An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shigutang shuhua huikao 式古堂書畫彙考

Mar 29, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Shigutang shuhua huikao 式古堂書畫彙考 is a catalogue of books on calligraphy and paintings with the special function of widely quoting from them. The book of 60 juan was compiled by Bian Yongyu 卞永譽 (1645-1712), courtesy name Lingzhi 令之, style Xianrong 仙容. He was a member of the Chinese Bordered Red Banner (Hanjun xianghong qi 漢軍鑲紅旗, or the Plain White Banner?) and made it to the position of provincial governor (xunfu 巡撫) of Fujian, and later became Right Vice Minister of Justice (xingbu you shilang 刑部右侍郎).

The preface of the book dates from 1682. It is divided into two parts, first calligraphy, and then paintings, each part with a length of 30 juan. All sources consist of texts describing artworks in the possession of the respective authors, or artworks they had personally inspected. Both parts are introduced by theoretical parts, namely Shuping 書評 and Shuzhi 書旨, and Lunhua 論畫, respectively. The main text of the book follows a clear structure with guidelines and elaboration (gangmu 綱目), and overviews and genres or types (zongfen 總分). The artworks themselves are first described in detail, then the accompanying notes (kuanzhi 款識, ti-ba 題跋) are discussed, followed by quotations from secondary literature. Even if the number of sources Bian quotes is very vast with more than 80 texts, it must be said that the compiler relied too much of them, and did not personally inspect all artworks described. Many statements are derived from the books Shanhuwang 珊瑚網 and Qinghe shuhua fang 清河書畫舫. It is often not clear, which copies of artworks were among Bian's own collection, and which ones not. Quite remarkable is that Bian's quotations from some texts do not correspond to the transmitted versions. There are also many errors in details, but the overall scholarly achievement of Bian's catalogue is considerable.

The book is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. A modern edition was published in 1991 by the Shanghai Guji Chubanshe 上海古籍出版社.

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