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Yupian 玉篇

Oct 29, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

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 (518-581), courtesy name Xifeng 希馮, 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 which made use of character radicals. Yet the radical system of the Yupian is not identical to that of the Shuowen. It does not use the radicals 哭, 㢟, 畫, 教, 眉, 白zì, 左, 𨛜, 飲, 后, 亣, 瀕 and 弦. On the other had, it introduces some new radicals:

Table 1. New radicals used by the Yupian 玉篇
25 father
37 bīn to advance quickly
99 yún to speak
105 zào the chirping of birds sitting in a tree
121 yín to progress, to appear
132 chù place, spot
278 zhào omen
352 qìng soundstone
431 suǒ rope, to search
452 shū a stick used for writing, written document
474 chuáng bed
479 wooden plug
494 dān single, solitary
511 zhàng a length measure of 10 chi
Discarded Shuowen radicals: 哭, 㢟, 畫, 教, 眉, 白 , 左, 𨛜, 飲, 后, 亣, 瀕, 弦.
Differently written Shuowen radicals: 74 𠂇 → 屮, 152 冎 → 𠮠, 221 凵 → 厶, 253 卮 → 巵, 365 㹜 → 犾, 377 𤉡 → 兕

The Yupian thus makes use of a total number of 542 radicals, two more than 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 元 (1279-1368) 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.

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 (961-1017) which contains 22,561 characters. It is called Daguang yihui Yupian 大廣益會玉篇 "Greatly enlarged Jade book". 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.

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 of the entry, variants of the characters are presented. The Song-period version was 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)

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 series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊. 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.

Yupian radicals (pdf).

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