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Sanzijing 三字經


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The Sanzijing 三字經 "Three-character classic" is a character text book for elementary learning. It is traditionally attributed to the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟. The common version of the book has 1,248 characters (a Qing period print only 1,140), which are arranged in sets of three, or verses of six. The book is divided into five parts, explaining the various steps of learning, from the initial requirements, the understanding of social relationships, the numbers, seasons, the Five Processes, plants and animals, to the standardized learning with succesful outcome. The book was very popular in traditional China, and there was even a multi-lingual version including Manchurian and Mongolian. For practical learning, the Sanzijing has often been rated as not very applicable because of the complexity of the text and the use of specialised characters.
There is a commentary to the Sanzijing written by Zhao Nanxing 趙南星 included in the collectaneum Meiniezhai yishu 昧檗齋遺書, as well as a textual explanation Sanzijing xungu 三字經訓詁 by Wang Xiang 王相. The collectaneum Guangrentang congshu 廣仁堂叢書 includes the supplement Guang sanzijing 廣三字經 by Master Jiaoxuan 蕉軒氏. The newest commentary, the Chongding sanzijing 重訂三字經, has been written by Zhang Binglin 章炳麟.
Shang Zhaozhi 尚兆志 has written an illustrated commentary to the Sanzijing, Sanzijing zhutu 三字經注圖, that was printed by the Li Guangming zhuang press 李光明莊. An enlarged version of the Sanzijing was created by Xu Yinfang 許印芳, the Zengding qimeng sanzi jing 增訂啟蒙三字經 which consists not only of three-syllable phrases but also of longer ones constituting coherent thematical paragraphs. It is included in the collectaneum Yunnan congshu 雲南叢書.
The Sanzijing belongs to the "canon" of elementary education, the San-Bai-Qian 三百千, which also includes the texts Baijiaxing 百家姓 and Qianziwen 千字文 (or Qianjiashi 千家詩, alternatively).

Sanjizian 三字鑒 "The Three-Characters Mirror"

The text Sanjizian 三字鑒 "Three-Characters Mirror" is an imitation of the Sanzijing that was written by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Yu Maoxun 余懋勛 and commented by Chen Qiyuan 陳起元. It is 2,700 characters long and narrates the history of China. Another imitation with four-syllable verses is Xiao Liangyou's 肖良友 Sizijing 四字經 "Four-Characters Classic" from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). It is 4,400 words long.


Sources: Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 教育大辭典編纂委員會 (1991), "Sanzijing 三字經", in Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 8, p. 211. ● Li Ming 黎明 (1993), "Sanzijing 三字經", in Zhongguo xiaoxue jiaoxue baike quanshu 中國小學教學百科全書, Yuwen 語文 (Shenyang: Shenyang chubanshe), p. 90.

January 3, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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