An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Literary Category of Belles-Lettres and Collections

The category of belles-lettres (jibu 集部) is the last of the four traditional categories (sibu 四部) into which Chinese literature was divided. It includes collected writings of individual persons (bieji 別集), as well as collections of literary types or anthologies of writings from one period of time (zongji 總集). The last section in this category is literary theory and critique (shiwenping 詩文評).

The belles-lettres category generally includes all writings composed on a personal base like letters, but also types of literature written for entertainment and leisure-time, like poems or theatre plays. The compilers of the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 divided the category of belles-lettres into the sections Poetry of the South (Chuci 楚辭), collected writings of individual authors (bieji), anthologies and collections (zongji), literary critique (shiwenping 詩文評), and aria-style poetry (ciqu 詞曲). In the jibu category, the Siku quanshu assembles 1,281 writings, which makes it the largest category among the four.

The literary genre of series of collectanea (congshu 叢書) is traditionally not part of the category of Belles-Lettres, even if it might be a special genre under the subcategory of anthologies and collections. However, the genre is so widespread and has for long served as a source of quality and reliable editions of texts. It is therefore here included in the category of Belles-Lettres.

Belles-Lettres and Collections
楚辭 Chuci "Poetry of the South"
別集 Bieji Collections of Individual Writers
總集 Zongji Anthologies and Collections
[叢書] [Congshu] [Series of Collectanea]
詩文評 Shiwenping Literary Theory and Critique
詞曲 Ciqu Songs and Arias
[戲劇] [Xiju] [Theatre and Operas]
[小說] [Xiaoshuo] [Novels and Romances]