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Chinese Literature
Sishuwen 欽定四書文 "Essays on the Four Books"


The (Qinding) Sishuwen 欽定四書文 "(Imperially Endorsed) Essays on the Four Books" is an anthology of essays written in the eight-legged style (baguwen 八股文). It was compiled on imperial order by Fang Bao 方苞 (1668-1749), courtesy name Fang Fengjiu 方鳳九, style Linghao 靈皋 or Wangxi 望溪. He came from Tongcheng 桐城, Anhui, and was a member of the compilation teams of the imperial geography Da-Qing yitong zhi 一統志 during the Yongzheng reign 雍正 (1722-1735). After this he was appointed Right Vice Minister in the Ministry of Rites (libu you shilang 禮部右侍郎). Fang Baoyu is counted among the "three great writers from Tongcheng" 桐城三大家, together with Liu Dakui 劉大櫆 and Yao Nai 姚鼐. His collected writings are called Fang Wangxi quanji 方望溪全集.
The book is 41 juan "scrolls" long and is divided into two parts, with four collections (ji 集) of eight-legged essays from the late Ming period (明 (1368-1644; 486 pieces), and one collection of essays from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The so-called "eight-legged" style was required during the state examinations in which candidates were tested for their ability to interpret the Confucian Classics, particularly the "Four Books" (Sishu 四書). The book served as a model presenting standard essays of this type. According to the compilers of the imperial collectaneaum Siku quanshu the authors of the essays in the anthology used "words that reached logic and refinement" (ci da li chun 詞達理醇) and able to "permeate the whole world" (chuan shi xing yuan´ 傳世行遠). Two of Fang's criteria for the selection of essays was that they changed with the need of time, and that they were of a pure elegance.
The Sishuwen was first printed in 1740, and then again in 1776 and 1779.


Sources:
Gu Mingyuan 顧明遠 (ed. 1998). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典 (rev. ed.), Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 1214.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2842.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 10, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail