An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yuemantang riji 越縵堂日記

Jan 8, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Yuemantang riji 越縵堂日記 is a diary written by Li Ciming 李慈銘 (1830-1894), original name Li Mo 李模, courtesy name Shihou 式侯 or Aibo 㤅伯, style Zunke 尊客, Mengxuezhai 孟學齋, Huayinsheng 花隱生 or Xiachuan Huayin 霞川花隱.

Li hailed from Guiji 會稽 (modern Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang) and failed several times in the state examinations. Only after buying the title of a Director in the Ministry of Revenue (hubu langzhong 戶部郎中) he obtained the jinshi degree in 1880, and was eventually appointed investigating censor (jiancha yushi 監察御史) in Shanxi. His studio name was Yuemantang 越縵堂, but he also used the names Biahuajiangfuge 白華絳跗閣 and Hutanglinguan 湖塘林館. Apart from the texts published with the title Yuemantang (see below) he has compiled collections of commentaries on the Confucian Classics (Shisanjing gujin wenyi huizheng 十三經古今文義彙正), the dictionary Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 (Shuowen juyao 説文舉要), various histories (Houhanshu jijie 後漢書集解, Beishi buzhuan 北史補傳, Tangdai guanzhi zachao 唐代官制雜鈔, Songdai guanzhi zachao 宋代官制雜鈔, Yuandai zhongru kao 元代重儒考 and Guochao jingru jingji kao 國朝經儒經籍考).

According to the content, the text – although written in the form of a diary – is very close to a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) and includes a lot of information about the daily scholarly activities of the author. The main part (zhengbian 正編) is 51-volumes-long (first published in 1920 by Shangwu Yinshuguan 商務印書館), a supplement (Bubian 補編) 13 volumes (published in 1933 with the title Yuemantang riji bu 越縵堂日記補).

The diary was begun in 1853 and ends in 1889 and so reports event from a very unstable period of time in the history of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). For historians, Li's reports on the looting of the Summer Palace in 1861 by the British and French are very enlightening. The text includes quotations from the official metropolitan gazette (dichao邸抄) and imperial edicts, but also reflects the author's own opinions to current events. It so presents a huge amount of historiographical material seen through the lens of a private person. Besides matters of politics and history (particularly on the Ming period 明, 1368-1644), the diary speaks of the traditional custom of commenting on ancient writings while reading (dushu zhaji 讀書札記) and gives notes to texts from the Confucian Classics, the histories, lexica (xiaoxue 小學), geographies and belles-lettres. These parts of the diary were later published as a separate book called Yuemantang dushu ji 越縵堂讀書記 (Zhonghua Shuju 中華書局 1963).

As a third category, the diary consists also of private poems (shi 詩, ci 詞, pianwen 駢文) and private correspondence (xindu 信牘). Li Ciming's writings were also published in separate volumes according to different literary genres as Yuemantang cilu 越縵堂詞錄, Yuemantang shiji 越縵堂詩集, Yueman sheng yuefu waiji 越縵生樂府外集 and Yuemantang wenji 越縵堂文集.

The Yuemantang riji was kept in possession of Li Ciming's son Li Chenghou 李承侯 and only published with the help of important scholars of the early Republican period (1911-1949) like Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 (1868-1940), Miao Quansun 繆荃蓀 (1844—1919), Zhang Daibin 張岱杉 and Fu Zengxiang 傅增湘 (1872-1949). The diary itself is divided into the parts Mengxuezhai riji 孟學齋日記 (with an appendix called Zhoushiyanpizhishi riji 籒詩揅疋之室日記), Shoulilu riji 受禮廬日記, Xiangqinshi riji 祥琴室日記, Xichayan riji 息荼庵日記, Taohuashengjieyan riji 桃花聖解盦日記, Xunxuezhai riji 荀學齋日記, and the supplement into the parts Jiayin riji 甲寅日記 and Yuemantang riji 越縵堂日記.

Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, eds. (1990). Jianming wenshi zhishi cidian 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 717.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1994). Zhonghua gudian wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol.Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 667.
Zou Zhenhuan 鄒振環 (1992). "Yuemantang riji 越縵堂日記", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Lishi 歷史卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 421.