An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

yiwen 佚文, yishu 佚書, yiwen 逸文, yiwen 遺文

Mar 9, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

yiwen 佚文, fragments of lost books

The word yìwen 佚文 "lost texts", also called yíwen 遺文, refers to fragments of lost books quoted in other texs, like for instance, encyclopaedias, or commentaries on the Confucian Classics. The oldest use of the word can be seen in the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) book Lunheng 論衡 by Wang Chong 王充 (27-97 CE) which has a chapter on lost books (Yiwen pian 佚文篇). During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911), scholars began to collect such fragments to reconstruct as much as possible from lost texts. Typical examples of such books are Fan Shengzhi shu 氾勝之書 or Shenzi/Shenbuhaizi. One of the largest fragment collections is Ma Guohan's 馬國翰 (1794-1857) Yuhan shanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房輯佚書 . The Republican writer and scholar Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936) compiled a fragment collection of ancient stories, Gu xiaoshuo gouchen 古小說鉤沈.

yishu 佚書, lost books

The word yìshu 佚書 "lost books", also called yìwen 逸文, refers to books or texts mentioned in ancient bibliographies or texts but for the one or other reason not transmitted or longer existant. It is often exchangeable with the word yiwen 佚文, which means fragments of lost books that are preserved as quotations on other books, for instance, encyclopaedias, or commentaries on the Confucian Classics.

In a certain context, the term Yishu 佚書 particularly refers to the Old-Text Book of Documents (Guwen Shangshu 古文尚書), which was, after bring discovered in a wall of the Kong 孔 family mansion in Qufu 曲阜 during the mid-Former Han period, not established as an orthodox text, and therefore lost after some time.

yiwen 遺文, literary remains

The word yíwen 遺文 refers to three different types of text, namely first, literary remains of a writer that were not published during his lifetime (also yishi 遺詩, referring to poems, posthumous papers of poems), second, ancient writings, and third, fragments ("remainders") of lost books (otherwise called yiwen 佚文).

Luo Zhufeng 羅竹風 et al. (1993). Hanyu da cidian 漢語大詞典 (Beijing: Hanyu da cidian chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1186, 1243.
Xiandai Hanyu da cidian bianweihui 《現代漢語大詞典》編委會, ed. (2000). Xiandai Hanyu da cidian 現代漢語大詞典 ((Beijing: Hanyu da cidian chubanshe), Vol. 1, 329.