An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞

Nov 7, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞 is a collection of essays written during the late Song period 宋 (960-1279) by Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296). Wang Yingling spent more than twenty years of private life to the compilation of a enormous amount of books on statecraft, like the encyclopaedia Yuhai 玉海. Wang Yinglin was known as a universal scholar expert in a lot of different fields with a deep understanding of all matters of antiquity and contemporary affairs. In his own words, he made greatest efforts to overcome the difficulties of distinguishing himself from the masses by learning everything he was able to.

The 8-juan-long Kunxue jiwen is structured like an encyclopaedia. It begins with comments on the Confucian Classics, goes on to calendar, geography and the masters and philosophers, history, and ends with literature and belles-lettres. Wang Yinglin quotes a lot of old sources and comments on errors in his source texts. He even points out a lot of errors in the writings of the Neo-Confucian master Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200). The Kunxue jiwen is therefore an important early critique towards the transmitted books of the Song period Neo-Confucians. His textual critique is made with great care and very reliable.

The Kunxue jiwen was finished after the end of the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) and was printed during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) by Mou Yinglong 牟應龍 and Yuan Jue 袁桷. During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911), numerous scholars commented the Kunxue jiwen, like Yan Ruoqu 閻若璩 (1636-1704), Quan Zuwang 全祖望 (1705-1755), He Zhuo 何焯 (1661-1722), Cheng Yaotian 程瑶田 (1725-1814), Qian Daxin 錢大昕 (1728-1804), Tu Jixu 屠繼緒, Wan Xihui 萬希槐 (1781-1840), Weng Yuanqi 翁元圻 (1751-1826), Zhao Jingxiang 趙敬襄 (fl. 1823) and Zhang Jialu 張嘉祿 (1846-1900).

The Kunxue jiwen in included in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, Sibu beiyao 四部備要, Siming congkan sanbian 四明叢刊三編 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書. The commentaries of Yan Ruoju, Wang Zhuo and Quan Zuwang are united in the edition of the reprint series Zhaoshi cangshu 趙氏藏書. A modern edition was published in 1959 by the Shangwu Yinshuguan Press 商務印書館.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1923.