An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Song Jingwengong biji 宋景文公筆記

Aug 18, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

There are two books with the title Biji 筆記, one written during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) by Song Qi 宋祁 (998-1061), and one during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Chen Jiru 陳繼儒 (1558-1639). Biji 筆記 is also the designation of a literary genre, commonly translated as "brush-notes"-style book.

Song Qi's 宋祁 Biji 筆記 (Song Jingwengong biji 宋景文公筆記)

The book of Song Qi, courtesy name Zijing 子京, is also called Song Jingwengong biji 宋景文公筆記 or Song Jingwen bji 宋景文筆記. Song Qi hailed from Anlu 安陸 in the prefecture of Anzhou 安州 (modern Anlu, Hubei) and later moved to Yongqiu 雍丘 (modern Qixian 杞縣, Henan). He earned his jinshi degree during the Tiansheng reign-period 天聖 (1023-1031) and was appointed lecturer (zhijiang 直講) in the Directorate of Education (guojizian 國子監), erudite (boshi 博士) under the Chamberlain for Ceremonials (taichang 太常), associate administrator (tongzhi 同知) of the Court of Ceremonial Propriety (liyiyuan 禮儀院), vice director (yuanwailang 員外郎) in the Ministry of Works (gongbu 工部), associate compiler (tongxiu 同修) of the imperial diary (qijuzhu 起居注), academician (xueshi 學士) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, and finally senior compiler (xiuzhuan 修撰) in the Historiography Institute (guoshiguan 國史館). His posthumous title is Jingwen 宋景文公. He has also written the geography Yibu fangwu lüeji 益部方物略記. His collected writings are called Song Jingwen ji 宋景文集.

Song Qi was famous for his encyclopaedic knowledge that he had accumulated by his studies of the Confucian Classics, historiographic writings and the books of the "hundred masters" (baijia 百家). During his studies he noted down what he considered as important, and which thoughts arose in his mind about the words of the texts. These notes became more and more over the years, and were finally laid down in his 3-juan-long book Biji.

It is divided into three parts; the first (Shisu 釋俗 "Analysis of customs and habits") is dedicated to the social customs of his time and includes interesting information as the robes of state officials, the use of paper, common sayings (liyu 俚語), music and many facts that are not to be found in other books.

The second chapter (Kaoding 考訂 "Research and corrections") focuses on the "lesser studies" (xiaoxue 小學) of phonetics and writing, but also includes paragraphs on literature and history. The last chapter (Zashuo 雜說 "Miscellaneous explanations") is dedicated to government affairs and the relationship between a ruler and his ministers. This includes the right instruction of young men, particularly his own sons. The author saw this part as a concluding discussion of his whole book, but is in fact a chapter of its own and has nothing to do with the rest of the book. The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 therefore concluded that it might be a later addition. The postface from 1226 was written by Li Yan 李衍, who criticizes the text for the many writing and factual errors. Yet all these shortcomings must be balanced against the abundant information that Song Qi's book provides, like a quotation of Su Xun's 蘇洵 (1009-1066) discussion on Emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195 BCE) of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) that is not found elsewhere; or a quotation of Xiao Gai's 蕭該 (c. 535—c. 610) phonetic commentary Hanshu yinyi 漢書音義 on the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 that has not been used by the commentator Yan Shigu 顏師古 (581-645).

The editions of the book vary in the title and the size. The series Siku quanshu calls it Biji, the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Xuejian taoyuan 學津討原, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 call it Song Jingwengong biji, and the collections Fanyuepian 反約篇 and Rongyuan congshu 榕園叢書 present it with the title Song Song Jingwen biji 宋景文筆記, all with a size of 3 juan. The Xuehai leibian 學海類編 includes a 2-juan-long Song Jingwen biji 宋景文筆記, and the Song Jingwengong biji in the series Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書 and Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei biecang edition) has only 1 juan, while the version in the Shangwu Yinshuguan 商務印書館 edition of the Shuofu is not divided into fascicles at all.

Chen Jiru's 陳繼儒 Biji 筆記

The book of Chen Jiru is only 2-juan-long. It records a lot of very miscellaneous matters like in a notebook without a clear structure. Most important is probably the chapter on Lu Wan's 陸完 (1458-1526) text Ba Yan shu Zhu Juchen gao shen 跋顏書朱巨川告身, where Lu's postface (ba 跋) is quoted in full. This postface is not to be found in the Tiewang shanhu 鐵網珊瑚 or the Qinghe shuhua fang 清河書畫舫. A very interesting story is how Emperor Chengzu 明成祖 (r. 1402-1424), after the battle of the Baigou Canal 白溝河, had the remains of his dead troops collected and their skulls donated to a Buddhist temple where they were used as sacral vessels and objects.

Chen Jiru's Biji is included in the series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈 and Congshu jicheng chubian.

There were yet two more books with the title, namely Lian Xiang's 連鑲 (fl. 1544) Biji of 1 juan length, and Cheng Dachun's 程大純 (c. 1700) Biji with a length of 2 fascicles.

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, 1599, 1945, 2157.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1994). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 339.
Xie Tan 謝琰 (2016). "Song Jingwengong biji de zixue haoshang yu wenzhang guannian: Jian lun Tang-Song sanwen fazhan zhong de yuyan gexin wenti 《宋景文公筆記》的字學好尚與文章觀念——兼論唐宋散文發展中的語言革新問題", Wenxue yichan 文學遺產, 2016 (6): 78-89.
Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈, Hou Zhongyi 侯忠義, eds. (1981). Zhongguo wenxue xiaoshuo shumu 中國文言小說書目 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 113.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波, ed. (1992). Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小說辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 461.