An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yuanwenlei 元文類

Sep 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Yuanwenlei 元文類 is a collection of poetry and prose literature from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The original title was Guochao wenlei 國朝文類 "Categorized literature from Our Dynasty". The book was compiled by Su Tianjue 蘇天爵 (1294-1352) and finished in 1334. In 70 juan, it comprises literature works from the times of Ögödei Qaɣan (r. 1229-1241) to Emperor Renzong 元仁宗 (r. 1311-1320). The more than 800 works are divided into 13 different categories (lei 類).

Su Tianjue, courtesy name Boxiu 伯修, from Zhending 真定(today's Zhengding 正定, Hebei), was a historian an took part in the compilation of the veritable records (shilu 實錄) of the emperors Wuzong 元武宗 (r. 1307-1311) and Wenzong 元文宗 (r. 1328, 1329-1331). His intention was to use literary sources as sources for historiography. For this reason his book has not only literary value but has also to be viewed from the sight of historiography. It can be compared with similar works like Yao Xuan's 姚鉉 (967-1020) Tangwencui 唐文粹 or Lü Zuqian's 呂祖謙 (1137-1181) Songwenjian 宋文鑒.

The Yuanwenlei is, of course, a treasury for Yuan-period literature which is only preserved in this book, like writings of Wang E 王鶚 (1190-1273), Li Qian 李謙 (1232-1310), Yan Fu 閻復 (1236-1312), or Yuan Mingshan 元明善 (1269-1322). Very interesting are the stone inscriptions collected by Yao Sui 姚燧 (1239-1314). His collection Mu'anji 牧庵集 as contained in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 has been thoroughly revised for this project. In the Yuanwenlei the original text is preserved. The Yuanwenlei has been criticized because it contains a lot of works concerned with practical politics that miss literary quality, while better writings have not been considered by Su Tianjue.

The commonly used version is the reprint in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 which is a facsimile of the 1342 printing of the Xihu Shuyuan Press 西湖書院 in Hangzhou.

Table 1. Contents of the Yuanwenlei 元文類
1 Rhapsodies
2 樂章,四言詩 Musical stanzas, four-syllable poems
3 五言古詩 Five-syllable old poetry
4 樂府歌行 Songs of the music-bureau style
5 七言古詩 Seven-syllable old poetry
6 五言律詩 Five-syllable regular poems
7 七言律詩 Seven-syllable regular poems
8 五言絶句 Five-syllable short poems
9 詔赦 Imperial edicts and amnesties
10 冊文 Letters of patent
11-12 Decrees
13-15 奏議 Memorials
16-17 表, 牋, 箴, 銘 Memoranda, addresses, admonitions, inscriptions
18 頌, 贊 Eulogies and praises
19-26 碑文 Stele inscriptions
27-31 Records
32-36 Prefaces
37 Letters
38 Explanations
39 題跋 Conduct descriptions
51 墓誌 Tomb inscriptions
52-54 墓誌銘 Tomb inscriptions with poem
55 墓碣 Grave inscriptions
56 墓表 Presentational writings on tomb stones
57-68 神道碑 Inscriptions on stones of soul paths
69-70 Biographies
Fan Ning 范寧 (1986). "Yuanwenlei 元文類", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1206.
Gao Wende 高文德, ed. (1995). Zhongguo shaoshu minzu shi da cidian 中國少數民族史大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 235.
Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe). 267.
Na Xiaobo 那曉波 (1993). "Yuanwenlei 《元文類》", Heilongjiang minzu congkan 黑龍江民族叢刊, 1993 (4): 14.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1994). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 51.
Xu Longyao 徐隆垚 (2019). "Yuanwenlei zhi siku tiyao fafu 《元文類》之四庫提要發覆", Zhongguo dianji yu wenhua 中國典籍與文化, 2019 (2): 78-87
Yang Ne 楊訥 (1992). "Yuanwenlei 元文類", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, 1459.