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Hanshu yiwen zhi 漢書藝文志

Feb 5, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Hanshu yiwen zhi 漢書藝文志 is the oldest extant bibliography of ancient China. It is one of the treatises (zhi 志) in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 written by Ban Gu 班固 (32-92 CE) during the early Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE). For his catalogue, Ban Gu largely took over the literary categories of the catalogue Qilüe 七略 by Liu Xin 劉歆 and compiled a bibliography with six categories of literature, with 38 sub-categorical types of books written by 596 different authors (plus the anonymous texts), with a physical corpus of 13,269 juan in total.

Ban Gu's literary categories are: Confucian Classics (liuyi 六藝), philosophers and masters (zhuzi 諸子), poems (shifu 詩賦), military treatises (bingshu 兵書), mathematics and astronomy/astrology (shushu 數術), and magic (fangji 方技).

During the compilation process, Ban Gu retained the categories and sub-categories of Liu Xiang 劉向's Qilüe and added all books written after the finishing of the Qilüe, for example, texts authored by Liu Xiang, Yang Xiong 揚雄 (53 BCE-18 CE) or Du Lin 杜林. He also compared the actual status of the books and inserted remarks about changes in the classification, as well as remarks about the physical appearance of the books (number of scrolls and chapters). Ban Gu also abbreviated Liu Xin's remarks to the books.

Taking the Hanshu yiwen zhi as a model, most of the official dynastic histories include a bibliographic chapter among their treatises. These catalogues reflect not just the holdings of the imperial library (therefore "imperial bibliographies") but also give evidence of the survival and status of transmitted texts. Ban Gu's catalogue is even more important because Liu Xin's Qilüe, the oldest bibliographic catalogue of China, is lost.

The Song-period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296) wrote a text-critical commentary called Hanshu yiwen zhi kaozheng 漢書藝文志考證, which was supplemented by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Yao Chenzong 姚振宗 (1842-1906) in his Hanshu yiwen zhi shibu 漢書藝文志拾補 and Hanshu yiwen zhi tiaoli 漢書藝文志條理.

Table 1. Literary categories of the Hanshu yiwen zhi 漢書藝文志
1. 六藝 Liuyi The six classical arts, 103 writers
Yi Texts and commentaries on the Book of Changes 13 books
Shang Texts and commentaries on the Book of Documents 11 books
Shi Texts and commentaries on the Book of Songs 14 books
Li Texts and commentaries on the Rites 14 books
Yue Books on Music 7 books
春秋 Chunqiu Texts and commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals 29 books
論語 Lunyu Texts and commentaries on the Confucian Analects 12 books
孝經 Xiaojing Texts and commentaries on the Book of Filial Piety 14 books
小學 Xiaoxue Elementary learning and lexicography 12 books
2. 諸子 Zhuzi Masters and philosophers, 189 writers
儒家 Rujia Confucian treatises 51 books
道家 Daojia Daoist treatises 37 books
陰陽家 Yinyangjia Yin-and-Yang treatises 21 books
法家 Fajia Legalist treatises 10 books
名家 Mingjia Treatises of sophists or dialecticians 7 books
墨家 Mojia Mohist treatises 6 books
從橫家 Zonghengjia Books of coalition advisers or diplomatists 12 books
雜家 Zajia Miscellaneous or syncretist treatises 20 books
農家 Nongjia Agricultural treatises 9 books
小說家 Xiaoshuojia Storytellers 15 books
3. 詩賦 Shifu Poetry, 106 writers
Fu Rhapsodies I 20 books
Fu Rhapsodies II 21 books
Fu Rhapsodies III 25 books
雜賦 Zafu Miscellaneous rhapsodies 11 books
歌詩 Geshi Songs and poems 28 books
4. 兵書 Bingshu Books on warfare, 53 writers
兵權謀 Bing quanmou Books on strategy and tactics 13 books
兵形勢 Bing xingshi Books on the influence of wind and weather on war 12 books
陰陽家 Yinyangjia Books on the influence of time on war 16 books
兵技巧 Bing jiqiao Book on military skills 16 books
5. 數術 Shushu Divination and assessing man's life, 190 writers
天文 Tianwen Astronomy and astrology 22 books
曆譜 Lipu Calendar 18 books
五行 Wuxing The Five Agents and cosmic correlations 31 books
蓍龜 Shigui Divination by milfoil stalks and tortoise plastrons 15 books
雜占 Zazhan Miscellaneous divinations 18 books
形法 Xingfa Geomancy 6 books
6. 方技 Fangji Medical skills, 36 writers
醫經 Yijing Books on medicine 7 books
經方 Jingfang Pharmacopoieas 11 books
房中 Fangzhong The art of the bedchamber 8 books
神僊 Shenxian Immortals 10 books
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