An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xuxue congshu 許學叢書

Sep 29, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xuxue congshu 許學叢書 "Collectanea of Studies on Xu Shen" is a series of collectanea (congshu ) specialized on studies to Xu Shen's 許慎 (c. 58-c. 147) character dictionary Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 from the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE). The series includes 14 texts in three collections (ji 集) with a total length of 56 juan, and an appendix of 4 juan. It was compiled by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Zhang Bingxiang 張炳翔, who hailed from Changzhou 長洲 (modern Wuxian 吳縣, Jiangsu). The collection was printed in Zhang's Yixu Studio 儀許廬 in a pocket edition in 1887.

Studies on the Shuowen jiezi flourished during the Qing period, as a result of a new approach to the exegesis of the Confucian Classics with the help of philological methods (see Qian-Jia School 乾嘉學派). Yet a specialized school on "Shuowen studies" or "Xu (Shen) studies" (Xuxue 許學) never came into being. A solitary study of the ancient dictionary had been produced by the brothers Xu Xuan 徐弦 and Xu Kai 徐鍇 during the tenth century. The early Qing-period scholar Hui Dong 惠棟 (1697-1758) was the first who recognized the value of the Shuowen for philological studies of the Classics, and he was followed by numerous researchers, like Xu Shichang 席世昌 (Du Shuowen ji 讀說文記), Duan Yucai 段玉裁 (1735-1815, Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注), Wang Yun 王筠 (1784-1854, Shuowen judu 說文句讀) or Gui Fu 桂馥 (1736-1805, Shuowen yizheng 說文義證).

The most important of these studies is the book by Duan Yucai. Yet his book includes a lot of omissions and in some points even contradicts the transmitted text of the Shuowen jiezi. In the late 19th century, when the oracle bone inscriptions of Anyang 安陽, Hebei, the location of the last capital of the Shang dynasty 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE), were discovered, a new wave of Shuowen studies rose that used the chance of these findings to critically check Xu Shen's interpretations of Chinese characters. The most important representatives of these late scholars are Sun Yirang 孫詒讓 (1848-1908) and Wu Dacheng 吳大澂 (1835-1902).

The Xuxue congshu is thus a quite modern collection that also includes archaeological findings like a Shuowen fragment of 188 characters (not entries!) from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) discovered in Dunhuang 敦煌 that was investigated by Mo Youzhi 莫友芝 (1811-1871).

The texts Shuowen yiyi 說文疑疑 by Kong Guangju 孔廣居 (1732-1812) and Zhuanzhu guwen kao 轉注古義考 by Cao Renhu 曹仁虎 (1731-1787) focus on the problem of characters of the zhuanzhu 轉注 type (see Chinese characters). Niu Shuyu's 鈕樹玉 (1760-1827) text Duanshi Shuowen zhuding 段氏說文注訂 is dedicated to the correction of errors made in Duan Yucai's important study. Song Bao 宋保 tries in his book Xuesheng buyi 諧聲補逸 to add characters of the xiesheng 諧聲 type that are missing in the received version of the Shuowen and seem to have been cut out by the brothers Xu. Xu Yu's 許棫 (1799-1881) Du Shuowen zashi 讀說文雜識 is a biji 筆記 "brush-notes"-style book that adds many important observations of the Shuowen text. Tao Fangqi 陶方琦 (1845-1884) wrote a chronological biography of Xu Shen, the Xu Jun nianbiao 許君年表. The book Shuowen ziyuan yunbiao 說文字原韻表 is a phonetic study of the Shuowen radicals by Hu Zhong 胡重 (1741-after 1811), but without a commentary.

Table 1. The series Xuxue congshu 許學叢書
(Qing) 張炳翔 Zhang Bingxiang (comp.)
1883-1886 edition by Master Zhang from Changzhou 長洲張氏 (張炳翔, Yixulu 儀鄦廬)
書名, length in juan Title Author(s)
許君年表考 一卷
許君年表 一卷
附錄 一卷
Xu Jun nianbiao kao
Xu Jun nianbiao
(Qing) 陶方琦 Tao Fangqi
唐寫本說文解字木部箋異 一卷 Tang xieben Shuowen jiezi mubu jianyi (Qing) 莫友芝 Mo Youzhi
說文疑疑 二卷
附錄 一卷
Shuowen yiyi
(Qing) 孔廣居 Kong Guangju
諧聲補逸 十四卷
Xiesheng buyi
(app.) Zhaji
(Qing) 宋保 Song Bao
(Qing) 張炳翔 Zhang Bingxiang
轉注古義考 一卷 Zhuanzhu guyi kao (Qing) 曹仁虎 Cao Renhu
說文段注撰要 九卷 Shuowen Duanzhu zhuanyao (Qing) 馬壽齡 Ma Shouling
說文辨疑 一卷 Shuowen bianyi (Qing) 顧廣圻 Gu Guangqi
讀說文雜識 一卷 Du Shuowen zashi (Qing) 許棫 Xu Yu
說文字原韻表 二卷 Shuowen ziyuan yunbiao (Qing) 胡重 Hu Zhong
說文部首歌 一卷 Shuowen bushou ge (Qing) 馮桂芬 Feng Guifen; 馬世澂 Ma Shicheng (annot.)
說文答問疏證 六卷 Shuowen dawen shuzheng (Qing) 薛傳均 Xue Chuanjun
說文新附考 六卷
續考 一卷
Shuowen xin fukao
(app.) Zhaji
(Qing) 鈕樹玉 Niu Shuyu

(Qing) 張炳翔 Zhang Bingxiang
段氏說文注訂 八卷
Duanshi Shuowen zhuding
(app.) Zhaji
(Qing) 鈕樹玉 Niu Shuyu
(Qing) 張炳翔 Zhang Bingxiang
說文聲訂 二卷
Shuowen shengding
(app.) Zhaji
(Qing) 苗夔 Miao Kui
(Qing) 張炳翔 Zhang Bingxiang
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 861.
Shanghai tushuguan 上海圖書館, ed. (1982). Zhongguo congshu zonglu 中國叢書綜錄 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 1, 624-635.