The Zilin 字林 "Forest of characters" was a character dictionary whose entries are arranged according to character radicals. It was compiled by Lü Chen 呂忱 during the Jin period 晉 (265-420) and consisted of 5 or 7 juan "scrolls". It made use of the 540 radicals system established in China's oldest character dictionary, the Shuowen jiezi 說文解字, and contained 12,824 characters.
During the Liu-Song period 劉宋 (420-479) Wu Gongceng 吳恭曾 compiled annotations to pronunciation in 5 juan, the Zilin yinyi 字林音義. Since the Song period 宋 (960-1279) the Zilin is lost. Only during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) Ren Dazhuang 任大樁 collected surviving fragments from quotations in other books and compiled the Zilin kaoyi 字林考逸 in 8 juan. Another scholar, Tao Fangqi 陶方琦 (Zilin kaoyi buben 字林考逸補本), found even more surviving sentences, e. g. Du Taiqing's 杜臺卿 Yuzhu baodian 玉燭寶典 from the Sui period 隋 (581-618), and the monk Huilin's 惠琳 Yiqiejing yinyi 一切經音義 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907).
Source: Zhou Zumo 周祖謨 (1988). "Zilin 字林", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yuyan wenzi 語言•文字, p. 551. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.