An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

mulu 目錄, bibliographies, catalogues and indexes

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

A literary index or catalogue (mulu 目錄, shumu 書目) is a list of writings included in a collection or a library. These are in most cases arranged according to a coherent system of categories.

The oldest surviving Chinese catalogue is the chapter Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書. It was compiled by the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) scholars Liu Xin 劉歆 (see Qilüe 七略) and Liu Xiang 劉向 who was librarian in the imperial palace library. He screen and sorted the texts in this library, wrote short comments to them, unified some scattered texts in collections (like the biographic collections Liexianzhuan 列仙傳 and Lienüzhuan 列女傳, or the story collections Xinyu 新序 and Shuoyuan 說苑), and created the first catalogue system in which books were classified according to content. The surviving preface of Liu Xin's catalogue explains that the ancient Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" included an index written on bamboo slips tied with green threads (qing si 青絲). He complains that many indexes only include book titles and no information about author, length, or "shelf number".

It is known that the divination archives of the Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) must have been arranged according to a kind of system, and that the kings and rulers of the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) disposed of archivists and librarians. During the reign of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) of the Han dynasty a certain Yang Pu 楊仆 submitted to the throne a catalogue of military writings called Binglu 兵錄. It is the oldest mentioned real book catalogue.

In 26 BCE Emperor Cheng 漢成帝 (r. 33-7 BCE) ordered Liu Xiang to compile a catalogue including all available books. He died before the work was finished, yet his son Liu Xiu continued this task. He used his father's 20 juan long commented catalogue Bielu 別錄 "Categorized list", and created the 7 juan long Qilüe. The arrangement of the catalogue is deeply influenced by the eminent position of Confucianism at as the state doctrine. The ancient Classics, highly venerated by the Confucians, and "Confucian writings" therefore occupy outstanding positions in traditional Chinese catalogues. The historian Ban Gu 班固 used this catalogue for the compilation of his treatise Yiwen zhi that has survived as part of the Hanshu. The next surviving catalogue is the Jingji zhi 經籍志 that is included as a treatise in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書. Imperial catalogues are also included in the histories Jiutangshu 舊唐書, Xintangshu 新唐書, Songshi 宋史, Mingshi 明史 and Qingshigao 清史稿.

The Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316) scholar Xun Xu 荀勖 compiled that catalogue Zhongjing xinbu 中經新簿 that is the first bibliography operating with the four literary categories (sibu 四部). The system was consolidated during the Eastern Jin 東晉 (317-420) by Li Chong's 李充 catalogue Jin Yuandi sibu shumu 晉元帝四部書目. The Confucian Classics (jingbu 經部) were listed first, followed by historiographical writings (shibu 史部), the so-called "Masters and Philosophers" (zibu 子部) – headed by the Confucians -, and the last section were individual collections (jibu 集部) of a more literary content, like essays, letters or poems.

During the Tang period 唐 (618-907) Yuan Xingzhong 元行沖 headed the compilation of the 200 juan long catalogue Qunshu sibu lu 群書四部錄, and Wu Jiong 毋煚 had compiled the 30 juan long bibliography Gujin shumu 古今書錄. The most prominent Song period 宋 (960-1279) catalogues were the Chongwen zongmu 崇文總目 by Wang Yaochen 王堯臣 and Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修, with a length of 66 juan, the Zhongxing guange shumu 中興館閣書目, compiled bu Chen Kui 陳騤, with a length of 70 juan, and the 30 juan long supplement Zhongxing guange xu shumu 中興館閣續書目 by Zhang Pan 張攀.

During the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) Yang Shiqi 楊士奇 comiled the official catalogue Wenyuange shumu 文淵閣書目.

The largest officially compiled traditional catalogue is the Siku quanshu zongmu 四庫全書總目, compiled during the Qing period. It is a catalogue to the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, but also includes descriptions (tiyao 提要) about books not included in this collection. It describes 6,793 books, of which only 3,461 were part of the series.

Apart from these official catalogues (guanxiu shumu 官修目錄) there were a lot of private compilations, the oldest of which was Wang Jian's 王儉 Qizhi 七志 from the Liu-Song period 宋. It imitates the structure of the Qilüe, but adds the category Tupu zhi 圖譜志 "Maps and figures". Wang added a short biography for each author, a custom that was later used by many compilers.

During the Liang period 梁, Ruan Xiaoxu 阮孝緒 compiled the catalogue Qilu 七錄, the Sui period master Xu Shanxin 許善心 compiled the Qilin 七林, and the Tang period scholar Wu Ke 吳兢 the catalogue Xizhai shumu 西齋書目. All these bibliographies are unfortunately lost, except a few fragments.

The invention of book printing during the Song period contributed to a better distribution of books. The most important private Song period catalogues are Chao Gongwu's 晁公武 Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志, You Mao's 尤袤 Suichutang shumu 遂初堂書目 and Chen Zhensun's 陳振孫 Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題. During the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) private collectors (cangshujia 藏書家) made important contributions to the spread of books. Some of them also compiled bibliographies, like Gao Ru 高儒 (Baichuan shuzhi 百川書志), Xu Bo 徐{火+勃} (Hongyulou shumu 紅雨樓書目), Chao Li 晁瑮 (Chaoshi Baowentang shumu 晁氏寶文堂書目), Zhao Qimei 趙奇美 (Maiwangguan shumu 脈望館書目), Qi Chenghan 祁承㸁 (Danshengtang shumu 澹生堂書目), or Huang Yuji 黃虞稷 (Qianqingtang shumu 千頃堂書目).

