Taiping yulan 太平御覽 "Imperial overview from the Taiping [xingguo] reign-period (976-983)" is the first large encyclopaedia of ancient China. It is one of the so-called "four large books" (Song si da shu 宋四大書) of the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). The compendium is occasionally called Taiping bianlei 太平編類, Taiping zonglei 太平總類 or Taiping leibian 太平類編.
The Hanlin academician Li Fang 李昉 (925-996) took over the supervision of the compilation, which was done by 13 scholars, among them Hu Meng 扈蒙 (915-986), Wang Kezhen 王克貞 and Song Bai 宋白 (936-1012). It has a total length of 1,000 juan and is divided into 55 topics with 5,363 articles, with 63 articles or topics appended to other chapters. The compilation began in 977 and was finished in 983 and submitted to the throne with the title Taiping zonglei "General topics of the Taiping reign-period". Emperor Taizong 宋太宗 (r. 976-997) gave the encyclopaedia the transmitted title because he had personally read through the whole manuscript, and thus endorsed it as a book studied by the sovereign himself.
The imperial library and its holdings was the main source for the Taiping yulan, but the compilers also made use of older encyclopaedias by enlarging, extending and supplementing full quotations of them. Such books were, for example, the Xiuwendian yulan 修文殿御覽, Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 or Wensi boyao 文思博要, of which today only the 100-juan-long Yiwen leiju has survived. The Taiping yulan is thus, due to this type of quotations, a very important source for pre-Song sources which are not preserved. For the compilation, a total number of 1,689 sources have been used a list of which can be found at the beginning of the encylopaedia (Jingshi tushu gangmu 經史圖書綱目). The scholar Ma Nianzu 馬念祖 found out that in fact, 2,579 books have been quoted and used, but not all of them are listed in the tushu gangmu. About 70 to 80 per cent of the sources quoted are lost. Unfortunately, the method of quoting older encyclopedias instead of consulting the primary sources (at least for books still available at the time), is a lack of scholarly diligence. As to surviving sources, however, it is helpful to compare these texts with the quotations in the Taiping yulan, for often enough, the wording of the received versions is not fully identical to the quotations in the Taiping yulan. One weak point of the Taiping yulan is its overall composition which has not been adjusted in all parts.
The oldest surviving fragment of a Song-period print of the Taiping yulan has been reproduced by the Bisong Studio 皕宋樓, surviving in the Japanese Seikadō Studio 靜嘉堂. A further print was produced in Sichuan in 1199. In 1573, a moveable character print was published. Another edition was published during the Wanli reign-period 萬曆 (1573-1619) by Ni Bingxiao 倪炳校, the so-called Huangzheng seben 黃正色本 edition. In 1806, Wang Changxu 汪昌序 published another moveable-type print, while yet another moveable-type print was produced in 1855 by the Japanese scholar Master Kitamura 喜多村氏. In 1894, the Jishan Press 積山書局 in Shanghai published the first modern edition. The Shanghai Shangwu Press 上海商務印書館 made a facsimile of a Song-period print in 1935 (the Hanfenlou Studio 涵芬樓 edition, see Hanfenlou miji 涵芬樓秘笈), which is included in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊. This series was reprinted in 1960 by the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局. The Taiping yulan is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.
|511.-521.||宗親部||Ancestors and relatives|
|522.-562.||禮儀部||Rites and etiquette|
|620.-634.||治道部||The way of rulership|
|720.-737.||方術部||Magic and divination|
|738.-743.||疾病部||Sickness and disease|
|756.-765.||器物部||Objects of daily life|
|780.-801.||四夷部||The four barbarians|
|837.-842.||百榖部||The hundred grains|
|843.-867.||飲食部||Eating and drinking|
|881.-884.||神鬼部||Deities and ghosts|
|885.-888.||妖異部||Spectres and strange things|
|944.-951.||蟲豸部||Worms, insects and small animals|
|994.-1000.||百卉部||The hundred herbs and flowers|