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Chinese Literature
Yupian 玉篇 "The Jade Book"


The Yupian 玉篇 "Jade book" is a character dictionary whose entries are arranged according to character radicals. It was compiled on imperial order by Gu Yewang 顧野王 during the Liang period 梁 (502-557). The Yupian is, after the Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 and the Zilin 字林, the third dictionary making use of character radicals. Yet the radical system is not identical to that of the Shuowen. The Yupian does not use the radicals 哭, , 畫, 教, 眉, 白zì, 左, , 飲, 后, 亣, 瀕 and 弦, and on the other side introduces other radicals, namely 父, 頻, 云, 喿, 冘, 處, 兆, 磬, 索, 書, 牀, 單, 弋, and 丈, making out a total number of 542 (two more than in the Shuowen jiezi). The sequence of the characters is also very different from the Shuowen jiezi. While the Shuowen used both semantic and graphical criteria for the sequence the Yupian mainly uses semantic criteria.
Figure 1. Radical list of the Yupian
Radical list (zongmu 總目) of the Yupian (overview of six leaflets), Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 edition, reproducing a Yuan period print from the collection of the family Zhou 周氏 from Jiande 建德, Zhejiang. Numbers in black cartouches, in large characters the radicals, and below, in smaller type, the pronunciation according to the fanqie system 反切. Click to enlarge.

According to a Tang period 唐 (618-907) source the Yupian contained 16,917 characters. The received version is a revision of the Song period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Chen Pengnian 陳彭年 which contains 22,561 characters. Of the original version only a fragment (juan 8, 9, 18, 19, 22, 24, 27) is preserved which is kept in Japan. These fragments contain 2,052 characters in total.
Figure 2. Fragment of the "original" Yupian
Fragment of the yan 言 radical section from the "original", Tang period Yupian (Yuanben Yupian lingjuan 原本玉篇零卷), Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 edition, reproducing the print of Li Shuchang's 黎庶昌 (1837-1896) series Guyi congshu 古逸叢書. Click to enlarge.

The original construction was also quite different from the Song period version. In the original the meaning of the character is given, followed by quotations from the Confucian classics, books on history, and finally older dictionaries. At the end variants of the characters are presented.
Figure 3. Beginning of the Song period "reconstruction" of the Yupian
Beginning of the Song period "reconstruction" of the Yupian, titled Daguang yihui Yupian 大廣益會玉篇, Sibu congkan edition.

Besides the Song version there is also a Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) version. The latter is included in the collectanea Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, the former has been printed by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Zhang Shijun 張士俊 (Zecuntang Studio 澤存堂) and Cao Yin 曹寅 (Yangzhou shiju Studio 揚州詩局). Both versions are differing in the appendixes rendering help for the pronunciation systems. The Song version contains a full commentary while this is abbreviated in the Yuan period version.

See an overview of the Yupian radicals (pdf).

Source: Zhou Zumo 周祖謨 (1988). "Yupian 玉篇", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yuyan wenzi 語言•文字, pp. 497-498. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

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October 29, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail