An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Taiping yulan 太平御覽

Oct 14, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Taiping yulan 太平御覽 "Imperial overview from the Taiping [xingguo] reign (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). It was also called Taiping bianlei 太平編類, Taiping zonglei 太平總類 and Taiping leibian 太平類編.

The Hanlin academician Li Fang 李昉 took over the supervision of the compilation, which was done by 13 scholars, among them Hu Meng 扈蒙, Wang Kezhen 王克貞 and Song Bai 宋白. It is 1,000 juan "scrolls" long and divided into 55 topics with 5,363 articles. There are 63 articles appended to other chapters. The compilation began in 977 and was finished in 983 and submitted to the throne with the title of Taiping zonglei "General topics of the Taiping reign". Emperor Taizong 宋太宗 (r. 976-997) gave the encyclopedia the later known title because he had personally read through the whole manuscript. The imperial library was one main source for the Taiping yulan, but the compilers also made use of older encyclopedias of which the manuscripts were used and enlarged. These were, for example, the Xiuwendian yulan 修文殿御覽, Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 and Wensi boyao 文思博要, of which only the 100 juan long Yiwen leiju has survived. The Taiping yulan is, due to its quotations, a very important source for pre-Song sources which are not preserved. For the compilation 1,689 books have been used, of which a list has been made at the beginning of the encylopedia (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 since. Unfortunately the compilers of the Taiping yulan made use of a lot of other, older encyclopedias instead of consulting the primary sources - if those were still available during the Northern Song period. As to the preserved books it is important to have the quotation in the Taiping yulan at hand in which often words are not identical to the commonly received versions of older books. 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 has been reproduced by the Bisong Studio 皕宋樓, surviving in the Japanese Seikadō Studio 靜嘉堂. A further print was made in Sichuan in 1199. In 1573, a moveable character print was made. Another edition was published during the Wanli reign 萬曆 (1573-1619) by Ni Bingxiao 倪炳校, the so-called Huangzheng seben 黃正色本. In 1806 Wang Changxu 汪昌序 published another moveable type print, another moveable type print was done in 1855 by the Japanese scholar Kitamura N 喜多村氏. In 1894 the Jishan press 積山書局 in Shanghai published a 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.

Table 1. Contents of the Taiping yulan 太平御覽
1.-15. 天部 Tian Heaven
16.-35. 時序部 Shixu The seasons
36.-75. 地部 Di The earth
76.-116. 皇王部 Huangwang Emperors
117.-134. 偏霸部 Pianba Hegemons
135.-154. 皇親部 Huangqin Imperial relatives
155.-172. 州郡部 Zhoujun Administrative geography
173.-197. 居處部 Juchu Buildings
198.-202. 封建部 Fengjian Regional states
203.-269. 職官部 Zhiguan State offices
270.-359. 兵部 Bing Military
360.-500. 人事部 Renshi Human affairs
501.-510. 逸民部 Yimin Hermits
511.-521. 宗親部 Zongqin Ancestors and relatives
522.-562. 禮儀部 Liyi Rites and etiquette
563.-584. 樂部 Yue Music
585.-606. 文部 Wen Literature
607.-619. 學部 Xue Learning
620.-634. 治道部 Zhidao The way of rulership
635.-652. 刑法部 Xingfa Penal law
653.-658. 釋部 Shi Buddhism
659.-679. 道部 Dao Daoism
680.-683. 儀式部 Yishi Ritual tools
684.-698. 服章部 Fuzhuang Clothing
699.-719. 服用部 Fuyong Objects
720.-737. 方術部 Fangshu Magic and divination
738.-743. 疾病部 Jibing Sickness and disease
744.-755. 工藝部 Gongyi Handicrafts
756.-765. 器物部 Qiwu Objects of daily life
766.-767. 雜物部 Zawu Miscellaneous things
768.-771. 舟部 Zhou Boats
772.-776. 車部 Che Carts
777.-779. 奉使部 Fengshi Submitting petty officials
780.-801. 四夷部 Siyi The four barbarians
802.-813. 珍寶部 Zhenbao Jewels
814.-820. 布帛部 Bubo Textiles
821.-836. 資產部 Zichan Production
837.-842. 百榖部 Baigu The hundred grains
843.-867. 飲食部 Yinshi Eating and drinking
868.-871. 火部 Huo Fire
872.-873. 休徵部 Xiuzheng Favourable signs
874.-880. 咎徵部 Jiuzheng Inauspicious prognostications
881.-884. 神鬼部 Shengui Deities and ghosts
885.-888. 妖異部 Yaoyi Spectres and strange things
889.-913. 獸部 Shou Hairy animals
914.-928. 羽族部 Yuzu Feathered animals
929.-943. 鱗介部 Linjie Scaly animals
944.-951. 蟲豸部 Chongzhi Worms, insects and small animals
952.-961. 木部 Mu Trees
962.-962. 竹部 Zhu Bamboos
964.-975. 果部 Guo Fruits
976.-980. 菜部 Cai Vegetables
981.-983. 香部 Xiang Perfumes
984.-993. 藥部 Yao Medicine
994.-1000. 百卉部 Baihui The hundred herbs and flowers
Chan, P.L. (1986). “T‘ai-p‘ing yü-lan 太平御覽”, in William H. Nienhauser, ed. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 745-745.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2037. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Hu Daojing 胡道精 (1992). "Taiping yulan 太平御覽", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 2, p. 1082. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.