden of China, was a mountain resort, situated in present-day Chengde, Hebei Province, and was where the Qing emperors resided during the summer and handled affairs. This work in Manchu, which was considered the “national language” throughout the Qing, was written by Emperor Kangxi (1654‒1722, reigned 1662‒1722) and annotated by Nalan Kuixu (circa 1674‒1717) and others. It contains 36 poems depicting 36 scenes of Bishu Shanzhuang. They describe the beautiful scenes of the palace and express the emperor’s noble and lofty emotions. Each poem is followed by an illustration painted by Shen Yu, a treasurer of the Imperial Household Department. The result is a perfect match of poetry and landscape painting, presenting strong literary and artistic characteristics. The work is in two juan. There is a preface by Kangxi, dated 1711, the 50th year of his reign. The preface is followed by the impressions in red of his two seals: Ti yuan zhu ren (his style name used on his seals) and Wan ji yu xia (Brief leisure), which thus provide additional value to this edition.

Records of the Grand Historian: 130 Juan

Shi ji (Records of the grand historian), the first biographical general history of China, was compiled by Sima Qian, the Western Han historian, who devoted his entire life to this endeavor. Sima Qian (circa 145‒86 BC), courtesy name Zichang, a native of Xiayang (present-day Hancheng, Shaanxi), was an official at the court of Emperor Wu (also known as Han Wudi, reigned 140‒87 BC), as a palace attendant, court astrologer, and imperial secretary. The work records the events beginning with the legendary Yellow Emperor and ending with the first year (122 BC) of the Yuanshou reign of Han Wudi, covering around 3,000 years. It consists of 130 chapters including: 12 basic annals, recording the words and deeds of individual emperors or of individual dynasties; 10 tables, listing one genealogical and nine chronological royal lineages, reigns, personalities, and important events; eight monographs, describing the historical evolution of systems of astronomy, geography, rites and music, military and financial administration, and so forth; and 30 hereditary houses, with earlier chapters containing historical accounts of the leading states, such as Shang and Zhou, and later chapters on Han containing biographies of outstanding men in Chinese history. Shi ji was not only the first work of Chinese historiography, it was also a popular literary masterpiece, praised by the Chinese scholar Liang Qichao (1873‒1929) as “a masterpiece throughout the ages” and by Lu Xun (1881‒1936), a leading figure of Chinese modern literature, as “poetic perfection, like Li Sao (Encountering the Sorrow, by Qu Yuan) without rhymes.” Prior to the Song dynasty (960‒1279), this work was passed on by handwritten copies and published with annotations by various people. Presented here is an edition dated the seventh year (1171) of the Qiandao reign of Southern Song, printed by Cai Mengbi at his printing house Dongshu. Juan 43 is a facsimile of a Song handwritten copy, printed by book collector Yang Baoyi in the first year (1875) of the reign of Emperor Guangxu of Qing. The work also contains the joint commentaries, Ji jie (Commentary on Shi ji) by Pei Yin of Song (420‒79) of the Southern Dynasties, and Suo yin (Index to Shi ji) of Sima Zhen of Tang dynasty. The commentaries are scattered within the text of Shi ji. This is the earliest edition of these two authors’ commentaries. Cai Mengbi was a famous publisher of Jianyang during the Southern Song. The writing style is powerful and elegant. Scholar and book collector Fu Zengxiang named it “the gem of Jianyang editions of early Southern Song.” Since the Ming and Qing dynasties, the work has found its place in the collections of numerous renowned bibliophiles, including Zhu Chengjue, Qian Xingzu, Ji Zhenyi, Wang Shizhong, Yang Yizeng, and Chen Qinghua. It also includes an inscription by Ji Zhenyi. During the 1950s, under the auspices of Premier Zhou Enlai, the work was purchased from Chen Qinghua in Hong Kong and brought back to Beijing where it is preserved at the National Library of China.

A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Luoyang: Five Juan

The Luoyang qielan ji (A record of Buddhist monasteries in Luoyang), written by Yang Xuanzhi during Northern Wei (386‒534), is a gazetteer of Buddhist monasteries. The word qielan is derived from the Sanskrit word saṃgha-ārāma, which means Buddhist temple. In the mid-sixth century, Yang Xuanzhi (the dates and places of his birth and death are unknown) was an adjunct of the Pacification Army. In the 17th year (493) of the Taihe reign of Northern Wei, Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to Luoyang. A devotee of Buddhism, he began construction of temples, but in the midst of the turbulence of the Yongxi reign (534) of Emperor Xiaowu, which resulted in the ending of Northern Wei, the city was totally destroyed. In 547, the fifth year of the Wuding reign, Yang Xuanzhi, who was passing through the city of Luoyang, reflected on its flourishing and lamented its declining years. To preserve its memory, he began to collect old legends and stories about the ancient ruins and compiled this work. Based on the locations of the Buddhist temples of Luoyang, he grouped the material into inner city, and east, south, west, and north sides, which provided a clear layout. Si ku quan shu zong mu ti yao (Annotated bibliography of the complete imperial library) mentions that “the language of the work is magnificent and elegant. It is long but not boring. It can stand side by side with Shui jing zhu (Commentary on the water classic) by Li Daoyuan, also of Northern Wei. Yang also described in this book, in great detail, the turmoil caused by Erzhu Rong (493‒530), a general of Northern Wei of Xiongnu ancestry, who overthrew one emperor and put another on the throne and slaughtered many imperial officials, thus providing a useful historical reference. The text contains rich information on citations of ancient ruins and local customs, providing a rich supply of strange stories.” There are no surviving Song and Yuan editions. Presented here is a Ming edition, printed by Ruyintang, which is the earliest edition extant. It is printed on white cotton paper, and the print is of good quality. According to Zhongguo ban ke tu lu (Illustrated catalog of block-printed editions), this copy may have been published by Ming playwright Lu Cai (1497‒1537), a native of Wu Xian, during the Jiajing period (1522‒66).

Travel Diaries of Xu Xiake: Not Divided in Juan

Xu Xiake you ji (Travel diaries of Xu Xiake) by Xu Hongzu (1586‒1641) was the first travel record in China, with detailed geographical descriptions of the places visited by the author. The book contains the earliest descriptions of karst rocks in China along with detailed research on the causes of this rock formation. Xu Hongzu, courtesy name Xiake, was a native of Jiangyin (present-day Jiangyin, Jiangsu). Already in his youth he was known as a special and uniquely talented individual. He began to travel in his twenties. Within 30 years, he had crossed the Min Jiang River in Fujian in the east, climbed Hua Shan Mountain in the west, reached Yan and Jin in the north, and gone all the way to Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, and Guangxi in the south, thus covering most of China. He wrote about every place that he visited. Si ku quan shu zong mu ti yao (Annotated bibliography of the complete imperial library) states that Xu “recorded what he saw and heard with his own eyes and ears, with more accurate descriptions. As Guizhou and Yunnan are barren and far away, there has not been much local history written. This work provides a clear and detailed analysis of the arteries and veins of mountains and rivers, with research based on evidence.” After Xu’s death, his manuscripts were scattered; what was passed on was compiled and edited by later generations. Presented here is a Qing manuscript edition from the Zhibuzu Zhai Collection of Bao Tingbo (1728‒1814), which is among the earliest existing copies. The handwriting is elegant and exquisite. The work was edited and corrected by Bao Tingbo and has inscriptions by Qing book collectors Wu Qian and Tang Hanti. At the front is a hand-copied Xu Xiake zhuan (Biography of Xu Xiake), written by Qing official and scholar Qian Qianyi (1582‒1664).