An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Changwuzhi 長物志

Aug 29, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Changwuzhi 長物志 "Treatise on superfluous things" is a book on antiques written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Wen Zhenheng 文震亨 (1585-1645), courtesy name Qimei 啟美. He hailed from Changzhou 長洲 (modern Wuxian 吳縣, Jiangsu) and was a great-grandson of the painter, calligrapher and writer Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559, Wen Hengshan 文衡山). Wen Zhenheng himself also professed in graphic arts, and was an excellent player of the zither. During the Tianqi reign-period 天啟 (1621-1627) he was appointed drafter in the Imperial Secretariat (zhongshu sheren 中書舍人) and later secretariat drafter in the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian zhongshu sheren 武英殿中書舍人). After the downfall of the Ming and the conquest of China by the Manchus, founders of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911), he ceased to eat and starved himself to dead. His posthumous honorific title is Wen Jiemin 文節愍公.

The 12-juan-long book Changwuzhi is divided into 12 chapters each of which covers and encyclopaedic theme. The title of the book is derived from a statement of Wang Gong 王恭 (350-398) about himself that is narrated in the book Shishuo xinyu 世說新語. Wang Gong says that he was "the sort of person who has no extra things" (zuo ren wu chang wu 作人無長物, transl. Mather). The themes of the Changwuzhi are mainly objects dealt with in the leisure-time activities of the literati. In the general structure the book resembles Zhao Xihu's 趙希鵠 (1170-1242) Dongtian qinglu 洞天清錄 and Tu Long's 屠隆 (1542-1605) Kaopan yushi 考槃餘事, but it is much less detailed than these books. The preface is written by Shen Chunze 沈春澤, who describes in detail the strengths and shortcomings of each chapter. At the beginning of each chapter, Wen Zhenheng explains the purpose of it, like in the chapter on painting and calligraphy where he says that it is important to preserve, to esteem, to describe and to rate the works of famous artists of the past, in order to preserve them. Unlike metal ores and jewels, art works are not inexhaustibly (bu qiong 不窮) produced by nature.

The Changwuzhi is included in the series Yanyun jiayi bian 硯雲甲乙編, Shuoku 說庫, Xu yueyatang congshu 續粵雅堂叢書, Meishu congshu 美術叢書, Xiaoyulin 小鬱林 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. In 1984 the Jiangsu Kexue Jishu Press 江蘇科學技術出版社 published a modern critical edition annotated by Chen Zhi 陳植 and Yang Chaobo 楊超伯.

Table 1. Contents of the Changwuzhi 長物志
1. 室廬 Shilu Buildings and huts
2. 花木 Huamu Flowers and trees
3. 水石 Shuishi Waters and stones
4. 禽魚 Qinyu Birds and fishes
5. 書畫 Shuhua Calligraphy and painting
6. 几榻 Jita Furniture
7. 器具 Qiju Tools and implements
8. 衣飾 Yishi Clothes and adornment
9. 舟車 Zhouche Boats and carts
10. 位置 Weizhi Interior design
11. 蔬果 Shuguo Vegetables and fruits
12. 香茗 Xiangming Fragrances and teas
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, 2002.