An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Quanyuanwen 全元文

Sep 7, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Quanyuanwen 全元文 is a complete collection of the prose literature (including rhapsodies and texts written in paired sentences) of the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). It was compiled by a team under the guidance of Li Xiusheng 李修生 and first published in 1997 by the Jiangsu Guji Press 江蘇古籍出版社 in Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu, and was republished in 2004, by the Fenghuang Press 鳳凰出版社. The collection only includes texts written in Chinese language. It consists of 60 volumes with 1,880 juan.

Work at the project began in 1993, but was based on some earlier works like the catalogue Guonei suo cang Yuanren wenji banben mulu 國內所藏元人文集版本目錄 compiled by the Beijing Shifan Daxue Gujisuo 北京師範大學古籍所 (1988). The compilation group of the Quanyuanwen started by defining the rules of compilation (fanli 凡例) while simultaneously screening all available writings of persons from the Yuan period, mainly in collections of individual writers (bieji 別集) or anthologies (zongji 總集) - so-called collection titles (jinei 集內) - and texts not found in such collections (jiwai 集外), encyclopaedias (leishu) or Buddhist and Daoist writings. Commentaries on the Classics and individual books were not considered, likewise "sayings" (yulu 語錄), poetry critique (shihua 詩話), "brush-notes"-style essays (biji 筆記), annalist biographies (nianpu 年譜) or novellas (xiaoshuo 小說). However, prefaces and afterwords (xu ba 序跋) of individual books were included. Fragments were only included if not too brief. All texts are critically commented, and short biographies added to the authors. The collections ends with several indexes.

The books consulted amounted to no less than 6,510 titles (Liu 1997: 2). The collection thus includes more than 35,000 titles of more than 3,200 persons. The high number is the result of the traditional principle to include all writings of each individual person, and to consider all persons of which writings did exist, including anonymous texts. The collection is arranged according to the living dates of authors, and below the level of authors, according to literary genres.

A particular problem with books focusing on limited periods (like the Yuan period) is to define criteria to include or exclude persons living before the foundation and after the end of the Yuan dynasty. In this case, literary activity was the decisive criterion. For this reason, there are some text found in the Quanyuanwen and the collections Quansongwen 全宋文 as well.

The compilation of the Quanyuanwen was accompanied by several studies of Yuan-period literature, resulting in the publications Yuanshi quanyi 元史全譯, Yuanshi xuanyi 元史選譯 (selected translations of the history book Yuanshi 元史), Yuanqu da cidian 元曲大辭典 (dictionary on arias), Yuan zaju shi 元雜劇史 (history of Yuan theatre), Yuan sanqu xuanyi 元散曲選譯 (selected translations of solitary arias), Luqiuzhai ji jicun 盧疏齋集輯存, Qiao Ji ji 喬吉集, Sadula shici xuanyi 薩都刺詩詞選譯 and the series Yuandai wenshi ziliao congkan 元代文史資料叢刊 and Yuandai wenhua yanjiu congshu 元代文化研究叢書.

Li Xiusheng 李修生 (1997). "Qianyan 前言", in Li Xiusheng 李修生, ed. Quanyuanwen 全元文 (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe), 1-13.