An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yilin 意林

Oct 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

The collection Yilin 意林 "Forest of meanings", original titles Fufeng Ma Zong yuanhui bian 扶風馬總元會編 or Yilin yuyao 意林語要, was written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by the scholar and politician Ma Zong 馬總 (d. 823). Ma Zong, courtesy name Huiyuan 會元, hailed from Fufeng 扶風 (in today's province of Shaanxi), and wrote a lot of historiographical books, like Tongji 通紀 (chronicle), Nianli 年曆 (almanach) or Zouyi 奏議 (memorials to the throne).

The book Yilin has a length of 5 juan and contains biography-like stories of eminent persons. There is a print from the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) which is apparently not the original text. The Yilin was finished in 786.

It is modeled after Yu Zhongrong's 庾仲容 (475-548) 30-juan-long book Zichao 子鈔 from the Liang period 梁 (502-557). Ma Zong criticized the missing balance of Yu's book between the shortness of some of the biographies included, while others were to peripatetic and long, and tried to amend this error. The Yilin can be called an encyclopaedia because of the concise language, with which the biographies are written. It contains a lot of quotations, the sources of which are long since lost.

Quotation 1. Excerpt from the Mohist book Hufeizi 胡非子
勇有五等:負长劒,赴榛薄,析兕豹,搏熊罴,此徒獵之勇也。 There are five types of courage: Bearing a long sword, penetrating the dense forests, slaying rhinos and panthers, engaging bears and ursids - this is the courage of hunters.
負长劒,赴深泉,斬蛟龍,搏鼋鼍,此漁人之勇也。 Bearing a long sword, penetrating depths and wells, beheading snakes and dragons, engaging turtles and lizards - this is the courage of fishermen.
登高陟危,鵠立四望,顔色不變,此陶缶之勇也; Climbing summits and proceeding to the cliffs, looking out into the four directions, without the face blanching - this is the courage of [having the king of Qin] beating a ceramic drum.
剽必刺,視必殺,此五刑之勇也;。 Robbery will lead to being tattooes, exposure (?) will lead to execution - this is the courage of the five corporal punishments.
昔齊桓公以魯為南境,鲁公優之,三日不食。曹沬請擊頸以血濺桓公。公懼,不知所措。管仲乃勸與之盟。曹沬匹夫之士,布衣柔履之人,一怒卻萬乘之師,存千乘之國,此君子之勇也。 In the time of Duke Huan of Qi 齊桓公 (r. 685-643), the state of Lu was the southern border of Qi. The Duke [Zhuang] of Lu 魯莊公 was so worried about this that he did not eat for three days. Cao Mei 曹沬 thereupon asked [the Duke of Lu for allowance] to scratch the neck of Duke Huan and splash his blood. Duke Huan was shocked [by this attack] and did not know what to do. Guan Zhong 管仲 thereupon persuaded him to create an alliance with Lu. Cao Mei, an ordinary serviceman, simply clothed and wearing shoes without hard sole, with one outburst he was able to check a country of ten thousand chariots and to preserve one of a mere thousand - this is the courage of a nobleman.

The Yilin is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討源, Juxuexuan congshu 聚學軒叢書 and the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏.

Geng Zhendong 耿振東 (2009). "Qiantan Qunshu zhiyao, Tongdian, Yilin dui Guanzi de jilu 淺談《群書治要》、《通典》、《意林》 對《管子》的輯錄", Hunan Xueyuan xuebao 湘南學院學報, 30 (3): 25-30.
Han Lan 韓嵐 (2012). "Huang Yizhou Yilin jiaozhu chakao 黃以周《意林校注》查考", Xueshujie 學術界, 2012 (2): 204-207.
Li Fanbei 李芃蓓 (2022). "Yilin sikuxue si ti 《意林》四庫學四題", Zhongguo sikuxue 中國四庫學, 14-40.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 2004.
Wang Ren 王韌, Wang Tianhai 王天海 (2012). "Yilin banben yuanliu kaosu 《意林》版本源流考索",Yunmeng xuekan 雲夢學刊, 33 (2): 117-121.
Wang Tianhai 王天海, Wang Ren 王韌 (2013). "Ma Zong Yilin de wenxian jiazhi 馬總《意林》的文獻價值", Zhongguo xungu xuebao 中國訓詁學報, 240-249.
Yuan Mingren 袁明仁 et al., eds. (1992). Sanqin lishi wenhua cidian 三秦歷史文化辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 129.
Zhao Hankun 趙含坤, ed. (2005). Zhongguo leishu 中國類書 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe), 62.