Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The "Yiwen Zhi" [Phrase Omitted] (Treatise on Arts and Letters) Bibliography in Its Own Context

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The "Yiwen Zhi" [Phrase Omitted] (Treatise on Arts and Letters) Bibliography in Its Own Context

Article excerpt

WHAT IS THE "YIWEN ZHl"?

The basic facts and history of the "Yiwen zhi" are well established. (1) As recounted in the bibliography's preface and elsewhere in the Hanshu, Emperor Cheng [phrase omitted] (r. 33-7 BCE) in the year 26 BCE ordered Imperial Household Grandee (guanglu dafu [phrase omitted]) Liu Xiang [phrase omitted] (79-8 BCE) to "oversee the collation of the Five Classics and reserve writings within [the imperial archives]" [phrase omitted]. (2) Liu Xiang's specific remit was the collation of "canons and commentaries, [writings of] the masters, and poetic compositions" ,[phrase omitted] [phrase omitted] Working alongside him were Infantry Colonel (bubing xiaowei [phrase omitted]) Ren Hong [phrase omitted] Director of Archives (taishi ling [phrase omitted]) Yin Xian [phrase omitted], and Attending Physician (shiyi [phrase omitted] ) Li Zhuguo [phrase omitted], who oversaw the collation of military writings (bingshu [phrase omitted]), algorithmic and technical texts (shushu [phrase omitted]), and medical texts (fangji [phrase omitted]), respectively. (3)

One product of their efforts was a reference work entitled the Bielu [phrase omitted] (Separate Listings), which described each work's collation and summarized its content. The Hanshu records that Liu Xiang was further assisted by Ban Gu's great-uncle, Ban You [phrase omitted]. (4) A few years after Liu Xiang's death in 7 BCE, his son and Palace Attendant and Chief Commandant of Imperial Equipages (shizhong fengche duwei [phrase omitted]) Liu Xin [phrase omitted] (50 BCE-23 CE) at the behest of Emperor Ai [phrase omitted] (r. 7-1 BCE) continued his father's work by "collecting the texts of the Six Arts and various other works and classifying them as the Seven Surveys" [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted]. (5) Like the Bielu, the Qiliie was presented to the throne upon its completion. Where the Bielu seems to have been a compilation of discrete bibliographical records, the Qiliie was probably the earliest effort to "categorize" (zhongbie [phrase omitted]) and "synthesize" (zong [phrase omitted]) the collection as a whole. (6)

Today, the Bielu and Qiliie exist only in fragments, including a handful of Liu Xiang's "listings" (lu [phrase omitted]) preserved as prefaces to other works. (7) Consequently, the bulk of our knowledge of the activities of the late Western Han bibliographers is derived from Ban Gu's later version of Liu Xin's Qiliie--the "Yiwen zhi." The question of the relationship between the "Yiwen zhi" and the Bielu and Qiliie is a difficult one. In his commentary to the "Yiwen zhi," Yan Shigu [phrase omitted] (581-645) supplemented the text with more than twenty quotations from the Bielu and Qiliie, thus revealing the "Yiwen zhi" as a significantly abbreviated version of its predecessors. (8) Since the earlier works' disappearance towards the end of the Tang period (618-907), various scholars have compiled more extensive collections of fragments. (9) Another difference has to do with textual loss. In its entry for a Shi Zhou [phrase omitted] (Scribe Zhou) text in fifteen fascicles, the "Yiwen zhi" notes that "six fascicles were lost during the Jianwu reign period [25-56 CE]" [phrase omitted], presumably due to the sacking of Chang'an [phrase omitted] and the transfer to the Eastern Han capital at Luoyang [phrase omitted]. (10) In two other instances, Ban Gu noted that he "had [Liu Xiang's] listing but not the text [itself]" [phrase omitted]. (11) Ban Gu also supplemented Liu Xin's catalogue with new texts by Yang Xiong [phrase omitted] (53 BCE-18 CE) and a handful of others. (12)

Figure 1 presents the entirety of the "Yiwen zhi" reduced to two-point font. As seen there and in the table below, the bibliography consists of six major divisions: the "Six Arts" (liu yi [phrase omitted]), (1) (3) "Masters" (zhuzi [phrase omitted]), "Poetic Compositions" (shifu [phrase omitted]), "Military Writings" (bingshu [phrase omitted]), "Algorithmic and Technical Texts" (shushu [phrase omitted]), and "[Medical] Recipes and Techniques" (fangji [phrase omitted]). …

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