An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sanlitu 三禮圖

Sep 13, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Sanlitu 三禮圖 "Illustrations of the three ritual classics" was the name of different collections of illustrations on ritual performances and gestures, the most important of which was written by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200), the great Later Han 後漢 (25-220 CE) scholar. Another text with the same name was compiled by Ruan Chan 阮諶 (late 2nd cent., courtesy name Shixin 士信), and possibly Zheng Xuan's text was just a commentary on this book. The individual books were also called Zhengshi tu 鄭氏圖 "Illustrations by Master Zheng" and Ruanshi tu 阮氏圖 "Illustrations by Master Ruan", respectively.

The illustration collections called Sanlitu can be seen as supplements to the ritual books Zhouli 周禮, Yili 儀禮, and Liji 禮記.

Text and illustrations are long lost, but fragments were collected by Ma Guohan 馬國翰 (1794-1857), for instance, from Nie Chongyi's 聶崇義 (fl. 962) book Sanlitu jizhu 三禮圖集注 (also called Xinding Sanlitu 新定三禮圖) from the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The book of 20 juan by Nie included illustrations of caps and robes, carts and chariots, palace and temple buildings, musical instruments, shooting exercises, banners and flags, sacrificial vessels and objects used for funerals. Nie's book does not necessarily correspond to the ancient Sanlitu, but it seems to be very close to the Han period original. It was compiled on imperial order during the Later Zhou period 後周 (951-960).

Unfortunately not a single illustration has survived. The fragments are to be found in Ma Guohan's series Yuhanshanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房.

Other books with the same title were written by Xiahou Fulang 夏侯伏朗 (dates unknown), Zhang Yi張鎰 (d. 783) and Liang Zheng 梁正 (dates unknown), and an official compilation during the Kaihuang 開皇 (581-600) reign of the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618). All of these texs went lost during the Song period.

During the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) Liu Ji 劉績 (mid-14th cent.) compiled a ritual book of the same title and a length of 4 juan. His book Sanlitu was based on earlier, Song period writings on the topic, like Lu Dian's 陸佃 (1042-1102) Lixiang 禮象, Chen Xiangdao's 陳祥道 (1053-1093) Lishu 禮書, Lin Xiyi's 林希逸 (1193-1271) Kaogongji jie 考工記解 and the official compendium Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖. Liu Ji's Sanlitu is a description of the palace system (the position and meaning of palace buildings) and all objects used during court ceremonies and for the court officialdom in general. This book relies more on the official compilation Xuanhe bogu tu than on Han texts, yet the former is of a minor quality and should be used with caution.

Editions of Sanlitu texts are also found in the series Han-Wei yishu chao 漢魏遺書鈔, Hanxuetang congshu 漢學堂叢書, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Shenshijizhai congshu 慎始基齋叢書 and Wenjingtang congshu 問經堂叢書. Liu Ji's Sanlitu is part of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

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