An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tieyun canggui 鐵雲藏龜

Jan 3, 2020 © Ulrich Theobald

Tieyun canggui 鐵雲藏龜 "Tortoise [pieces] owned by [Master] Iron Cloud" is a catalogue of oracle bone pieces collected by the scholar, scientist and writer Liu E 劉鶚 (1857-1909), original name Mengpeng 孟鵬, courtesy name Yuntuan 雲摶, Tieyun 鐵雲 or Gongyue 公約.

Liu hailed form Dantu 丹徒, Jiangsu, is is better known as author of the romance Lao Can youji 老殘游記 "The Travels of Lao Can". Yet Liu was also an ardent collector of antiques, like rubbings of inscriptions, coins, calligraphy, and also fragments of oracle bones, of which he owned more than 5,000. He had obtained most of them from the collector Wang Yirong 王懿榮 (1845-1900).

Liu was one of the first persons who recognized that the characters on the bones were inscriptions from the Shang period 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE). The most important criterion for this disovery was the appearance of Celestial Stems in combination with the posthumous names of rulers which was only in use in that early age. Liu was possible to correctly identify about 40 characters from the lexicon of the bone inscriptions.

Liu had his catalogue printed in 1903 by the Baocanshouque Studio 抱殘守缺齋, which was actually his own study. The lithographic print—being China's first catalogue of oracle bones (by the editors called guiban 龜板)—appeared in 6 volumes and showed the rubbings of 1,058 pieces (with 7 pieces appearing twice). The book is introduced by a preface written by Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866-1940), Wang Changshou 吳昌綬 (b. 1867), and Liu E himself.

Figure 1. First page of the Tieyun canggui 鐵雲藏龜
First page of the Tieyun canggui 鐵雲藏龜, showing rubbings of oracle bone pieces collected by the Baocanshouque Studio 抱殘守缺齋, the study of Liu E.

An expanded print appeared in 1931 in Shanghai (Yinyin Studio 蟫隱廬), with annotations by Bao Ding 鮑鼎 (1899-1979), and additions (Tieyun canggui zhi yu 鐵云藏龜之餘) by Luo Zhenyu. The 1959 print of the Yiwen Yinshuguan 藝文印書館 in Taibei is a facsimile. Yan Yiping 嚴一萍 (1912-1987) rearranged the material of the book and added scholarly information on the individual pieces. His Tieyun canggui xinbian appeared in 1975 鐵雲藏龜新編. Ye Yusen 葉玉森 (1880-1933) published a further supplement called Tieyun guicang shiyi 鐵雲藏龜拾遺, just like Li Danqiu 李旦丘 (Li Yanong 李亞農, 1906-1962), compiler of Tieyun guicang lingshi 鐵雲藏龜零拾.

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