An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yingxue congshuo 螢雪叢說

Aug 18, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Yingxue congshuo 螢雪叢說 "Dense talks bright as glowworms and snow" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Yu Cheng 俞成 (fl. 1150), courtesy name Yuande 元德. He hailed from Dongyang 東陽 (modern Jinhua 金華, Zhejiang) and failed to pass the state examination. He therefore decided, aged more than forty, to study literature and to note down his thoughts that shone like "reflections of snow and a bag full of glowworms" (nang ying ying xue 囊螢映雪). A book based on these reflections was able, he said, to demonstrate that his scholarship was still brilliant and his wit still sharp.

His 2-juan-long book therefore speaks a lot about the difficulties of learning and the preparation for the state examinations. Yu Cheng discusses historiography, exegesis, poetry, prayers, sacrificial texts, rhapsodies, phonology and the composition of poems, and about competent persons at the imperial court that were underrated by historians, and many other themes of relevance to education, scholarship and the life of state officials, all in all sixty chapters.

The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 criticized Yu Cheng's book for its failure to understand great matters. It is nevertheless an important source for the analysis of Song period scholars' preparation for official career.

The Yingxue congshuo is included in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Xu baichuan xuehai 續百川學海, Baihai 稗海, Jinhua congshu 金華叢書, Ruxue jing'wu 儒學警悟, Shuofu 說郛 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

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, 1962.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1994). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 603.
Zhang Zhonggang 張忠綱 (2004). "Yingxue congshuo bianyi 《螢雪叢說》編佚", Shaanxi Shifan Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 陝西師範大學學報(哲學社會科學版), 2004 (4): 128.