An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Helin yulu 鶴林玉露

Aug 18, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Helin yulu 鶴林玉露 "Jade dew from the forest of cranes" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Luo Dajing 羅大經 (c. 1195-1252), courtesy name Jinglun 景綸. He hailed from Luling 廬陵 (modern Ji'an 吉安, Jiangxi), but not much is known about his life. In his youth he was a student of the National University (taixue 太學) and passed the provincial examination in 1222, and in 1226 the metropolitan examination, and thereafter obtained the office of administrator of the prefectural law section (facao yuan 法曹掾) of Rongzhou 容州 and became then military judge (junshi tuiguan 軍事推官) of Fuzhou 撫州.

After being dismissed, he dedicated himself to "pure discussions" (qingtan 清談), the result of which was the 16-juan-long Helin yulu. The title is derived from a poem of the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) master Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770). Seen from the arrangement, the Helin yulu lies in-between the genres of poetry critique, discourse, and novella, while its main purpose is to give an insight into the lives and thoughts of writers, philosophers and thinkers of the time. It has therefore a discursive character and is short in theoretical matters. The author quotes from the most important Neo-Confucian master Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), Zhang Shi 張栻 (1133-1180), Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 (1178-1235), Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁 (1178-1237) and Yang Wanli 楊萬里 (1127-1206), but also of Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵 (1139-1193), who had a different interpretation of the nature of the universal order than the former persons. In the field of literature, Luo Dajing praises Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-1072) and Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) and criticizes Sima Guang's 司馬光 (1019-1086) Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒 for ist indulgence in unimportant matters, much different to Lü Zuqian's 呂祖謙 (1137-1181) excellent book Songwenjian 宋文鑒.

In respect to history, the Helin yulu gives abundant information on court politics and explains, for instance, the downfall of Emperor Gaozong's 宋高宗 (r. 1127-1162) minion Zhang Jun 張浚 (1097-1164), the failure of the restoration under Emperor Xiaozong 宋孝宗 (r. 1162-1189) and the abandoned reform under Guangzong 宋光宗 (r. 1189-1194), or how the latter was urged to resign in favour to Emperor Ningzong 宋寧宗 (r. 1194-1224). All these informations, together with those found in the many other chapters of the Helin yulu, make it a valuable source of Southern Song history and literature. The Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Ye Tingxiu 葉廷秀 (1599—1651) has extracted all chapters on poetry criticism from the Helin yulu and has compiled the book Shitan xuji 詩譚續集.

There are several transmitted versions of the Helin yulu. The 18-juan version is divided into three parts (Jiabian 甲編, Yibian 乙編, Bingbian 丙編) with 6 juan each. Two editions of this version have survived in Japan, the Keian version 慶安本 and the Kanbun version 寬文本, as well as a version printed with moveable types and a manuscript by Lu Shidao 陸師道 (1510-1573), both from the Ming period. It is also to be found in the series Songren xiaoshuo 宋人小說. The undivided 16-juan version is to be found in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Baihai 稗海, Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. The 18-juan version includes more than 40 paragraphs that are not seen in the 16-juan version. There are two very small extracts to be found in the Shuofu 說郛 and the Jiuxiaoshuo 舊小說. In 1983 the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published a modern edition with careful annotations by Wang Duanlai 王瑞來.

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, 1957.