An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Jilebian 雞肋編

Sep 2, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Jilebian 雞肋編 "A Compilation of Chicken Ribs" is a biji 筆記 "brush notes" style book written by the Song period 宋 (960-1279) scholar Zhuang Chuo 莊綽, courtesy name Zhuang Jiyu 莊季裕. He came from Qingyuan 清源 (modern Qingxu 清徐, Shanxi) or Taiyuan 太原 (Taiyuan, Shanxi) and was commandant (wei 尉) of Xiangyang 襄陽 and later in Shunchang 順昌 and Lizhou 澧州. During the decades of the downfall of the Northern Song 北宋 (960-1126) and the foundation of the Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279) he migrated a lot around many regions of China and so experienced a lot of adventures and could see and hear much information that he decided to bring to paper. Except the Jilebian he had also written the books Duji yuanzheng 杜集援證, Jiugao huangfa 灸膏肓法 and Shifa xinyi 筮法新義, but these three are lost. The title of the Jilebian is derived from a sentence in Cao Cao's 曹操 biography in the history Sanguozhi 三國志 where it is said that chicken ribs "had no taste but it was a pity to throw them away". The 3 juan "scrolls" long book includes more than 300 small stories about ancient matters and his own times. They are so informative that the stories can be used as additional sources to the history of the Song dynasty. The themes of Zhang Chuo's story cover a wide spectrum and reach from popular stories to economic or scientific topics. The Jilebian can be counted among the best biji books including historiographic material and it has been compared with Zhou Mi's 周密 Qidong yeyu 齊東野語 and even with Shen Kuo's 沈括 Mengxi bitan 夢溪筆談.
The Jilebian was first printed during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911), when it was published in Hu Ting's 胡珽 reprint series Linlangmishi congshu 琳瑯秘室叢書, and then again in 1919 by Sun Yuxiu 孫毓修. In 1983 the Zhonghua shuju 中華書局 published a modern edition with annotations by Xiao Luyang 蕭魯陽.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2149.