An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Bi Yuan 畢沅

May 6, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Bi Yuan 畢沅 (1730-1797), courtesy name Bi Xiangheng 畢纕蘅 or Bi Qiufan 畢秋帆, style Lingyan shanren 靈岩山人, was a famous mid-Qing period 清 (1644-1911) collector, editor and historian. He hailed from Zhenyang 鎮洋 (modern Taicang 太倉, Jiangsu) was began his career as a secretary of the Grand Secretariat (neige zhongshu 内閣中書) concurrently serving in the Council of State (junjichu xingzou 軍機處行走). In 1760 he passed the metropolitan examination and was appointed Left Mentor to the Heir Apparent (zuo shuzi 左庶子). He became one of the most important local administrators of the Qianlong reign 乾隆 (1736-1795), acting as governor (xunfu 巡撫) of Shaanxi, Henan and Shandong and governor-general (zongdu 總督) of Hu-Guang 湖廣.

As a disciple of the philosopher Hui Dong 惠棟 (1697-1758), he was very interested in the Confucian Canon and acquired a wide range of knowledge, especially in the field of etymology, epigraphy and geography. Yet his most important contribution to literary studies was text-critical research. He published text-critical editions of the Mozi 墨子, Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋, Yanzi chunqiu 晏子春秋, Shanhaijing 山海經 and Laozi 老子, books that had been very neglected for centuries in favour to Confucian writings.

He also published a sequel to the famous Song period 宋 (960-1279) history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒, the Xu zizhi tongjian 續資治通鑒 that was compiled by experts in his staff, like Zhang Xuecheng 章學誠 (1738-1801) or Shao Jinhan 邵晉涵 (1743-1796). Bi Yuan was highly admired for his patronage of important Confucian scholars as Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 (1717-1795), Hong Liangji 洪亮吉 (1746-1809) or Sun Xingyan 孫星衍 (1753-1818).

He also published a series of commentaries to Classics, like Xia xiaozheng kaozhu 夏小正考注 or Jingdian wenzi bian 經典文字辨, to history like the Jinshu didao ji 晉書地道記, Jinshu dili zhi xinbu 晉書地理志新補, Guangzhong jinshi ji 關中金石記, or Zhongzhou jinshi ji 中州金石記, and linguistic books like the Yintong yiyi bian 音同義異辨 or Shuowen jiuyin 說文舊音. These books are included in the series Jingxuntang congshu 經訓堂叢書.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 240.