The most prominent Qing period compilers of catalogues were Qian Zeng 錢曾 (Yeshiyuan shumu 也是園書目 and Shugutang shumu 述古堂書目), Xu Qianxue 徐乾學 (Chuanshilou shumu 傳是樓書目) and Sun Xingyan 孫星衍 (Sunshi Citang shumu 孫氏祠堂書目).

Apart from these general catalogues, there were also specialized catalogues, the earliest of which where those on Buddhist writings, for instance, the Zongli jujing mulu 綜理眾經目錄 by the monk Dao'an 道安, or Sengyou's 僧佑 Chusanzang jiji 出三藏記集, which has survived. During the Tang period Daoxuan 道宣 compiled the Da-Tang neidian lu 大唐內典錄, Zhisheng 智升 the Da-Tang Kaiyuan shijiao lu 大唐開元釋教錄, Yang Songzhen 楊松珍 the catalogue Shimu 史目, and Yin Zhongrong 殷仲茂 the Shisandai shimu 十三代史目. The last two were catalogues of historiographical books, just like Gao Sisun's Shilüe 史略 from the Song period. Gao has also written a catalogue on "masters and philosophers", the ZilüeZilüe 子略.

The oldest surviving catalogue of theatre plays is Zhong Sicheng's 鍾嗣成 Luguibu 錄鬼簿 from the Yuan period. China’s oldest "union catalogue" is Zhixu's 智旭 Buddhist bibliography Yuecang zhijin 閱藏知津 from the Ming period that explains which books were to be found in what library. Important Qing period specialized catalogues are Zhu Yizun's 朱彝尊的 Jingyi kao 經義考, Zhang Xuecheng's 章學誠 Shiji kao 史籍考, Xie Qikun's 謝啟昆 Xiaoxue kao 小學考, Mei Weiding's 梅文鼎 Wu'an lisuan shumu 勿庵歷算書目, Huang Wenyang's 黃文暘 Chongding Quhai zongmu 重訂曲海總目 and Wang Guowei's 王國維 Qulu 曲錄.

During the Qing period a new feature was included among the information of book catalogues, namely statements about the editions (banben 版本) of the books listed. This was important because scholars began being more interested in the authenticity and different versions of texts. Catalogues including such information were Qian Zeng's 錢曾 Dushu minqiu ji 讀書敏求記, Yu Minzhong's 于敏中 Tianlu linlang shumu 天祿琳瑯書目, Huang Pilie's 黃丕烈 Bai-Song yichan shulu 百宋一廛書錄, Mo Youzhi's 莫友芝 Lüting zhijian chuanben shumu 郘亭知見傳本書目 or Shao Yichen's 邵懿辰 Siku jianming mulu biaozhu 四庫簡明目錄標注.

According to Chinese custom, there were also smaller catalogues of the writings of one single person or group of persons, and catalogues including titles written in one city or region.

In the late nineteenth century scholars began compiling catalogues including books translated from Western languages, the so-called "modern teachings" (xinxue 新學) or "Western teachings" (xixue 西學). Such were Zhang Zhidong's 張之洞 Shumu dawen 書目答問 or Liang Qichao's 梁啟超 Xixue shumu biao 西學書目表. The latter includes short abstracts about each book listed, and explanations about their usefulness. Similar "modern" catalogues were Wang Tao's 王韜 Taixi zhushu kao 泰西著述考, Kang Youwei's 康有為 Riben shumu zhi 日本書目志, Xu Weize's 徐維則 Dong-Xixue shulu 東西學書錄 and Shen Zhaoyi's 沈兆禕 Xinxue shumu tiyao 新學書目提要.

Indexes (suoyin 索引) as instruments for finding names and terms in books were compiled as early as the Ming period. Zhang Shipei 張士佩 has written the index Hongwu zhengyun yujian 洪武正韻玉鍵 that served to find terms in the dictionary Hongwu zhengyun 洪武正韻. Fu Shan 傅山 has written the Liang-Han shuxing mingyun 兩漢書姓名韻, as an index to the two histories of the Han period, and the Qing scholar Wang Huizu 汪輝祖 the index Shixing yunbian 史姓韻編, a name index for all dynastic histories.

In all these indexes, names are arranged phonetically. The earliest modern text concordance is Cai Tinggan's 蔡廷干 Laojielao 老解老 (for the words used in the book Laozi) from 1922, followed by Chen Naiqian's 陳乃乾 index Siku quanshu zongmu suoyin 四庫全書總目索引 from 1926, and the index series of the Harvard-Yenching Institute 哈佛-燕京學社 that includes 64 indexes for the most important ancient texts, started in 1930.

At the same time the Centre Franco-Chinois d'Etudes Sinologiques (Bali Daxue Beiping Hanxue yanjiusuo 巴黎大學北平漢學研究所) published another series with 13 indexes. Ye Shengtao 葉聖陶 compiled an index for the Thirteen Confucian Classics, the Shisanjing suoyin 十三經索引, Shi Tingyong 施廷鏞 an index for books included in various series, the Congshu zimu shuming suoyin 叢書子目書名索引, and Wang Zhongmin 王重民 a modern index of scholarly texts, the Guoxue lunwen suoyin 國學論文索引.

For a description of individual catalogues, see bibliographies.

Peng Feizhang 彭斐章 (1993). "Mulu 目錄", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Tushuguanxue qingbaoxue dang'anxue 圖書館學•情報學•檔案學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 282.