An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yilin 意林

Oct 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

The collection Yilin 意林 "Forest of meanings", original titles Fufeng Ma Zong yuanhui bian 扶風馬總元會編 or Yilin yuyao 意林語要, was written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by the scholar and politician Ma Zong 馬總 (d. 823). Ma Zong, courtesy name Huiyuan 會元, hailed from Fufeng 扶風, Shaanxi, and wrote a lot of historiographical books, like Tongji 通紀, Nianli 年曆 or Zouyi 奏議.

The book Yilin has a length of 5 juan and contains biography-like stories of eminent persons. There is a print from the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644), which is apparently not the original text. The Yilin was finished in 786. It is modeled after Yu Zhongrong's 庾仲容 (475-548) 30-juan-long book Zichao 子鈔 from the Liang period 梁 (502-557). Ma Zong criticized the missing balance of Yu's book between the shortness of some of the biographies included, while others were to peripatetic and long, and tried to amend this error. The Yilin can be called an encyclopaedia because of the concise language, with which the biographies are written. It contains a lot of quotations, the sources of which are long since lost.

It is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討源, Juxuexuan congshu 聚學軒叢書 and the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏.

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, 2004.
Zhao Hankun 趙含坤, ed. (2005). Zhongguo leishu 中國類書 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe), 62.