An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要

Sept 10, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要, shortly called Zongmu tiyao 總目提要, is a descriptive catalogue to the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. It was compiled under the supervision of Ji Yun 紀昀 and reports the most important facts (tiyao 提要) about the history and content of each book that is included in the Siku quanshu, as well as its editions and the life and career of the author or compiler, and the strengths and shortcomings of the texts.

A very important information are the remarks about the origin of the texts, be it owned by the imperial library or presented to the throne by a private collector in the course of the Siku quanshu project. The catalogue follows the same structure in which the Siku quanshu is arranged. Each of the four categories was put into the hands of a different supervisor. Dai Zhen 戴震 was responsible for the Confucian Classics (Jingbu 經部), Shao Jinhan 邵晉涵 for the histories (Shibu 史部), Zhou Shujing 周書昌 for the "masters and philosophers" (Zibu 子部), and Ji Yun for the belles-lettres section (Jibu 集部). The final redaction of the text was taken over by Ji Yun.

The four categories and the subcategories are introduced by general prefaces (zongxu 總敘) and "smaller prefaces" (xiaoxu 小敘), respectively, in which the contents of the sections and methods and criteria of selection and compilation are explained. In-between the individual descriptions of the texts, remarks (anyu 按語) are interspersed. At the end of each section some further "existing" books (cunmu 存目) are added, for which a description was written, but whose text was not included in the series. While there are 3,461 texs included in the Siku quanshu, the Cunmu amounts to 6,793 books.

The Zongmu tiyao was finished in 1782, presented to the throne and after approval printed by the imperial printing shop in the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian 武英殿), but only in 1789, because the series itself contained in the end more books than the original catalogue. Another version was printed in Zhejiang (called Fankeben 翻刻本). The Zongmu has a length of 200 juan, but Ji Yun had also a version published that only includes the books whose text was included in the Siku quanshu. It is 20-juan long and called Siku quanshu jianming mulu 四庫全書簡明目錄.

In 1965 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 published a new edition of the Zongmu tiyao that is a facsimile of the Zhejiang edition. This edition includes three appendixes with books that were lost or willingly destroyed during the compilation process (Siku chehui shu tiyao 四庫撤毀書提要) and books that were not included in the Siku quanshu (Siku weishou shu tiyao 四庫未收書提要).

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