An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yongyou xianping 甕牖閒評

Aug 28, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Yongyou xianping 甕牖閒評 "Leisure comments from the Round Window" is a "brush-notes"-style book (biji 筆記) written during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) by Yuan Wen 袁文 (early 12th cent.), courtesy name Zhifu 質甫. He hailed from Yinxian 鄞縣 in the prefecture of Siming 四明 (close to modern Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiang). Facts about his life can be learned from a tomb inscription recorded in Yuan Xie's 袁燮 (1144-1224) Jiezhai ji 絜齋集.

Yuan Wen never aspired an official position but used to study ancient writings all his life long, and to make comments on what he read. The result of these notes was the book Yongyou xianping, of which only somewhat more than 400 paragraphs with a length of 8 juan have survived, but this seems to be a substantial part of the original text. The various chapters cover a lot of different themes, from the Confucian Classics, historiographical writings, books on astronomy and geography, human matters, philology, poetry, painting and calligraphy to eating and drinking, clothes, objects and tools, buildings, religious matters, performing arts, and many more. The aim of the book was critical commenting on old texts, and it can therefore be used as a textual critique of ancient writings. The paragraphs on phonology are very helpful and of a scholarly quality. The many stories recorded in the book are also of a high quality because they are quoted in full, and rarely found elsewhere. Yuan Wen's factual and writing errors are very scarce, and easy to amend.

The book must have been lost at an early point of time and is not recorded in the Song-period bibliographies Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 and Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題. The received version was reconstructed from quotations in the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典.

The Yongyou xianping is included in the series Wuyingdian juzhen ban shu 武英殿聚珍版書, Qingfentang congshu 清芬堂叢書, Lizhizhai congshu 勵志齋叢書, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書. In 1985 the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社 published a modern version in a joint edition with Wen Yuan's book Kaogu zhiyi 考古質疑, annotated by Li Weiguo 李偉國.

Li Xianglin 李祥林 (1995). "Yongyou xianping biaodian yi yi 《瓮牖閑評》標點一疑", Jianghai xuekan 江海學刊, 1995 (1): 178.
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, 1920.
Zhang Diyun 張滌雲 (1996). "Yongyou xianping 瓮牖閑評", in Jiang Zuyi 蔣祖怡, Chen Zhichun 陳志椿, eds. Zhongguo shihua cidian 中國詩話辭典 (beijing: Beijing chubanshe), 317.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波, ed. (1992). Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小說辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 422.
Zhou Liang 周亮 (1999). "Lun Songren biji Yongyou xianping de lixing jingshen 論宋人筆記《瓮牖閑評》的理性精神", Guizhou Shifan Daxue xuebao (Shehui kexue ban) 貴州師範大學學報(社會科學版), 1999 (2): 49-51.