An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yuanqu sanbai shou 元曲三百首

August 10, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Yuanqu sanbai shou 元曲三百首 is a collection of selected 300 regular aria-style (qu 曲) poems from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) compiled by Ren Zhongmin 任中敏 (1897-1991), who was an expert on this style of lyrics also compiled the series Sanqu congkan.

Influenced by Zhu Sun’s 孫洙 (1711-1778) Tangshi sanbai shou 唐詩三百首 and Zhu Zumou's 朱祖謀 (1857-1931) Songci sanbai shou 宋詞三百首 which were both very successful anthologies attracting wide attention and were even used as school textbooks, Ren Ne compiled a similar collection of the third great lyrical genre. His book was published in 1930 and includes 305 arias of the single-stanza type (xiaoling 小令) because these short poems are easy to recite and represent the spirit of aria-style poems in an aggregated way, just like jueju-style 絕句 regular poems among the shi 詩 poetry.

Ren’s collection did not include commentaries, but short biographies of the authors. In 1967, Luo Kanglie 羅忼烈 published a commented edition, Yuanqu sanbai shou jian 元曲三百首箋. The selection of poems deviates somewhat from Ren’s original book and includes 311 pieces. In 1998, Lin Meiyi 林玫儀 and Lai Qiaoben 賴橋本 published a modern commented edition that includes a translation of the 307 poems into modern Chinese, Xinyi Yuanqu sanbai shou 新譯元曲三百首, which makes it easier to understand the true meaning of the poems.

Lin Meiyi 林玫儀, Lai Qiaoben 賴橋本 (1998). Xinyi Yuanqu sanbai shou 新譯元曲三百首 (Taibei: Sanmin shuju).