An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Taiping guangji 太平廣記

Oct 14, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Taiping guangji 太平廣記 "Extensive records of the Taiping [xingguo] reign-period (976-983)" is a large collection of stories about supernatural events throughout ancient history. The collection is one of the so-called "four large books" (Song si da shu 宋四大書) of the Northern Song 北宋 (960-1126). It was compiled on imperial order by Li Fang 李昉, Hu Meng 扈蒙, Li Mu 李穆 and other members of the National University (taixue 太學) during the years 977 and 978.

In 981, the books was submitted to the throne. It was preserved in the library in the Hall of Supreme Purity (Taiqinglou 太清樓). The first print was produced three years later. The Taiping guangji as a kind of "encyclopaedia of the supernatural" has a length of 500 juan. The more than 7,000 stories, arranged in 92 parts covering 1,500 topics, were taken from unofficial histories, collections of biographies, so-called "brush-notes-style" essays, Buddhist and Daoist writings, and so on, more than 400 sources in total, probably as much as 526. A Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) index only speaks of 343 books, which is not correct. Unfortunately the indications where the quotations are taken from were of a quite bad quality in the original book and had to be amended.

The different stories are arranged in 92 topics and 150 chapters. Stories of strange events (zhiguai 志怪, chuanqi 傳奇) occupy the largest part of the Taiping guangji. Traditionally the stories were categorized as "novellas" or "short stories" (xiaoshuo 小説). Indeed a lot of these stories were so widespread that they later found their way into theatre plays and romances, but a lot of them have only survived in the Taiping guangji, like Li Wa zhuan 李娃傳, Liushi zhuan 柳氏傳, Wushuang zhuan 無雙傳, Huo Xiaoyu zhuan 霍小玉傳 or Yingying zhuan 鶯鶯傳. A series of other stories is first mentioned in the Taiping guangji, like Gujingji 古鏡記, Li Zhangwu zhuan 李章武傳, Lihunji 離魂記, Liu Yi zhuan 柳毅傳, Renshi zhuan 任氏傳 or Nanke taishou zhuan 南柯太守傳.

Some texts were copied nearly full, while some others were quoted in a few paragraphs only. Compared with other encyclopaedias of that time, the Taiping guangji quotes original texts without abbreviation, which makes it a very reliable source, especially for early popular stories. Many Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) series like Gujin shuohai 古今說海, Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說, Shuofu 說郛 or Tangren shuohui 唐人說薈 used the Taiping guangji as a source for individual stories.

The Song-period scholar Cai Fan 蔡蕃 created two books of extracts from the Taiping guangji, the Luge shilei 鹿革事類 and Luge wenlei 鹿革文類, both with a length of 30 juan. A similar, but larger, selection of stories was created by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) writer Feng Menglong 馮夢龍 (1574-1646) in his Taiping guangji chao 太平廣記鈔.

The oldest prints are only preserved in fragments of very bad quality. A Ming-period print from 1566 is preserved which was produced by Tan Kai 談愷 based on a manuscript version. The most widespread version is based on Wang Shaoying's 王紹楹 edition from 1926 which was republished in 1956 by the Renmin Wenxue Press 人民文學出版社 and in 1961 by the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局. In 1996, the Yuelu Press 岳麓書社 published another modern edition. The Taiping guangji is also part of the collection Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀.

Taiping guangji chao 太平廣記鈔

Taiping guangji chao 太平廣記鈔 is a collection of short stories compiled by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) novelist Feng Menglong 馮夢龍 (1574-1646). The short stories are excerpts from the Song period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopaedia Taiping guangji. The excerpt has a length of 80 juan and includes more than 2,500 stories. Feng abridged some stories, eliminated redundant tales and reduced the categories of the 500-juan-long draft to 29.

