An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖

Jul 6, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖 "Illustrations on a wide ranges of antiques from the Xuanhe reign-period", abbreviated to Bogutu 博古圖, is a 30-juan long descriptive catalogue of antiques. It was compiled during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) by the minister and scholar Wang Fu 王黼 (1079-1126), courtesy name Jiangming 將明, who hailed from Xiangfu 祥符 (today's Kaifeng 開封, Henan). He obtained the jinshi degree 進士 during the Chongning reign-period 崇寧 (1102-1106), was known for his intelligence, and therefore recommended by the Counsellor-in-chief He Zhi 何執 (1043-1116) for the post of editor in the palace library (jiaoshulang 校書郎). The next Counsellor, Cai Jing 蔡京 (1047-1126), promoted him to the post of left court gentleman for consultation (zuo jianyi dafu 左諫議大夫). Wang in his craftiness accused Cai of twenty capital crimes and in 1120 became his successor. His policy was openly benevolent to the people, so he was known as the "wise counsellor" (xianxiang 賢相), yet in fact, he boundlessly enriched himself. He once conducted the negotiations with the Jurchens of the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234), and sold back six cities in the region of Yanjing 燕京 (modern Beijing), which he declared as a great victory, and was rewarded with the title of Junior Mentor of the Heir Apparent (shaofu 少傅). When Emperor Qinzong 宋欽宗 (r. 1125-1126) succeeded to the throne, he dismissed Wang Fu as one of the "six bandit-ministers" (liu zei 六賊) of the age. Wang Fu wandered around in the vicinity of the capital Kaifeng, and was soon murdered in Yongqiu 雍丘.

The author of the Xuanhe bogu tu is in the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) catalogue Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 called Wang Chu 王楚. This error was first corrected by Qing Zeng 錢曾 (1629-1701), author of the catalogue Dushu minqiu ji 讀書敏求記. This result was confirmed by the compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

The book was begun in 1107 and finished in 1123, during the Xuanhe reign-period (1119-1125). It describes 839 objects from the imperial collection of the Xuanhe Hall 宣和殿. All antiques are drawn in illustrations, and arranged in more than 50 categories of objects. These were tripods (ding 鼎, nai 鼐, 1-5), mugs (zun 尊, lei 罍, 6-7), kettles (yi 彝, zhou 舟, 8, you 卣, 9-11), vases (ping 瓶), jars (hu 壺, 12-13), beakers (jue 爵, 14, jiagu 觚, dou 斗, zhi 巵, zhi 觶, jue 角, bei 杯, dun 敦, 15-17), vessels with heavy bases (fu 簠, gui 𣪕/簋), cups (dou 豆), jars (fu 鋪, yan 甗, ding 錠, 18, li 鬲, fu 鍑, he 盉, 19, yan 盦, jiao 鐎, bu 瓿, ying 罌, bingjian 冰鑑, bingdou 冰斗), footed ladles (yi 匜), basins (yipan 匜盤, xi 洗, pen 盆, xuan 鋗, yu 杅, 20-21), bells (zhong 鐘, 22-25), lithophones (qing 磬), various types of bells (chun 錞, duo 鐸, zheng 鉦, nao 鐃, qi 戚 26), metal implements from chariots or crossbows, vanity cases, money or water jars for painting (nuji 弩機, dui 鐓, lian 奩, qian 錢, yandi 硯滴, tuoyuan 托轅, chengyuan 承轅, lushi 輅飾), and mirrors (jian 鑒, 28-30).

Tripod of the Jiang clan from Jin (Jin jiang ding 晉姜鼎). On the right an illustration of the vessel, to the upper left a rubbing of the inscription, and to the lower left the author's transcription/translation into contemporary Chinese characters. Siku quanshu edition of the Xuanhe bogu tu, juan 2, fol. 6. Click to enlarge (opens in new tablet).
First bell of the set of five of the Marquis of Qi (Qi hou fu 齊侯鎛). The picture shows just the beginning of the inscription and transcription. The full length of it is 492 characters. Juan 22, fol. 4.

The objects date from between the late Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) through the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The book is one of the most important early collections of antique objects and is thus a demonstration of the interest of Song-period scholars in archaeology and the culture of their ancestors. The descriptions of the objects are very precise, and indicate height or diameter, volume or weight, the material used, and give information on the inscriptions and decorations. The book is one of the the earliest attempts to decipher the bronze inscriptions on ritual vessels from the Shang and early Zhou period, yet there are still many misinterpretations in the transcriptions.

The catalogue is very helpful to verify or disprove statements in the transmitted version of the ritual text Sanlitu 三禮圖. It includes a great number of famous and outstanding vessels, as the Jin jiang tripod 晉姜鼎 or the Qi hou bell 齊侯鎛 (first of a set of 5 bells, inscription only beginning, full length 492 characters). The terminology for ancient vessels was more or less standardized during the Song period, and is still in use by archaeologists today.

The earliest surviving print dates from 1528 (by Jiang Yang 蔣颺 or 蔣暘), others from 1588 (by the Boru Studio 泊如齋), 1596 (Zheng Pu 鄭樸), 1600 (Wu Wanhua 吳萬化, Baogu Studio 寶古堂), and 1603 (Wu Gonghong 吳公宏). Jiang Yang reproduced an original print of the Yuanzhi reign-period 元至 (1264-1294, called Chongxiu Xuanhe bogu tu 重修宣和博古圖). The Baogu edition was in 1752 reproduced by Huang Sheng 黃晟 (Yizheng Studio 亦政堂). The Chongxiu Xuanhe bogu tu is also found in the Siku quanshu.

Beijing Dongfang Shoucangjia Xiehui 北京東方收藏家協會, ed. (1996). Zhonghua shoucang da cidian 中華收藏大辭典 (Beijing: Beijing Yanshan chubanshe), 185.
Chen Gongrou 陳公柔 (1992). "Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Kaoguxue 考古學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 590.
Du Naisong 杜迺松 (1993). "Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Wenwu bowuguan 文物•博物館 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 653.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1852.
Li Xuezhong 李學中 (1997). "Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanjin 張燕瑾, eds. i>Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 951.
蜀漢 (221-263)