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Chinese Literature
Xuegubian 學古編 "Studies in Antiquity"


The Xuegubian 學古編 "Studies in antiquity" is a book on seal carving compiled by the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) scholar Wuqiu Yan 吾丘衍. The introduction to this short book explains the change of the Chinese script and the development of the so-called seal script (zhuan 篆), as well as methods to carve it into seal stones. There are 46 chapters describing the different use of seal script that can be applied to a wide range of different surfaces and objects, from seals and bronze vessels to stone slabs, objects of daily use and wooden tablets hanging over the entrace of buildings. It is also explained how water or oil are used during the cutting process. The author holds that although private seal carving can be seen as a "minor art" (xiaoji 小技) it is nevertheless no match for calligraphy nor is it a kind of craft. The skill of seal carving was mastered by a lot of scholars like Chao Keyi 晁克一, Wang Qiu 王俅, Yan Shuxia 顏叔夏, Jiang Kui 姜夔 or Wang Houzhi 王厚之. Wuqiu Yan describes skills of former masters and critically examines their works. His book is based on the writings of older scholars, but enriched with a lot of own opinions, as the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Xu Guan 徐官 observed in his book Gujin yinshi 古今印史.
The Xuegubian is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書, Guang baichuan xuehai 廣百川學海, Shuyuan 書苑, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討源 and Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1821. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

June 10, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail