An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wuli tongkao 五禮通考

Apr 21, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

Wuli tongkao 五禮通考 is a 262-juan long encycoplaedic book on rituals written by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Qin Huitian 秦蕙田 (1702-1764), courtesy name Shufeng 樹峰, style Weijiing 味經. Qin hailed from Jingui 金匱 (today's Wuxi 無錫, Jiangsu) and was junior compiler (bianxiu 編修) of the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, Minister of Works (gongbu shangshu 工部尚書), and was finally given the honorific title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent (taizi taibao 太子太保).

Even if he had no position as a teacher or instructor, he was an expert in the Confucian Classics and particularly in the phonetics of the Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" and the three ritual classics. Apart from this book on "Confucian" rituals he wrote a book on the observance of seasonal phaenologoy (Guanxiang shoushi 觀象授時). His collected writings are called Weijingzhai leigao 味經齋類稿. The foreword to the Wuli tongkao, Wuli tongkao xulu 五禮通考序錄, was also published separately.

Qin Huitian wrote his book on the base of the ancient rituals described in the book Zhouli 周禮, which discerns between auspicious rites (jili 吉禮), inauspicious rites (xiongli 兇禮), military rites (junli 軍禮), hosting rites (binli 賓禮), and congratulatory rites (jiali 嘉禮), together the five types of rites (wuli 五禮).

His encyclopaedia imitates the structure of Xu Qianxue's 徐乾學 (1631-1694) Duli tongkao 讀禮通考, which divides the five types of rites into 75 individual ceremonies, but focuses mainly on funeral rites. Qin collected all statements on the individual ceremonies found in the Confucian Classics and the surviving commentaries. He compares these statements and points out differences between interpretations.

The chapter on the ancestral altars (Zongmiao zhidu 宗廟制度), part of the auspicious rites, is enriched by a sub-chapter on musical tuning (yuelü 樂律). Qin also added chapter in the section of the congratulatory rites resuming all place names of the book. They are arranged according to celestial coordinates. The book begins with an overview of the development of the five rites, namely Lijing zuoshu yuanliu 禮經作述源流, and Lidai lizhi yange 歷代禮制沿革.

Some scholars say that the Wuli tongkao was the completion of the plans of the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), who only wrote one book on rites, Yili jingzhuan tongjie 儀禮經傳通解, which "missed many aspects of the whole ritual system" of the Zhou.

The book was printed in 1763 by Qin Huitian himself. xxx Collectanea Siku quanshu?

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 234.
Qiao Hui 喬輝 (2016). "Qin Huitian Wuli tongkao yin Nie Chongyi Sanlitu kaolun 秦蕙田《五禮通考》引聶崇義《三禮圖》考論", Guji zhengli yanjiu xuekan 古籍整理研究學刊, 2016 (3).
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓 et al., ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue chubanshe), 147.
Wan Guangzhi 萬光治 (1988). "Wuli tongkao 五禮通考", in Zhao Jihui 趙吉惠, Guo Hou'an 郭厚安, ed. Zhongguo ruxue cidian 中國儒學辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 347.
Wu Jiewen 吳捷文 (1997). "Wuli tongkao 五禮通考", in Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 3, 107.