An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Fengshi wenjian ji 封氏聞見記

Aug 18, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Fengshi wenjian ji 封氏聞見記 "Master Feng's records of hearsay and personal experience" is a collection written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by Feng Yan 封演, about whose life not much is known. He was a nephew of *Vice Director of Music (taiyuecheng 太樂丞) Feng Xiyan 封希顏 and enrolled as a student of the National University (taixue 太學), wheree obtained his jinshi degree in 756. During the Dali reign-period 大歷 (766-779), he became a staff member of Xue Gao 薛嵩 (d. 773), military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使) of Zhaoyi 昭義, and was later an officer under Tian Chengsi 田承嗣. In 782, Tian Yue 田悅 (d. 784) assumed the title of King of Wei 魏 and made Feng Yan his Vice Minister of Justice (sixing shilang 司刑侍郎). Feng Yan has also written the texts Gujin nianhao lu 古今年號錄 and Qianpu 錢譜. Both writings are lost.

The 10-juan-long Wenjianji 聞見記 was written during the Zhenyuan reign-period 貞元 (785-805) and includes more than a hundred paragraphs on various matters of history that are arranged chronologically. The themes of the book have a wide range, from cultural matters and literature to the state examinations and official career, administrative statutes and regulations, antiques and touristic spots, customs and habits, nature and landscape, and the stories of individual persons. The author wrote down these informations as they were told to him (wen 聞 "heard") as as he saw them personally (jian 見 "saw"). Many chapters therefore begin with the words "when I went to this and that place,...". He therefore speaks mainly of contemporary affairs, but also includes some stories of the past. The Fengshi wenjian lu is an interesting source of social life and the history of the later part of the Tang period.

According to the bibliographies in the official dynastic histories Xintangshu 新唐書 and Songshi 宋史, and the encyclopaedias Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考 and Tongzhi 通志, the Wenjianji had a length of 5 juan. The bibliography Zhizhai shulu jieti 書錄解題, however, speaks of just 2 juan. The book's version included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書總目 is divided into 10 juan. Yet in this arrangement, the first 3 fascicles are very short, and in the others, the original commentary of many paragraphs is missing, so that it seems that the difference in the number of fascicles is just due to the textual arrangement, and not to differences in the text.

There is a large amount of prints of the book. During the Republican period (1912-1949), Feng Zhenxin 趙貞信 (1902—1989) therefore compared all different versions and published in 1933 an annotated edition (Fengshi wenjian ji jiaozheng 封氏聞見記校證), mainly based on the version in the series Yueyatang congshu 雅雨堂. A revised edition of this book was published in 1958 by the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局, the Fengshi wenjian ji jiaozhu 封氏聞見記校注.

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