An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Dinglu 鼎錄

Oct 23, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Dinglu 鼎錄 "On tripods" is a description of ancient bronze vessels collected or investigated by writer Yu Li 虞荔 (503-561), courtesy name Shanpo 山披, who lived during the Liang 梁 (502-557) and Chen 陳 (557-589) periods. Yu hailed from Yuyao 余姚 (modern Yuxiao, Zhejiang) and served as a scribe in the imperial secretariat during the Liang period and was appointed palace cadet of the heir apparent (taizi zhongshuzi 太子中庶子) by Emperor Wen 陳文帝 (r. 559-566) of the Chen dynasty. The emperor entrusted him with the compilation of quite a few manuals and informative books. Yu Li's mother died during the disturbances of Hou Jing's 侯景 (503-552) rebellion, and he mourned for her for the rest of his life and never accepted an office again.

His book Dinglu is a description of tripod bronze vessels cast by emperors and high ministers of former times, beginning with the age of the mythological Yellow Emperor 黃帝 and down to the times of Emperor Xuan 陳宣帝 (r. 569-582) of the Chen dynasty. The short book includes the descriptions of 49 vessels, the background of their production, their shape, the material, the name of the vessels, and the inscription (content and writings style). For some vessels, it is indicated where they were stored.

Quotation 1. Two examples from the Dinglu 鼎錄
漢孝景帝鑄一鼎,名曰食鼎,高二尺,銅、金、銀雜為之,形若尾甑無足,中元六年造,其文曰:五熟是滋,君王膳之。小篆書。 Emperor Xiaojing (r. 157-141 BCE) of the Han dynasty had cast a tripod called "Nourishment Tripod", with a height of 2 feet, and made of copper, gold, and silver. Its shape was like that of a tailed zeng steamer, but without feet. It was produced in 144 BCE, and its inscription (in small seal script) goes: "The five grains are abundant and serve the lords and kings for food."
王羲之於九江作書鼎,高五尺,四面周匝書遍刻之,沉於水中,真、隸書。 Wang Xizhi produced the "Calligraphy Tripod" in Jiujiang. It has a height of 5 feet and is covered with inscriptions all around, in regular and in chancery script. It was sunk in the river.

The oldest vessel cast by a non-ruler was that of Jiang Taigong 姜太公 (bettern known as Lü Shang 呂尚 or Qi Taigong 齊太公), the newest was produced during the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) by the calligrapher Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (303-361). There are in total 29 tripods made by private persons. For those vessels, the information provided is much shorter and in most cases reduced to the name and title of the owner. The authenticity of a lot of passages in this book is of doubtful origin, and it appears to have altered by later persons, probably as a result of bad copies.

The bibliography Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 by Chao Gongwu 晁公武 (c. 1105-1180) lists a book Dinglu by a certain Wu Xie 吳協 which seems to be a clerical error. The Dinglu is included in the series Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Miji congkan 秘笈叢刊, Qunfang qingwan 群芳清玩, Longwei mishu 龍威秘書, Sishijia xiaoshuo 四十家小說 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

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, 1851.
蜀漢 (221-263)