An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shilin yanyu 石林燕語

Aug 15, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Shilin yanyu 石林燕語 "Supper discussions of the Stone Forest" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) by Ye Mengde 葉夢得 (1077-1148), courtesy name Shaowen 少蘊, style Shilin jushi 石林居士, from Wucheng 烏程(today's Wuxing 吳興, Zhejiang). He started his career as a drafter in the Palace Secretariat (zhongshu sheren 中書舍人) and academician in the Hanlin Academy (Hanlin xueshi 翰林學士). For some years, he was head of the prefectures of Ruzhou 汝州, Caizhou 蔡州, Yingchang 穎昌, and finally of Hangzhou 杭州. After the foundation of the Southern Song dynasty, he was prefect of Jiankang 建康 (today's Nanjing 南京), which he defended successfully against the attacks of the Jurchen army. In 1128, he was appointed Minister of Revenue (hubu shangshu 戶部尚書). Because of some differences with Counsellor-in-chief Zhu Shengfei 朱勝非 (1082-1144), he retired. His last office was pacification commissioner (anfushi 安撫使) of Jiangdong 江東.

The "Stone Forest Valley", where he lived for a while, is located in the region of Mt. Bian 卞山 near Wuxing 吳興, Zhejiang. He also wrote the books Bishu luhua 避暑錄話 and Yanxia fangyan 巖下放言; the Classics studies Shilin Chunqiu yan 石林春秋讞 and Chunqiu kao 春秋考; his collected writings are found in the books Jiankang ji 建康集, Shilin ci 石林詞, Shilin shihua 石林詩畫, and Shilin zouyi 石林奏議.

The book of 10 juan length is the result of the discussions Ye Mengde had with his visitors. They discussed history, comportment and etiquette, matters of the imperial court and the life of the peasant people. In many points the discussants were very critical towards their contemporaries and blamed them for the downfall of the Northern Song empire 北宋 (960-1126). The Shilin yanyu is of a certain historiographical value because it provides information on administrative institutions and procedures, high officials and palace buildings that are not found in other sources. The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 therefore compared it with more regular historical sources like Song Minqiu's 宋敏求 (1019-1079) Chunming tuichao lu 春明退朝錄 or Xu Du's 徐度 (mid-12th cent.) Quesaobian 卻掃編.

There were so many editions of the Shilin yanyu that a lot of them included critical errors. Therefore several scholars wrote commentaries on the text to correct wrong passages. The comments by Wang Yingchen 汪應辰 (1118-1176) and Yuwen Shaoyi 宇文紹奕 have therefore become integral parts of the text itself.

The transmitted versions of the text differ from each other. The version in the series Baihai 稗海, and Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀 has a length of 10 juan, that in the Siku quanshu includes Yuwen Shaoyi's text-critical commentaries (Kaoyi 考異), the version in the Ruxue jingwu 儒學警悟, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Shilin yishu 石林遺書 (Ye Mengde's posthumous writings), and Xiyuan xiansheng quanshu 郋園先生全書 (compiled by Ye Dehui 葉德輝) include Wang Yingchen's commentary Shilin yanyu bian 石林燕語辨, and the Shuofu 說郛, Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說, Wuchao xiaoshuo daguan 五朝小說大觀, and Jingxiutang congshu 敬修堂叢書 include only one fascicle of selected text and the collection Jiuxiaoshuo 舊小說 even no more than 14 paragraphs. In 1984, the Zhonghua Shuju press 中華書局 published a modern edition with annotations by Hou Zhongyi 侯忠義.

Chen Gongwen 陳功文 (2014). "Wang Yingchen Shilin yanyu bian kaolun 汪應辰《石林燕語辨》考論", Tushuguan zazhi 圖書館雜誌, 33 (1): 95-99.
Fan Xing 樊星 (2022). "Ye Mengde Shilin yanyu banben yuanliu kao 葉夢得《石林燕語》版本源流考", Mingjia mingzuo 名家名作, 2022 (18): 76-78.
Fang Jianxin 方建新 (1987). "Guanyu Shilin yanyu de chengshu shijian 關於《石林燕語》的成書時間", Hangzhou Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 杭州大學學報(哲學社會科學版), 1987 (4): 26-28.
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, 1951.
Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1994). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 190.
Luo Ling 羅凌 (2005). "Shilin yanyu bian yu Shilin yanyu kaobian yuanyuan xiaokao 《石林燕語辨》與《石林燕語考異》淵源小考", Tushuguan lilun yu shijian 圖書館理論與實踐, 2005 (3): 58-60.
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), 157.
Xia Dongfeng 夏東鋒 (2014). "Shilin yanyu bianwu 《石林燕語》辨誤", Dongnan xueshu 東南學術, 2014 (2): 241-245.
Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈, Hou Zhongyi 侯忠義, eds. (1981). Zhongguo wenyan xiaoshuo shumu 中國文言小說書目 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 147.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波, ed. (1992). Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小說辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 408.