An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yilin huikao 藝林彙考

Aug 29, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Yilin huikao 藝林彙考 "Collected investigations in the forest of literature" is a critical encyclopaedia compiled during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Shen Zinan 沈自南, courtesy name Liuhou 留侯. He hailed from Wujiang 吳江, Jiangsu, and earned his jinshi degree in 1652. His only known official post was that of magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Penglai 蓬菜 in Shandong. He has also written a critical book on historiography, Lidai jishi kaoyi 歷代紀事考異, and a text on poetry, Yuefu jianti 樂府箋題.

The Yilin huikao is an encyclopaedia with the aim of a critical analysis of sources. It was planned to a size of 24 chapters, but only four were printed. The rest of the book is lost. The surviving parts are Dongyu 棟宇 "Buildings and construction" (10 juan), Fushi 服飾 "Clothing, textiles and adornment" (10 juan), Yinshi 飲食 "Food and drinking" (7 juan), and Chenghao 稱號 "Designations and terms (in the private, official, administrative, military and religious contexts)" (12 juan). Of the chapter Zhiwu 植物 "Plants" only 36 paragraphs are left.

It is a pity that the Yilin huikao has not been completed because the transmitted parts show that Shen Zinan used to work with a great diligence and excellent scholarly methods. For this he was highly praised by Chen Jian 陳鑒 (1594-1676), who has written the introductions to each chapter. The only shortcoming of the text is that the large chapters are only divided into sub-chapters, and not in smaller categories which makes it difficult to search for a certain keyword.

The Yilin huikao was printed by Shen Zinan himself in 1662, and then again in 1751. In 1981 the Shanghai Shuju 上海書局 published a facsimile of the 1751 print. The text is also included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

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, 1936.
Pan Yinsheng 潘寅生, Guo Jiankui 郭建魁, eds. (1993). Zhonghua shehui kexue gongjushu cidian 中華社會科學工具書辭典 (Lanzhou: Gansu renmin chubanshe), 692.
Qiu Pengtong 邱龐同 (1995). "Yilin huikao 藝林彙考", in Zhongguo pengren baike quanshu 中國烹飪百科全書 (Beijing: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 685.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 80.