An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huangchao liqi tushi 皇朝禮器圖式

Jan 23, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Huangchao liqi tushi 皇朝禮器圖式 "Illustrated standards of ritual objects of Our August Dynasty" was compiled on imperial order during the Qianlong reign-period 乾隆 (1736-1796) of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911). The book of 18 juan was finished in 1759 and revised in 1767.

It is divided into six parts, describing sacrificial tools (Jiqi 祭器 1-2), ceremonial tools (Yiqi 儀器 3), caps and robes (Guanfu 冠服 4-7), music instruments (Yueqi 樂器 8-9), insignia (Lubu 鹵簿 10-12), and military objects (Wubei 武備 17-18). Each tool is illustrated and describes in its appearance, dimensions, the materials it is made of, which decoration it bears, the amount of the particular object to be used during a certain ceremony, and it concrete use.

The first who published an illustrated book on ritual tools was the late Eastern Han-period 東漢 (25-220 CE) scholar Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200), who is said to have written the book Litu 禮圖 "Illustrations on rituals" (better known as Sanlitu 三禮圖). Later products were a book of Ruan Chen 阮諶 and five others. Nie Chongyi 聶崇義 (fl. 962) compiled a collection of illustrated books on ritual tools, Sanlitu jizhu 三禮圖集注. Unfortunately all these have vanished, so that all later statements on ancient rituals are only assumptions and re-projections that cannot be substantiated.

Yet even the Qing-period book relies on older statements, and has therefore in some points to be reguarded with some caution. It is the first text that incorporated descriptions and illustrations of ceremonial tools and objects from the sphere of the military in a ritual book. The sequence of the five types of rituals is also somewhat unorthodox. Astronomical instruments, for instance, belong to the field of the "Spring Offices" (chunguan 春官) and should be placed at the beginning. The field of military rituals is found on the third place, but according to Five Agents theory it should occupy the last part.

Liu Lu 劉潞 (2004). "Yi bu guifan Qingdai shehui chengyuan xingwei de tupu: Youguan Huangchao liqi tushi de ji ge wenti 一部規範清代社會成員行為的圖譜——有關《皇朝禮器圖式》的幾個問題", Gugong Bowuyuan yuankan 故宮博物院院刊, 2004 (7).
Siku quanshu zongmu 四庫全書總目 (Taibei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1963), juan 82, fol. 24b-26a (pp. 1662-1663).
Zhang Ke 張珂 (2016). "Huangchao liqi tushi zhong de yueqi 《皇朝禮器圖式》中的樂器", Gehai 歌海, 2016 (9).