An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Youyang zazu 酉陽雜俎

Nov 28, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Youyang zazu 酉陽雜俎 "A table full of miscellaneous writings from south of Mt. You" is a collection of phantastic stories compiled during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by the writer and politician Duan Chengshi 段成式 (803-863), courtesy name Kegu 柯古. Duan hailed from Linzi 臨淄 in the prefecture of Qizhou 齊州 (modern Zibo 淄博, Shandong) inherited the post of Counsellor-in-chief (zaixiang 宰相) from his father Duan Wencheng 段文昌 (773-835). Later on, Duan was regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Yezhou 葉州 and Vice Minister in the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (taichang shaoqing 太常少卿). Duan Chengshi was known as a highly educated person and a writer of many essays. Together with Li Shangyin 李商隱 (813-858) and Wen Tingyun 溫庭筠 (801-1866), he is one of the authors of the so-called Sanshiliu ti zhangzhou 三十六體章奏 "Thirty-six-style memorials". He also authored a book called Luling guanxia ji 廬陵官下記, which is lost. Of his collection Shuofu 說郛 (not the great Shuofu 說郛 of Tao Zongyi 陶宗儀!), only some 60 fragments are preserved, and only 18 of his 56 poems.

"You" 酉 is the name of a mountain, Mt. Xiaoyou 小酉山, near modern Yuanling 沅陵, Hubei. At the foot of the mountain is a cave that for long centuries served as a storeroom for a library of secret Daoist books.

The Youyang zazu consists of two collections, the first (Qianji 前集) including 30 chapters in 20 juan, and the supplement (Xuji 續集) 6 chapters in 10 juan. It records bizarre stories of immortals, Buddhas, ghosts, normal persons, as well as such of strange animals, plants, foodstuff, monasteries and temples, and so on. On the one hand, the stories are characterized as such of the very popular style of strange personalities and phenomena (zhiguai 志怪, chuanqi 傳奇), while on the other hand, there are a lot of tales of curious places and things, which rather belong into the category of descriptive geography, similar to Zhang Hua's 張華 (232-300) Bowuzhi 博物志 from the Jin period 晉 (265-420).

Part of the stories has been collected by Duan Chengshi, but he is also the author of some of the tales. Some of the titles are quite cryptic and do not directly expose the content like the story of the jar (Hushi 壺史) about Daoist magic, the chapter of the shell (Beibian 貝編), which has Buddhist content, the body/corpse's grave (Shixi 尸穸), which speaks of funeral rites, or a phantastic story with the title of Nuogaoji 諾皋記. In the supplementary part there is a very detailed description of the construction of Buddhist monasteries in the capital Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), the Sitaji 寺塔記, which is of great value as a source for the history of Buddhism, arts, and construction.

The Youyang zazu is included in the series Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, Congshu jicheng 叢書集成 and the Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

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, 2174.
Schafer, Edward H. (1986). "Yu-yang tsa-tsu 酉陽雜俎", in William H. Nienhauser, ed. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 940-941.
Wang Yunxi 王運熙, Jin Xingyao 金性堯 (1986). "Youyang zazu 酉陽雜俎", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1178.