An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Pianti wenchao 駢體文鈔

Aug 13, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Pianti wenchao 駢體文鈔 is an anthology of couplet-style literature (pianwen 駢文). It was compiled by Li Zhaoluo 李兆洛 (1769-1841), courtesy name Shenqi 申耆, style Yanyi Laoren 養一老人, from Yangu 陽湖 (Wujin 武進, Jiangsu). He was district magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Fengtai 鳳臺, Anhui, and famous for his scholarship in poetry and his knowledge in geography. His collected writings are called Yanyizhai wenji 養一齋文集.

The collection represents a literary style that flourished from around 200 CE to the beginning of the Tang period 唐 (618-907). It is characterized by systematic and through lyricization of prose texts, with refined expressions and flowery language. From the 9th century on, theoreticians of literature began to criticized this overloaded style and advocated the use of simple and comprehensible “ancient style” (guwen 古文). This conflict continued far into the 18th century, even if the pianti 駢體 or pianwen style had long lost its attractiveness. In this context, Li Zhaoluo’s anthology of couplet-style literature can be seen as a counterpoint to Yao Nai’s 姚鼐 (1731-1815) anthology Gu wenci leizuan 古文辭類纂 that assembles highlights of pure prose texts.

Li’s collection has a length of 31 juan and assembles important pianwen writings from the Qin 秦 (221-206 BCE) to the Sui 隋 (581-618) period, with a focus on its apogee during the Southern Qi 南齊 (479-502) and Liang 梁 (502-557) periods. The writing style was used for all literary genres, for which reason the Pianti wenchao arranges the texts according to genres as established in anthologies like the Wenxuan 文選, but in a different order. The whole book is divided into three parts (bian 編), the first of which focuses on official writings (miaotang zhi zhi, zoujin zhi pian 廟堂之制,奏進之篇 “edicts of the temples and halls, texts of memorials presented), of which it includes 209 texts. The second part includes 284 “writings demonstrating matters and explaining meanings” (zhishi shuyi zhi zuo 指事述意之作), and the last part 246 “writings mainly dedicated to emotions and moods” (duo yuanqing tuoxing zhi zuo 多緣情托興之作).

The collection as a whole begins with a general preface (Zongxu 總序), and each section with a “small preface” (xiaoxu 小序). Some texts are enriched by commentaries and reading helps.

The earliest print dates from the early 18th century. More widespread are the editions from 1867 and 1867, as well as that of the Cungu Press 存古局 in Chengdu 成都, Sichuan. A revised edition was published in 1936 by the Shijie Shuju 世界書局 which served as the basis for the Shanghai Shuju 上海書店 edition from 1988. The anthology is also found in the series Sibu beiyao 四部備要, with annotations by Tan Xian 譚獻 (1832-1901).

A book with the same title was compiled by Hu Jing 胡敬 (1769-1845), courtesy name Yizhuang 以莊, style Shunong 書農. In order to discern it from Li Zhaoluo’s anthology, it is called Chongyatang pianti leichao 崇雅堂駢體文鈔. It has a length of just 4 juan and was first printed in 1900.

Less famous than Li Zhaoluo's anthology is the collection Pianwen leizuan 駢文類纂 of 46 juan compiled by Wang Xianqian 王先謙(1842-1917). It includes couplet-style prose writings until the late 19th century. Qing-period texts are assembled in Yao Xie's 姚燮 (1805-1864) Huangchao pianwen leiyuan 皇朝駢文類苑 with a length of 15 juan.

Table 1. Contents of the Pianti wenchao 駢體文鈔
1 銘刻類 Inscriptions
2 頌類 Eulogies
3 雜揚頌類 Miscellaneous eulogies
4 箴類 Admonitions
5 諡誄哀策類 Dirges and laments
6 詔書類 Decrees
7 策命類 Ordinances
8 告祭類 Proclamations
9 教令類 Instructions
10 策對類 Answers to memorials
11 奏事類 Memorials
12 駁議類 Polemic memorials
13 勸進類 Adhortations
14 賀慶類 Congratulations
15 薦達類 Recommendations
16 陳謝類 Thanks
17 檄移類 Military proclamations
18 彈劾類 Accusations
19 書類 Letters
20 論類 Discussions
21 序類 Prefaces
22 雜頌讚箴銘類類 Miscellaneous eulogies, admonitions and inscriptions
23 碑記類 Stone slab inscriptions
24 墓碑類 Tombstone inscriptions
25 志狀類 Conduct descriptions
26 誄祭類 Dirges and sacrificial texts
27 設辭類 Essays
28 七類 Compositions divided into seven parts
29 連珠類 Compositions like "linked pearls"
30 箋牘類 Addresses
31 雜文類 Miscellaneous writings
Bai Hua 白化 (1986). "Pianti wenchao 駢體文鈔", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 611.
Cai Deli 蔡德莉 (2011). "Shi bijiao Pianti wenchao yu Pianwen leizuan 試比較《駢體文鈔》與《駢文類纂》", Chifeng Xueyuan xuebao (Hanwen zhexue shehui kexue ban) 赤峰學院學保(漢文哲學社會科學版), 2011 (12): 111-112.
Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, eds. (1990). Jiangming wenshi zhishi cidian 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi’an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 692.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, Vol. 2, 2777, 2779.
Lu Haiyang 路海洋 (2013). "Huangchao pianwen leiyuan dui Pianti wenchao tili de chuan yu bian 《皇朝駢文類苑》對《駢體文鈔》體例的承與變", Lantai shijie 兰台世界, 2013 (29): 151-152.
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), 526.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 686.
Zhong Tao 鍾濤, Peng Lei 彭蕾 (2014). "Lun Pianti wenchao de fenlei ji Li Zhaoluo de wentiguan 論《駢體文鈔》的分類及李兆洛的文體觀", Qinghai shehui kexue 青海社會科學, 2014 (6): 133-137.