An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Gui'erji 貴耳集

Aug 16, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Gui'erji 貴耳集 "Collections for dear ears" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Zhang Duanyi 張端義 (1179-?), courtesy name Zhengfu 正夫, style Quanweng 筌翁.

He originally hailed from Zhengzhou 鄭州 (modern Zhengzhou, Henan), but lived for a long time in Suzhou 蘇州 (modern Suzhou, Jiangsu). He was a disciple of Xiang Anshi 項安世 (1129-1208) and was befriended to the scholars Yang Jian 楊簡 (1141-1225), Chen Xun 陳塤 (1197-1241) and Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁 (1178-1237). During the Duanping reign-period 端平 (1234-1236), he was charged with indecent words in his memorials to the throne and was banished to Yunzhou 韶州 (modern Yunguan 韶關, Guangdong).

During that time he began to compile his semi-historial book. The product of this work was finished in 1246 (complete book, the first part being finished in 1241). The Gui'erji has a length of 3 juan, each constituting one collection (ji 集) with an individual preface, so that each collection can be seen as a separate text. The title is explained in the preface by the fact that the ear is the most important organ of man because words are entering them to reach the mind, where men can be instructed, persuaded and changed in their behaviour. The text includes stories about the imperial court, and also some poetry critique.

Zhang Duanyi used to play a lot with persuasion and sometimes made errors and generalizations to underline his arguments, which led to not a few wrong statements in his book. The writers Tao Gu 陶穀 (903-970) and Xu Xuan 徐鉉 (916-991) were not ministers of Emperor Li Yu 李煜 (r. 961-975) of the Southern Tang 南唐 (937-975), as he says. He also quotes wrongly from the Classic commentary Guliangzhuan 穀梁傳 and says that the tribes of the "Taller Di" (Chang Di 長狄) called "good grain" (shandao 善稻) yihuan 伊緩, but in fact, the Guliangzhuan says that in the state of Wu 吳, the expression "good commander" (shanyin 善伊) was called douhuan 稻緩. He mixes up Yang Xiong's 揚雄 (53 BCE-18 CE) divination book Taiyuanjing 太玄經 with the Classic Yijing 易經 and calls it the "Changes" from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). A further error is his statement that Hu Yuan 胡瑗 (993-1059) had called Wang Anshi's 王安石 (1021-1086) commentary on the Chunqiu 春秋 with the name Chunqiu jie 春秋解, but Hu Yuan had lived earlier than Wang.

A quite strange misinterpretation is Zhang's classification of bears (xiong 熊) as monkeys (hou 侯, i.e. 猴) and not as "beasts" (shou 獸). He ascertains that the enyclopaedia Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 quotes from Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (557-641) the explanation that the word ji 雞 "(wild) chick" is explained as "viscount of Mt. Jishan" (Jishan zi 稽山子), and donkey ( 驢) as "duke of Mt. Lushan" (Lushan gong 廬山公), but the Yiwen leiju does not say so. Zhang's argument that of office of court entertainer (ling 伶) originated when Dongfang Shuo 東方朔 (154-93 BCE) became the court jester of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) of the Han dynasty, but in fact the office was already known during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE), and Dongfang Shuo was in fact a high official, namely Superior Grand Master of the Palace (taizhong dafu 太中大夫). In spite of all these strange statements the Gui'erji is a valuable book for the history of Song period literature and history.

There are many different editions in circulation. The series Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 include a 3-juan version, the series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈 only 2 juan, the Lidai xiaoshi 歷代小史, Yingyin Yuan-Ming shanben congshu shi zhong 景印元明善本叢書十種, Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei Shantang 宛委山堂 edition 宛委山堂) and Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說 1 juan, and the Shangwu Yinshuguan 商務印書館 edition of the Shuofu only a few selected paragraphs. In 1958 the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published the Gui'erji as part of the series Zhonghua wenxue cankao ziliao congshu 中國文學參考資料叢書.

Chen Ning 陳寧 (2013). "Gui'erji banben gaishu ji qi shixue jianjie 《貴耳集》版本概述及其詩學見解", Aba Shifan Xueyuan xuebao 阿壩師範學院學報, 2013 (2): 93-97.
Chen Ning 陳寧 (2022). "Cong Songren biji guankui Songchao lishi: Lun Gui'erji yucheng sishi de jiazhi he buzu 從宋人筆記管窺宋朝歷史——論《貴耳集》欲成“私史”的價值和不足", Diyu wenhua yanjiu 地域文化研究, 2022 (6): 49-59.
Hou Tijian 侯體健 (2019). "Jianghu qi zai yan: Gui'erji zhong de lishi xushu he wenxue quwei 江湖豈在眼:《貴耳集》中的歷史叙述和文學趣味", Sichuan Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 四川大學學報 (哲學社會科學版), 2019 (4): 143-151.
Kong Fanli 孔凡禮 (1989). "Gui'erji 貴耳集", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 210.
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, 1958.
Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 194.
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), 482.
Zhang Lingxiang 張玲祥 (1996). "Gui'erji 貴耳集", in Jiang Zuyi 蔣祖怡, Chen Zhuichun 陳志椿, eds. Zhongguo shihua cidian 中國詩話辭典 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe), 354.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波, ed. (1992). Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小說辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 435.