An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Quwei jiuwen 曲洧舊聞

Aug 15, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Quwei jiuwen 曲洧舊聞 "Old tales from the river bend of the Wei" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Zhu Bian 朱弁 (d. 1144), courtesy name Shaozhang 少章, style Guanru Jushi 觀如居士. He hailed from Wuyuan 婺源 in the prefecture of Huizhou 徽州 (modern Huizhou, Jiangxi) and was a relative of the famous Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200; his grandfather's younger brother). During his time as a student of the National University (taixue 太學), Zhu Bian was more admired for his poetry than Chao Yuezhi 晁說之 (1059-1129). In 1127 he was sent on a mission to the court of the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234) in the north. He was kept a prisoner and forced to accept the counter-emperor Liu Yu 劉豫 (1073-1146) who had proclaimed the empire of Qi 齊 (1130-1137), with the support of Jin. Yet Zhu Bian declined and was held in custody for 17 years before he was allowed to return.

His 10-juan-long book includes several interesting stories about Buddhism that he experienced the time he was forced to dwell in Yanjing 燕京 (modern Beijing), one of the capitals of the Jin empire. The book does not mention any detail about the Jurchen empire itself, but only speaks of "old matters" from the years of the Northern Song empire 北宋 (960-1126). Most stories describe the conduct of emperors and the activities and discourses of the ministers. The reforms of Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021-1086) are described, the government of Counsellor Cai Jing 蔡京 (1047-1126), and the fights among the court factions. Zhu Bian tried to chisel out the reasons for the downfall of the Northern Song. Yet his book also includes information on poetry and popular stories about ghost and strange occurrences. The bibliographical chapter in the encyclopaedia Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考 therefore lists the book among the novellists (xiaoshuojia 小說家), although these parts are only of minor importance in contrast to the topic of political history. The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 classified it as a "miscellaneous treatise" (zajia lei 雜家類).

The Quwei jiuwen is included in the series Zhibuzuzhai congshu 知不足齋叢書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 (with a length of 10 juan), Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈 (4 juan), Jingxiutang congshu 敬修堂叢書 (2 juan), Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說, Gujin shuobu congshu 古今說部叢書, Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei Shantang 宛委山堂 edition, 1 juan), the Shangwu Yinshuguan 商務印書館 edition of the Shuofu (no juan count) and Jiuxiaoshuo 舊小說 (17 paragraphs).

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, 1950.