An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Quantangwen 全唐文

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Quantangwen 全唐文 is a complete collection of all preserved prose literature from the Tang 唐 (618-907) and Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods. It was compiled in the early years of the 19th century by a team led by Dong Gao 董誥 (1740-1818), Ruan Yuan 阮元 (1764-1849), Faššan (Ch. Fashishan 法式善, 1752-1813) and Xu Song 徐松 (1781-1848). For the compilation, the emperor had the team resided in the compilation office Quantangwen Guan 全唐文館, where more than a 100 persons were working. The compilation started in 1808 and was finalized in 1814. It contains 18,488 literary pieces (including fragments) of 3,042 persons, arranged in 1,000 juan. To each person a short biography is added.

There was a draft to a collection of Tang literature in the imperial library, the Tangwen 唐文 in 160 fascicles, compiled during the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Chen Bangyan 陳邦彥 (1678-1752). Not being content with this draft, the Jiaqing Emperor 嘉慶 (r. 1795-1820) ordered to compile a new collection. This collection made use of older books like the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) collection Wenyuan yinghua 文苑英華, the Guwenyuan 古文苑 and the Tangwencui 唐文粹. A few pieces were extracted from the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典 and many other documentary and literary collections, even some stone slab inscriptions served as primary sources.

The compilers critically revised all texts and corrected errors. They also paid attention to the change of special characters used on order of Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (the Zhou dynasty 周, 690-704).

The texts were arranged according to social standing, beginning with emperors, their consorts and princes, “normal” persons, Buddhist and Daoist clerics, and ending with females, eunuchs, anonymous writers and foreigners. Persons of the Five Dynasties and Ten States 十國 (902~979) are inserted between the dignitaries and normal persons of the Tang. Inside these sections, the order is chronological. Below the level of person, texts are arranged according to the traditional types of literature as it has been developed in the Wenxuan 文選 and perpetuated in the Wenyuan yinghua. This traditional order begins with rhapsodies (fu 賦), poems and memorials (biao 表) and ends with sacrificial and funeral texts.

Although the Quantangwen is a very valuable source that assembles all important pieces of literature of the Tang period it is by no means complete, contains errors, omissions, wrong attributions and doublings. A handful of modern scholars like Lao Ge 勞格 (Du Quantangwen zhaji 讀全唐文札記, Zhaji xubu 札記續補) and Cen Zhongmian 岑仲勉 (Du Quantangwen zhaji 讀全唐文札記) have contributed to correct such errors. Pieces not included are, for example, writings of fiction like Liu Yi zhuan 柳毅傳, Huo Xiaoyu zhuan 霍小玉傳 or Zhou-Qin xingji 周秦行紀.

CHen Hongxi 陳鴻墀 (b. 1758), who participated in the compilation, wrote an independent text providing information on the compilation of the Quantangwen and the sources used for the collection. His Quantangwen jishi 全唐文紀事 with a length of 122 juan is divided into 80 chapters that imitate Liu Yiqing's 劉義慶 (403-444) anecdotic collection Shishuo xinyu 世說新語.

The Quantangwen was first printed in 1819 in Yangzhou by the Imperial Housebold (Neifu keben 內府刻本). In 1985 the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 reprinted this edition, together with Lu Xinyuan's 陸心源 (1834-1894) supplements Tangwen shiyi 唐文拾遺 in 72 juan and Tangwen xushi 唐文續拾 in 16 juan, as well as an index compiled by Ma Xuchuan 馬緒傳. The two supplements are also found in Lu Xinyuan’s series Qianyuan zongji 潛園總集.

Table 1. Contents of the Quantangwen 全唐文
1.-94. Emperors of the Tang
95.-98. Consorts of the Tang
99.-100. Princes and princesses of the Tang
101.-126. Rulers of the Five Dynasties
127. Consorts of the Five Dynasties
128.-130. Rulers of the Ten States
131.-902. Authors in chronological sequence
903.-922. Buddhist writers
923.-944. Daoist writers
945. Female writers
946.-959. Eunuch writers
960.-995. Anonymous texts
998. Rebels
999.-1000. Barbarians

Tangwen shiyi 唐文拾遺 and Tangwen xushi 唐文續拾

Lu Xinyuan 陸心源 (1834-1894) was a great collector of ancient writings which he storied in his library and republished in his series Shiwanjuanlou congshu 十萬卷樓叢書. He was therefore in an excellent position to view texts not included in the Quantangwen. In the course of time he reached a volume of 72 fascicles of additional texts that were published with the title Tangwen shiyi 唐文拾遺. Another supplement is Lu’s book Tangwen xushi 唐文續拾 (also called Tangwen xu shiyi 唐文續拾遺) with a size of 16 juan. Both supplements add more than 2,500 texts of more than 300 authors.

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Zhu Jincheng 朱金城 (1986). "Quantangwen 全唐文", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 657.