The Xuanhe ji guyin shi 宣和集古印史 "Ancient Seal Collection from the Xuanhe Reign", short Guyinshi 古印史 "A history of ancient seals", is a 8 juan "scrolls" long text, with an appendix on seals from the Qin period 秦 (221-206 BCE; Qin xi kao 秦璽考). The collection was compiled and commented by Lai Xingxue 來行學 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) and was printed in 1596, in eight volumes. It is introduced by two prefaces, one written by the collector Tu Long 屠隆, and one by Lai Xingxue.
The tradition of collecting and commenting ancient seals began with Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 (r. 1100-1125) of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) who has during the Xuanhe reign 宣和 (1119-1125) authored the Xuanhe yinpu 宣和印譜. This collection inspired Chao Keyi 晁克一 to publish the Ji guyin ge 集古印格 "Rules for the collection of ancient seals" and Jiang Kui 姜夔 with his Ji guyin pu 集古印譜 "Notes for the collection of ancient seals". Unfortunately those books are now all lost, but might still have existed in the 18th century, because they are shortly described in the descriptive bibliography Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要.
Lai Xingxue, courtesy name Lai Yanshu 來顏叔, came from Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang, and lived near Mt. Shijing 石箐山. In his preface he narrates that he was once ploughing a field, when he detected the fragments of an ancient coffin, among which a wooden case was to be found, lacquered in red. Inside the case, he found a book with the title Xuanhe yinshi 宣和印史 "History of seals from the Xuanhe reign", wrapped in Sichuanese silk. The short book included reproductions of more than 1,200 ancient official and more than 4,300 private seals. The text of the seal inscriptions was transcribed into modern script. Most of the seals, he explained, hailed form the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE)
, but the time frame ranged from the Qin to the Sui period 隋 (581-618).
Among all Ming period books on seals, the most widespread were master Gu Congde's 顧從德 Yinsou 印藪 and Wang Chang's 王常 Ji guyin pu 集古印譜, yet these collections are not focusing on ancient seals, and the reproductions included, are such of minor quality. Lai Xingxue was more crititally towards the quality of the seals and seal rubbings he was able to collect, and his book is therefore much better than the two just mentioned.
The scholar Zhang Xicheng 張心澄, author of a critical book on forgeries (Weishu tongkao 偽書通考), was of the opinion that Lai's statements about the finding of an old text in a tomb were false. His most important arguments are that no book of the title Xuanhe yinshi is mentioned in Song period bibliographies. Only the appendix of Wuqiu Yan's 吾丘衍 Xuegubian 學古編 mentions a 4 juan long book of this title, but it is doubtful whether content cited is original. The second argument concerns the preserved state of a wooden box and the paper of the book from the Song period that allegedly survived, while the coffin had decayed. The text was therefore not included in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書.
Eight copies have survived that are to be found in different libraries and museums of mainland China and Taiwan. A modern reproduction was published by the Qi-Lu shushe 齊魯書社 in 1995.
Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 1821.