Table 1. Contents of the Taiping guangji 太平廣記
1.-55. 神仙 Immortals
56.-70. 女仙 Female immortals
71.-75. 道術 Daoist masters
76.-80. 方士 Magicians and diviners
81.-86. 異人 Extraordinary persons
87.-98. 異僧 Extraordinary monks
99.-101. 釋證 Buddhist revelations
102.-134. 報應 Retribution
135.-145. 征應 Desired results
146.-160. 定數 (婚姻附) Destiny (app. Matrimony)
161.-162. 感應 Interaction of deed and result
163. 讖應 Prophesies and their fulfilment
164. 名賢 (諷諫附) Famous worthies (app. Admonishing remonstrances)
165. 廉儉 (吝嗇附) Incorruptness and simplicity (app. Stinginess)
166.-168. 氣義 Brotherhood and loyalty
169.-170. 知人 Learned men
171.-172. 精察 Refined and conscious men
173.-174. 俊辯 Handsome and eloquent men
175. 幼敏 Young and delicate men
176.-177. 器量 Magnanimity
178.-184. 貢舉 (代族附) Appointment by recommendation (app. Inheritance of posts and titles)
185.-186. 銓選 Selection and appointment
187. 職官 State offices
188. 權倖 Minions
189.-190. 將帥 (雜譎智附) Commanders (app. Miscellaneous swindling and cleverness)
191.-192. 驍勇 Brave men
193.-196. 豪俠 Gallants
197. 博物 Men of wide knowledge
198.-200. 文章 Writings
201. 才名 (好尚附) Talent (app. Esteeming value)
202. 儒行 (怜才,高逸附) Scholarly comportment (app. Sympathy with talent, Hidden worthies)
203.-205. Music
206.-209. Books
210.-214. Paintings
215. 算術 Mathematics
216.-217. 卜筮 Prognostication
218.-220. Medicine
221.-224. Prognostication by appearance
225.-227. 伎巧 (絕藝附) Tricks (app. Consummate arts)
228. 博戲 Various skills
229.-232. 器玩 Toys
233. 酒 (酒量,嗜酒附) Wine (app. Measures of wine, Alcoholism)
234. 食 (能食,菲食附) Food (app. Appetite, Humble food)
235. 交友 Friendship
236.-237. 奢侈 Extravagance
238. 詭詐 Cunning
239.-241. 諂佞 Toadyism
242. 謬誤 (遺忘附) Mistakes (app. Forgetfulness)
243. 治生 (貪附) Earning a living (app. Greed)
244. 褊急 Narrow-mindedness
245.-252. 詼諧 Humour
253.-257. 嘲誚 Ridiculousness
258.-262. 嗤鄙 Contempt
263.-264. 無賴 Missing reliability
265.-266. 輕薄 Frivolity
267.-269. 酷暴 Cruelty
270.-273. 婦人 (妓女附) Women (app. Singsong girls)
274. 情感 Sentiments
275. 童僕 (奴婢附) Servants (app. a href="../../History/Terms/nuli.html">Slaves)
276.-282. 夢 (=鬼神) Dreams (= Ghosts I)
283. 巫 (厭咒附) Sorcerers (app. Insatiable curses)
284.-287. 幻術 Magic arts
288.-290. 妖妄 Weird occurrances
291.-315. 神 (淫祠附) Deities (app. Illegal shrines)
316.-355. Ghosts (II)
356.-357. 夜叉 Nocturnal monsters
358. 神魂 Souls
359.-367. 妖怪 (人妖附) Demons (app. Evil spirits)
368.-373. 精怪 Imagination of spirits, haunted objects
374. 靈異 Souls
375.-386. 再生 Rebirths
387.-388. 悟前生 Remininscences of former lives
389.-390. 冢墓 Tombs
391.-392. 銘記 Inscriptions
393.-395. Thunder
396. 雨 (風虹附) Rain (app. Rainbows)
397. 山 (溪附) Mountains (app. Creeks)
398. 石 (坡沙附) Stones (app. Sands)
399. 水 (井附) Water (app. Wells)
400.-405. 寶 (金玉,錢,奇物附) Jewels (app. Gold and jade, Money, Strange objects)
406.-417. 草木 (文理木,五穀,茶附) Herbs and trees (app. Grained wood, The five grains, Tea)
418.-425. Dragons
426.-433. Tigers
434.-446. 畜獸 Domestic animals and beasts
447.-455. Foxes
456.-459. Snakes
460.-463. 禽鳥 Birds
464.-472. 水族 (龜附) Aquatic animals (app. Tortoises and turtles)
473.-479. 昆虫 Worms and insects
480.-483. 蠻夷 Barbarian peoples
484.-492. 雜傳記 Miscellaneous biographies
493.-500. 雜錄 Miscellaneous records
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