An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Bianzhu 編珠

Oct 23, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Bianzhu 編珠 "Composition of pearls" is an encyclopaedia compiled on imperial order during the Sui period 隋 (581-618). Authorship of the book was traditionally attributed to Du Gongzhan 杜公瞻 (preface of 611) but is first mentioned in Song-period 宋 (960-1279) bibliographies.

It was apparently lost soon. The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Gao Shiqi 高士奇 (1645-1703) discovered it among a pile of wastepaper of the household administration of the heir apparent and tried to reconstruct it on the base of of quotations in other sources. This part is called Xu Bianzhu 續編珠, a further collection of fragments is called Buyi 補遺. The Bianzhu has a length of 2 juan and consists of 14 parts. The two supplements by Gao Shiqi are 2-juan-long each. For each lemma in the Bianzhu, a source is indicated. It is also indicated if a lemma has been reconstructed by Gao Shiqi.

The Bianzhu is only preserved in quotations, and prints are very rarely found. There is a manuscript copy in the library of the Imperial Household from the Qing period, and a print from the Qingyin Hall 清吟堂 of Master Gao 高氏 in Qiantang 錢塘, Zhejiang, from 1698. Unfortunately they only contain the first five chapters. These copies were the base for the edition in the official series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

There is a book called Xianyuan bianzhu 仙苑編珠, which is a collection of Daoist biographies and writings compiled by Wang Songnian 王松年, who lived during the 10th century.

Table 1. Contents of the Bianzhu 編珠
1. 天地 Heaven and Earth
2. 山川 Mountains and rivers
3. 居處 Architecture
4. 儀衛 Banners and defence
5. 音樂 Music
6. 器玩 Tools and utensils (lost)
7. 珍寶 Jewellery (lost)
8. 繒彩 Painting and colours (lost)
9. 酒膳 Beverages and food (lost)
10. 黍稷 Grains (lost)
11. 菜蔬 Vegetables (lost)
12. 果實 Fruits (lost)
13. 車馬 Carts (lost)
14. 舟楫 Boats (lost)
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