Siyouzhai congshuo 四友齋叢說 "Collection of tales from the Four-Friends Studio" was compiled by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) author He Liangjun 何良俊 (d. 1573), courtesy name Yuanlang 元朗, style Tuoming 柘溟. He came from Huating 華亭 in the district of Songjiang 松江 close to modern Shanghai. With his brother He Liangfu 何良傅 he was one of the most famous writers of their days. Yet the two were also great collections. Liangjun owned books of more than 40,000 juan and had an extra building conctured, the Qinglou Library 清森閣, where he stored his collection of books, paintings and rubbings of inscriptions. He was by the authorities acknowledged by granting him the title of XXX 特授南京翰林院孔目. Liangjun was befriended with Zhao Zhenji 趙貞吉 and Wang Weizhen 王維楨, famous writers of the day. His collected writings are called He Hanlin ji 何翰林集. Apart from the 38-juan long Siyouzhai congshuo he also compiled the tales collection Heshi yulin 何氏語林 of 30 juan.
The Congshuo is divided into 16 chapters, each of them focusing on an individual theme, namely the Confucian Classics (Jing 經), historiography (Shi 史), miscellaneous writings (Zaji 雜記), "Masters" (Zi 子), Buddhists and Daoists (Shi-dao 釋道), prose literature (Wen 文), poetry (Shi 詩), calligraphy (Shu 書), painting (Hua 畫), "In search for the aim" (Qiuzhi 求志), "Veneration and instruction" (Chongxun 崇訓), "Respecting life" (Zunsheng 尊生), "Happiness in old age" (Yulao 娛老), "Rectification of the vulgar" (Zhengsu 正俗), "Investigations into literature" (Kaowen 考文), and Lyric-metre poetry and arias (Ciqu 詞曲). An appendix adds some further stories on historiography (Xushi 續史). He Lianjun quotes from numerous ancient sources, and adds critical comments (kaozheng 考證) on these, as well as evaluations (pinglun 評論). His collection is of great value for the history of the Ming period, both on a the central and the local level. While this critical comments are good, but not of superior value, his evaluations are much more helpful, for instance, the neglection of Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) interpretations during the compilation of the Classics collections Wujing daquan 五經大全 and Sishu daquan 四書大全. Many remarks point at historical facts in the southern capital Nanjing which are not mentioned in official sources, for instance, the circumstances of tax collection in Songjiang, the abolishing of "bad customs" of official banquets, the criticism of district magistrates by the local population, or the dependence of the magistrates on the cooperation with yamen runners (zaoli 皂隸). He Liangjun also brings forward criticism towards contemporary events, like the land reform projects under Hai Rui 海瑞. The first chapters of his book are just quotations from the Classics and commentaries on them, and therefore of no great value.
The book was first printed in 1563. A supplement with 8 juan was added in the print from 1579. The most important editions are the complete version in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書, the truncated version Siyouzhai congshuo zhaichao 四友齋叢說摘抄 (7 juan) in the collectanea Jilu huibian 紀錄彙編 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, the Yuan-Ming shanben congshu 元明善本叢書 version, and the modern edition in the Yuan-Ming shiliao biji congkan 元明史料筆記叢刊 from 1959 (Zhonghua Book Company 中華書局).
Sources: Wu Feng 吳楓 (ed. 1994), Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), p. 175. ● Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (ed. 1996), Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 1976.