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Xiao Erya 小爾雅

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiao Erya 小爾雅 is a glossary from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) imitating the classical glossary Erya 爾雅. It belongs to the genre of "lesser learning" (xiaoxue 小學), which is traditionally seen as a supplement to studies of the Confucian Classics.

From the beginning the Xiao Erya text must have been very small, as the bibliographic treatise Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the Hanshu 漢書 says, only one chapter long. According to the bibliographic treatise Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the Suishu 隋書 there was a commentary written by Li Gui 李軌 (d. 619) or Li Guilüe 李軌略, the Xiao Erya jie 小爾雅解, which is lost.

Yet the received Xiao Erya is certainly not identical to this book. Today it is a chapter (ch. 11) of the anthology Kongcongzi 孔叢子. According to Song Xian's 宋咸 (jinshi degree 1024) commentary on the Kongcongzi from the Song period 宋 (960-1279), the Xiao Erya was written by Kong Fu 孔鮒 (264-208 BCE), to whom authorship of the Kongcongzi is attributed. The book must have been compiled during the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220).

The Xiao Erya consists of 13 chapters which serve as a supplement to the Erya. It includes many words not recorded in the classic Erya, mainly names of objects and animals. The last three chapters deal with weights and measures, items not mentioned at all in the Erya.

Quotation 1. Weights and measures as explained in the Xiao Erya 小爾雅
Length measures
跬一舉足也。
倍跬謂之歩。
四尺謂之仞。
倍仞 謂之尋。
尋舒兩肬也。
倍尋謂之常。
五尺謂之墨。
倍墨謂之丈。
倍丈謂之端。
倍端謂之兩。
倍兩謂之疋。
疋有五謂之束。
1 kui 跬 is one short step
2 kui 跬 = 1 bu 歩 "step"
4 chi 尺 "foot" = 1 ren
2 ren 仞 = 1 xun
1 xun 尋 is the distance of 2 hills
2 xun 尋 = 1 chang
5 chi 尺 "foot" = 1 mo
2 mo 墨 = 1 zhang
2 zhang 丈 = 1 duan
2 duan 端 = 1 liang
2 liang 兩 = 1 pi
5 pi 疋 = 1 shu
Volume measures
一手之盛謂之溢。
兩手謂之掬。掬一升也。
掬四謂之豆。
豆四謂之區。
區四謂之釡。
釡二有半謂之藪。
藪二有半謂之缶。
二缶謂之鍾。
二鍾謂之秉。
秉十六斛也。
one handful = 1 yi
two handful = 1 ju 掬 = 1 sheng
4 ju 掬 = 1 dou
4 dou 豆 = 1 qu
4 qu 區 = 1 fu
2.5 fu 釡 = 1 sou
2.5 sou 藪 = 1 fou
2 fou 缶 = 1 zhong
2 zhong 鍾 = 1 bing
1 bing 秉 = 16 hu
Weight measures
二十四銖曰兩。
兩有半曰捷。
倍捷曰舉。
倍舉曰鏘。xx鏘謂之鍰。
二鍰四兩謂之斤。
斤十謂之衡。
衡有半謂之秤。
秤二謂之鈞。
鈞四謂之石。
石四謂之鼓。
然則鼓四百八十斤也。
24 zhu 銖 = 1 liang
1.5 兩 = 1 jie
2 jie 捷 = 1 ju
2 ju 舉 = 1 qiang 鏘 = 1 huan
2 huan 鍰 4 liang 兩 = 1 jin
10 jin 斤 = 1 heng
1.5 heng 衡 = 1 cheng
2 cheng 秤 = 1 jun
4 jun 鈞 = 1 shi
4 shi 石 = 1 gu
1 gu 鼓 is thus 480 jin

The Xiao Erya only attracted the attention of scholars during the 19th century, for example Song Xiangfeng 宋翔鳳 (1779-1860), who wrote Xiao Erya xunzuan 小爾雅訓纂, or Hu Chenggong 胡承珙 (1776-1832), author of Xiao Erya yizheng 小爾雅義證. There are also several less important commentaries written by Zhu Junsheng 朱駿聲 (1788-1858), namely Xiao Erya yuezhu 小爾雅約注, Ge Qiren 葛其仁 (1883), who wrote Xiao Erya shuzheng 小爾雅疏證, or Ren Zhaolin 任兆麟 (fl. 1781), who compiled the commentary Xiao Erya zhu 小爾雅注).

Table 1. Contents of the Xiao Erya 小爾雅
1 廣詁 Old expressions
2 廣言 Elegant and archaic sayings
3 廣訓 Instructions
4 廣義 Concepts
5 廣名 Designations
6 廣服 Clothes
7 廣器 Utensils
8 廣物 Plants
9 廣鳥 Birds
10 廣獸 Beasts
(11) Length measures
(12) Volume measures
(13) Weights
Source:
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