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Chinese Literature
Yiyu tuzan 異魚圖贊 "Praise-poems to Illustrations of Extraordinary Fishes"


Yuyu tuzan
Yiyu tuzan jian
Yuyu tuzan bu
The Yiyu tuzan 異魚圖贊 "Praise-poems to illustrations of extraordinary fishes" is a description of many species of fish compiled by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Yang Shen 楊慎 (1488-1559), courtesy name Yang Yongxiu 楊用修, style Sheng'an 升庵. He came from Xindu 新都, Sichuan, but his ancestors hailed from Luling 廬陵 (modern Ji'an 吉安, Jiangxi). He obtained the jinshi degree in 1511 and was appointed senior compiler (xiuzhuan 修撰) of the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. During the Jiajing reign 嘉靖 (1522-1566) he dared remonstranting against Emperor Shizong's 明世宗 refusal to perform a correct legalization of his succession to the throne. He was punished by the cane and was banished to Yongchang 永昌, Yunnan. He was only pardoned after several decades and returned to Sichuan, where he died. Yang Shen was posthumously rehabilitated and was granted the title of a Vice Minister in the Court of Imperial Entertainments (guanglu shaoqing 光禄少卿), as well as the honorific name of Duke Wenxian 文憲公. Yang Shen is known as a famous writer and thinker of the Ming period.
According to the preface, written in 1544, the author wrote this book to supplement older texts like the Xizhou huashi lu 西州畫史錄 or Nanchao yiyu tu 南朝異魚圖 with illustrations. These two books furthermore confused the names of a lot of species, so that it was necessary to rectify these statements. Yang Shen studied the writings of Wan Zhen 萬震 (Nanzhou yiwu zhi 南州異物志) and Shen Huaiyuan 沈懷遠 (Nanyue zhi 南越志) on extraordinary objects and compared them with the older texts of Guo Pu 郭璞 and Zhang Jun 張駿. The latter were written in the style of "praises" (zanti 贊體). Correct statements were integrated into Yang's book, but others had to be amended. For all described species Yang Shen added drawings, yet these are all lost. The 4 juan "scrolls" long book describes 87 species of fish. 86 of them were described in zan 贊 "praise" style poems. The last scroll includes descriptions of 35 species of river snails, shells, conches, clams and other marine products. These are described in 34 zan.
The book is not only interesting as a prove for an early scientific treatment of the realm of ichthyology, but also known for the excellent language in which the descriptions are written. The sources of Yang Shen are somewhat doubtful because it must be assumed that the Nanzhou yiwu zhi or the Nanyue zhi were already lost during his time.
The Yiyu tuzan is included in the collectanea Hanhai 函海, Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Yihai zhuchen 藝海珠塵, Fenxitang congshu 紛欣閣叢書, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Congshu jicheng 叢書集成.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1867. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.


The Yiyu tuzan jian 異魚圖贊箋 is a commentary to the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) book Yiyu tuzan 異魚圖贊 that was written by Yang Shen 楊慎. The commentary came from the desk of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Hu Shi'an 胡世安, courtesy name Hu Chujing 胡處靜, style Jutan 菊潭. He came from Jingyan 井研, Sichuan, and obtained the jinshi degree in 1628. He was appointed to the office of vice supervisor of the household of the heir apparent (shaozhanshi 少詹事) and later became a Grand Academician (daxueshi 大學士). His commentary includes Yang Shen's original text and adds remarks to it. The commentary refers to the names of fishes and sea creatures, their place of living, their shapes, characteristics, and, in the case they are used as food, their taste. Hu Shi'an's commentary focuses on the names of the animals and rectifies a lot of errors in Yang's book. The sources that Hu Shi'an made use of are so abundant that it his commentary is sometimes quite inconvenient just because of the mass of information provided. Yet he also left out some other sources, and made some substantial errors. The commentary has been published in several versions and is included in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1867. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.


The Yiyu tuzan bu 異魚圖贊補 is a supplement to the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) book Yiyu tuzan 異魚圖贊 that was written by Yang Shen 楊慎. The supplement ws added by the by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Hu Shi'an 胡世安 who had also written a commentary to Yang's book, the Yiyu tuzan jian 異魚圖贊箋. According to the preface, the supplement was finished in 1618. It consists of 3 juan "scrolls", and a further supplement called Runji 閏集 "Intercalary collection". In the first two scrolls Hu Shi'an provides information to 154 species of fish, to which he adds 57 descriptive poems in the zan 贊 "praise" style, as in Yang Sheng's original. The last scroll includes the descriptions of 38 species of other eatable sea animals (haicuo 海錯), with 28 zan poems. The Runji collection describes more than 30 further species, all with descriptive poems. Hu Shi'an son Hu Pu 胡璞 and his employee Lei Wan 雷琯 coordinated the compilation of a commentary for this supplementary book. The index and the content of the Yiyu tuzan bu do not fit with each other, and there are many shortcomings in the descriptive poems. It seems that the book was never subject to revision. It is included in the collectanea Hanhai 函海, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Congshu jicheng 叢書集成.
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June 7, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail