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Chinese Literature
The Four Categories (Sibu 四部)


The Four Categories of Literature
The four categories (sibu 四部) is an old system of categorizing literature in China. In a wider sense can it can be compared with modern librarian systems to arrange book in certain categories. The origin of the sibu system is not clear but it already appears in the oldest extant library catalog, the catalogue of the imperial library at the beginning of the Later Han (Houhan 後漢) period (25-220 AD) as recorded in the Hanshu 漢書 "The history of the (Former) Han dynasty" (30 Yiwen zhi 藝文志). It finds its perfection in the classificatory system of the collection Siku quanshu 四庫全書 "The complete books of the Four Storehouses", a kind of officially acknowledged library which was compiled on imperial orders during the late 18th century. Other collectanea also follow the four category system, like the Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 or the Sibu beiyao 四部備要.
In this encyclopedia I will follow the complex Siku quanshu system but I do not treat every book contained in this vast collection. On the other side I will also introduce literature not contained in the Siku quanshu.
經部 Jing Confucian Classics (incl. commentaries on them, books on musical theory, dictionaries and the 'lesser studies')
史部 Shi Historiography (incl. biographies, administration, policy, geography and bibliography)
子部 Zi Masters and philosophers (incl. various scientific and scholarly treatises, books on practical matters, and novellas)
集部 Ji Anthologies (incl. belles-lettres, poetry and collected writings)



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