An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Laoxue'an biji 老學庵筆記

Aug 15, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Laoxue'an biji 老學庵筆記 "Brush notes from the Study of an Old Man Learning" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Lu You 陸遊 (1125-1210), courtesy name Wuguan 務觀, style Fangweng 放翁. He hailed from Shanyin 山陰 in the prefecture of Yuezhou 越州 (modern Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang) and was a famous poet of lyric-metre-style poetry (ci 詞), but also wrote some historiographical texts, like the Nantangshu 南唐書 or Rushuji 入蜀記. His collected works are called Jiannan shigao 劍南詩稿 and Weinan wenji 渭南文集.

During the reign periods Chunxi 淳熙 (1174-1189) Shaoxi 紹熙 (1190-1194), Lu You was not employed but studies all types of ancient writings in his "Study of an Old Man Learning" (Laoxue'an 老學庵) and began to note down what he was particular interested in. The result of these notes, the 10-juan-long book, with a supplement of 2 juan (Xu biji 續筆記), concentrates on the political and administrative history, persons in history, but also different genres of literature, and tales from among the people. A lot of the stories deal with the conflict between the Song and the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234) in the north, and with a description of the problems of the Southern Song court under unscrupulous politicians like the Counsellor Qin Hui 秦檜 (1091-1155). Lu Yu describes how the latter planned the murder of the popular hero Yue Fei 岳飛 (1103-1142). The book gives insight into many fields of life during the Song period, like the weaving technique of Bozhou 亳州, the introduction of hidden names of candidates during the state examinations under Emperor Zhezong 宋哲宗 (r. 1085-1100), or the support of Wang Anshi's 王安石 (1021-1086) reforms (which Lu You himself disliked, although his forefather Lu Dian 陸佃, author of the gloss book Piya 埤雅, had been a secretary of Wang) by many contemporaries. Except historically reliable facts, the Laoxue'an biji also narrates some fables circulating among the people.

The book was first printed in 1228 by Lu You's son together with his collected works. It is included in the series Baihai 稗海, Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Chongwen shuju huike shu 崇文書局匯刻書, Songren xiaoshuo 宋人小說, and in excerpts in the two editions of the Shuofu 說郛, the Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說 and the Jiuxiaoshuo 舊小說. In 1987, the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published a modern edition, annotated by Li Jianxiong 李劍雄 and Liu Dequan 劉德權.

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, 1956.