An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Qing period 清 (1644-1911) book Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 "Complete collection of pictures and books of old and modern times" is the largest encyclopedia of premodern China. It is 10,000 juan "scrolls" long and was compiled on imperial order of the Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (r. 1661-1722) between the years 1701 and 1706 under the supervision of Chen Menglei 陳夢雷 and Jiang Tingxi 蔣廷錫. The original title of the draft was Gujin tushu huibian 古今圖書彙編. In 1722 the Yongzheng Emperor 雍正 (r. 1722-1735) ordered Jiang Tingxi 蔣廷錫 to revise the draft. The revision was finished in 1726, and the title was changed the known Gujin tushu jicheng.
The encyclopedia is divided into six parts (bian 編) with 32 "canons" (dian 典, in the draft called zhi 志 "treatise") dealing with 6,117 themes. The index alone is 40 juan long. The particular parts (bu 部) are composed of 9 different types of literary allusions, namely

  • huikao 匯考 (assembled explanations),
  • zonglun 縂論 (general discussion),
  • tubiao 圖表 (illustrations and tables),
  • liezhuan 列傳 (quotations from biographies),
  • yiwen 藝文 (literary allusions),
  • xuanju 選句 (selected verses),
  • jishi 紀事 (historical events),
  • zalu 雜錄 (miscellaneous records) and
  • waibian 外編 (further records).
Not all types are used for each entry. The encyclopedia quotes from 3,525 books, with 77,000 quotations in total, some of them used several times for different themes.
There are four different prints of the Gujin tushu jicheng, the first, a moveable letter print, was made in 1728 by the imperial library in the Wuying Hall 武英殿. The second print was made by the British newspaper publisher Ernest Major (1830?-1908, Chinese name Meicha 美查) in Shanghai between 1884 and 1888, in 1,500 copies. In 1889 the court ordered the Foreign Office (Zongli yamen 總理衙門) to negotiate with the Tongwen press 同文書局 in Shanghai to publish a further edition. The print was finished in 1894. The 100 copies included 24 volumes of corrigenda (Kaozheng 考證). In 1934 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 in Shanghai published an edition in reduced size. In 1985 the Zhonghua shuju press and the Ba-Shu press 巴蜀書社 reprinted the 1934 edition in 82 (in total 121) volumes.
There is a supplement published in 1977 by the Taiwanese Dingwen press 鼎文書局 that is called Gujin tushu jicheng xubian chugao 古今圖書集成續編初稿 "A tentative draft of a supplement to the Complete Collection". The 78 juan long encyclopedia imitates the structure of the original. It makes use of sources written after the Kangxi reign or even after the Qing period, like the treatises of the Qingshigao 清史稿, the Da-Qing huidian 大清會典, Qingchao xu wenxian tongkao or the Qingshilu 清實錄.
1. 天象 Celestial Matters (典1-4, 121 parts, 544 chapters)
乾象 Qianxiang The Heavens
歲功 Suigong The Year
曆法 Lifa Astronomy and Mathematics
庶徵 Shuzheng Strange Phenomena
2. 方輿 Geography (典5-8, 1187 parts, 2144 chapters)
坤輿 Kunyu The Earth
職方 Zhifang Political Divisions of China
山川 Shanchuan Mountains and Rivers of China
邊裔 Bianyi Foreign Countries
3. 明倫 Human Relationship (典9-16, 2922 parts, 2604 chapters)
皇極 Huangji The Emperor
宮闈 Gongwei The Imperial Household
官常 Guanchang The Government Service
家範 Jiafan Family Relationships
交誼 Jiaoyi Social Intercourses
氏族 Shizu Clan and Family Names
人事 Renshi Man and his Attitudes
閨媛 Guiyuan Womankind
4. 博物 Science (典17-20, 1130 parts, 1656 chapters)
藝術 Yishu Arts, Occupations, and Professions
神異 Shenyi Religion
禽蟲 Qinchong The Animal Kingdom
草木 Caomu The Vegetable Kingdom
5. 理學 Literature (典21-24, 237 parts, 1220 chapters)
經籍 Jingji Canonical and Other Literature
學行 Xingxue The Conduct of Life
文學 Wenxue Branches of Literature
字學 Zixue Characters and Writing
6. 經濟 Polity (典25-32, 450 parts, 1832 chapters)
選舉 Xuanju The Examination System
銓衡 Quanheng The Official Career
食貨 ShihuoFood and Commerce
禮儀 Liyi Ceremonies
樂律 Yuelü Music
戎政 Rongzheng Military Administration
祥刑 Xiangxing Law and Punishment
考工 Kaogong Industries and Manufactured Articles
Guo Songyi 郭松義 (1992). "Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, pp. 257-258. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Ji Shuying 冀淑英, Lin Xiao'an 林小安 (1993). "Qing Yongzheng si nian neifu tong huozi yinben Gujin tushu jicheng 清雍正四年内府铜活字印本古今图书集成", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Wenwu bowuguan 文物•博物館, p. 436. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Yuan Yi 袁逸 (1990). "Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Xinwen chuban 新聞•出版, p. 117. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Zhao Hankun 趙含坤 (2005). Zhongguo leishu 中國類書, pp. 396-400, 516. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe.