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Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

The book Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜 "Primary [divination] tortoise of the records office" is an encyclopedia on statecraft compiled during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). It is one of the so-called "four large books" (Song si da shu 宋四大書) of the Northern Song.
In 1005 Emperor Zhenzong 宋真宗 (r. 997-1022) ordered the scholars Wang Qinruo 王欽若, Yang Yi 楊億, Sun Shi 孫奭, Li Wei 李維, Qian Weiyin 錢惟演, Xia Song 夏竦, and others, together 15 persons, to compile an encyclopedia on statecraft, basing on historiographical sources from ancient times on to the present. The compilation team used examples from the classics and the histories, as well as older encylopedias like the Xiu wendian yulan 修文殿御覽. The original form of the sources which could either be chronological or in the biographic-thematic style of historiography (jizhuanti 紀傳體), was reshaped to fit the encyclopedic text. The countless examples were arranged in 1,104 topics (men 門) under 31 sections or chapters (bu 部). Each topic was introduced with a short preface that also stated where the reader, in first instance the emperor and his princes, should be guided to. Each section was likewise headed by an introduction. The encyclopedia was seen as a kind of instruction book for good-working rulership. It took the compilation team 8 years to finish the 1,000 juan "scrolls" long book.
The Cefu yuangui is an important source for the study of ancient Chinese government, especially that of the Tang 唐 (618-907) and Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods. It contains a lot of sources from books which have been lost, and it is furthermore helpful as a text-critical source for the counter-checking if a text quoted in the Cefu has been transmitted correctly. There is an index of 10 juan length, as well as a phonetic commentary (yinyi 音義) in 10 juan, written by Sun Shi. The latter is lost.
There was a print by the Directorate of Education (guozijian 國子監) from 1015, and another print from the Northern Song period made in Sichuan. Of a Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) copy, only 8 juan survive. Fortunately enough there was a private copy from the Northern Song in the hands of Lu Xinyuan 陸心源 of which 483 juan were extant. This was revised during the Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644), edited by Huang Guoqi 黃國琦, and is preserved in the Japanese collection of the Seikadō Studio 靜嘉堂. In 1672, there was a print made by the Wuxiu Studio 五繡堂. Master Ding from 丁氏 Ningdu 寧都 published an edition in 1754. Zhang Yuanji 張元濟 copied 444 juan of the version preserved in Japan and supplemented it with other 106 juan of fragments he had collected from private collections. It has, after some revisions, been published by the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 in 1960. This edition includes an index and a preface written by by Chen Yuan 陳垣. The Cefu yuangui is also included in the reprint series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Table 1. Contents of the Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜
1.-181. 帝王部 Diwang Emperors
182.-218. 閏位部 Runwei Empresses
219.-234. 儹偽部 Zanwei Usurpers
235.-255. 列國君部 Lieguojun Regional rulers
256.-261. 儲宮部 Chugong Palaces
262.-299. 宗室部 Zongshi The imperial house
300.-307. 外戚部 Waiqi Kinsmen of empresses
308.-339. 宰輔部 Zaifu Prime ministers
340.-456. 將帥部 Jiangshuai Generals
457.-482. 臺省部 Taisheng The central government
483.-511. 邦計部 Bangji Local administration
512.-522. 憲官部 Xianguan Judicial officials
523.-549. 諫諍部 Jianzheng Remonstrances
550.-553. 詞臣部 Cichen Dismissing officials
554.-562. 國史部 Guoshi Historiography
563.-596. 掌禮部 Zhangli Control of rituals
597.-608. 學校部 Xuexiao Education of state officials
609.-619. 刑法部 Xingfa Penal law
620.-625. 卿監部 Qingjian Supervision of officials
626.-628. 環衛部 Huanwei Guards
629.-638. 銓選部 Quanxu Selection of officials
639.-651. 貢舉部 Gongju Tribute officials
652.-664. 奉使部 Fengshi Appointment of officials
665.-670. 内臣部 Neichen Officials in the capital
671.-700. 牧守部 Mushou Provincial governors
701.-707. 令長部 Lingzhang Troops command
708.-715. 宮臣部 Gongchen Palace attendants
716.-730. 幕府部 Mufu Administration on campaigning
731.-750. 陪臣部 Peichen Supernumerary or auxiliary officials
751.-955. 總錄部 Zonglu General outlines
956.-1000. 外臣部 Waichen Officials in the local administration
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2037. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Hu Wenkai 胡文楷 (1992). "Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, p. 65. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.