An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shishantang cangshu mulu 世善堂藏書目錄

Dec 17, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Shishantang cangshu mulu 世善堂藏書目錄 "Catalogue of books in the Best of All Generations Hall" is a bibliography compiled during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Chen Di 陳第 (1541-1617), courtesy name Jili 季立, style Yizhai 一齋.

It lists and shortly describes more than 1,500 texts, all of which were written not earlier than the tenth century. The catalogue is arranged according to a system that slightly deviates from the traditional four categories of bibliography. The Four Books (sishu 四書) are separated from the proper Confucian Classics (Jing 經), followed by the "Masters" (Zi 子), history books (Shi 史) and belles-lettres collections (ji 集). As a sixth category, Chen Di created the section "individual Masters" (gejia 各家, i.e. writers on practical skills).

The section of Confucian Classics includes commentaries to the well-known canon, but makes clear distinctions between the Liji 禮記 "Records of Rites" and texts of the "two Dais" (Er Dai 二載), as well as the Yili 儀禮 "Ceremonies and Rites" and books on rituals and music (liyue 禮樂). Unlike many other catalogues, Chen established an own section for the glossary Erya 爾雅.

The Masters category knowns the early "many masters" (Zhuzi 諸子) that are followed by some Neo-Confucian texts that operated with the concept of the Way (Fudao zhuru 輔道諸儒), and "famous texts of various [old] masters transmitted over time" (Ge jia chuanshi mingshu 各家傳世名書, i.e. "classic" texts from antiquity, but also the Chuci 楚辭 "Songs of the South" that normally belong to the belles-lettres category).

The history section covers official dynastic histories (Zhengshi 正史), annals (Biannian 編年), excerpts from the important tongjian 通鑑 texts (i.e. the Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 etc., Xuetang jianxuan 學堂鑑選), chronicles of the Ming period (Mingchao jizai 明朝紀載), inofficial, private and "miscellaneous" histories (Baishi 稗史, Yeshi 野史, Zaji 雜記), phantastic stories (Yuguai ge shu 語怪各書), "veritable records" (Shilu 實錄), regional histories and history of illegal states (Pianju 偏據, Weishi偽史), historical critique (Shilun 史論), instructions and admonitions (Xunjie shu 訓誡書), books about foreign countries and peoples (Siyi zaiji 四譯[=夷]載記), local gazetteers (Fangzhou ge zhi 方州各志), Administrative rules through the ages (Lidai dianzhi 歷代典制), judicial texts (Lüli 律例), edicts (Zhaoling 詔令), memorials (Zouyi 奏議), genealogies (Puxi 譜系) and encyclopaedias (Leibian 類編).

The category of belles lettres is partially divided according to the social status of writers, partially chronogically, and partially according to the literary genre (prose or types of poetry). It ends with books on bronze and stone inscriptions and model calligraphies (Jinshi fatie 金石法帖) and dictionaries (Zixue 字學).

The last section of the Shishantang cangshu mulu are specialized books, branched out of the "Masters". It includes technical texts on agriculture (Nongpu 農圃), astronomy (Tianwen 天文), edicts concerning the seasons (Shiling 時令), the calendar (Lijia 曆家), divination by the Five Agents (Wuxing 五行), divination with hexagrams (Bushi 卜筮), geomancy (Kanyu 堪輿), divination by various objects (Xingxiang fengjian 形象風鑑), military matters (Bingjia shu 兵家書), medicine (Yijia 醫家), religious texts of Daoism (Shenxian daojia 神仙道家), Buddhist writings (Shidian 釋典), and books on "miscellaneous skills" (Zayi 雜藝).

The catalogue was important as a source for a revision of the late Song bibliography Jingji kao 經籍考 (part of the statecraft encyclopaedia Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考) during the Kangxi reign-period 康熙 (1662-1722). Many texts listed by Chen Di were not found in this old catalogue, and could be supplemented.

The Shishantang cangshu mulu is found in the series Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 and Zhibuzuzhai congshu 知不足齋叢書.

Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 201.
Xu Changsheng 徐長生 (2009). "Shishantang cangshu mulu pinglüe 《世善堂藏書目錄》評略", Tushu qingbao gongzuo 圖書情報工作, 2009 (9).