An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Longkan shoujian 龍龕手鍳

Dec 20, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Longkan shoujing 龍龕手鏡, also called Longkan shoujian 龍龕手鍳 (龍龕手鑑) "Hand mirror of the dragon niche", is a dictionary with words arranged in mixed system of character radicals and phonetic value. It was written during the Liao period 遼 (907-1125) by the Buddhist monk Xingjun 行均. The preface, written by Zhiguang 智光, dates from 997.

Figure 1. Example from the Longkan shoujian
Example from the Longkan shoujian 龍龕手鑑, beginning of the radical 人 "man", Sibu congkan xubian 四部叢刊續編 edition, reproducing a Song-period 宋 (960-1279) print from the collection of the family Fu 傅氏 from Jiang'an 江安, Sichuan (Shuangjian Studio 雙鑑樓).

The radicals are arranged according to 240 rhyme groups, divided into the four tone pitches level tone rhymes (pingsheng 平聲) with 97 rhyme groups, falling-rising tone rhymes (shangsheng 上聲) with 60 rhyme groups, falling tone rhymes (qusheng 去聲), with 26 rhyme groups and entering tone rhymes (rusheng 入聲) with 59 rhyme groups. This arrangement is unique among all traditional Chinese dictionaries.

Under the radical level, the characters are likewise arranged according to the four tone pitch system. The dictionary contains 26,430 characters, among them not only the standard script types (zhengti 正體), but also alternative characters (huoti 或體 or yiti 異體), abbreviated characters of daily use (suti 俗體), as well as a vast amount of character variants used in Buddhist writings.

The compilation of the Longkan shoujian was not done very well, and therefore many writing errors, as well as inconsistencies decrease the value of it. For example, the radical 亠 includes the characters 高 and 亭, which are radicals by themselves; the character 處 is listed under the radical 几, and it is a radical by itself; the character 其 is used as a radical for the characters 基, 碁, or 纂, although it is clear that 其 is a phonetic part of these characters, and not a radical.

Figure 1. Collage of characters with dubious radical classification
Characters distributed over the radicals 尢, 亣, 凡, 九, 几, and 兀. In modern dictionaries, all words are assembled under the (graphical, not semantic) radical 尢. The word 尰 is listed thrice, the words 尲, 𡯾 and 𡯺 (and others) twice.

This is the case in a large number of the Longkan radicals, so that the peculiar radical system of the Longkan shoujian is not not only geared to the meaning of the characters, but also to oft-used graphemes as a part of the characters (e. g. 歲, 益, 寧, 卑, 興, and many more). Some radicals are also doubled, like 攴 and 攵, 罓 and 罒, 示 and 礻, or even several times, like 尢, 元, 凡, 九, 几, and 兀 (there are several variants of 尫 listed under the radicals 元, 九, 几 and 兀). Many characters appear under several radicals, like 冗, under 冖 and 几, or 黿, under 黽 and 元. In many cases, the radicals themselves are not explained.

From this fact alone it can be seen that the Longkan shoujian is not a general dictionary, but a handbook that specializes on characters used outside the common world of literates, concretely, Buddhist writings.

Quotation 1. Example from the Longkan shoujian
【條】亭聊反。敎也。貫也。出也。亂也。斜也。小枝也。 /dʰ-ĭɛu˥˩/. To teach. To pass through. To go out. To bring into disorder. To provide. A small twig.
【俳】歩皆反。俳優。戲笑也。 /bʰ-ɐi˩/. Artist. A comedy sketch.
【優】音憂。俳優樂人也。又倡也。 /ʔ-ĭəu˥˩/. A comedian. To entertain.
【偱】音廵。從也。順也。善也。述也。環也。 /zĭuĕn˩/. To follow. To obey. Good. To describe. To circumvene.
【僚】音聊。官僚也。同佐曰僚。亦姓。 /lieu˩/. A state official. How an assistant is called. Also a surname.
【𠎝】【𠍴】【𠐨】三俗。【諐】古【愆】正。去乾反。過也。咎也。五。 All three vulgar. 諐 is ancient for correct 愆. /kʰĭɛn˥˩/. A fault. A mistake. 5 alternative characters.
【■】俗通【儋】正。都甘反。人名。又音談。又姓。二。 ■ is vulgar for correct 儋. /t-ɑm˥˩/. A common personal name. Also read /dɑm/. A surname. 2 alternative characters.
【儔】直由反。疋也。侶也。 /ɖʰ-ĭəu˩/. A companion. A friend.
【傾】苦營反。傾側也。欹也。伏也。 /kʰ-ĭwɛŋ˩/. To incline. To rely on. To recline.
【侖】音輪。曉知也。 /lĭuĕn˩/. To know clearly.
【佗】音陀。逶佗。今作迤同。 /tʰɑ˥˩/. To wind. Now commonly written 迤.
【僥】古聊反。僥遇也。冀求也。又僬僥國名。又音堯。/td> /ŋ-ieu˩/. To encounter. To long for. Also: the country of 僬僥. Also read /ŋieu˩/.
【■】俗。傭正。丑凶反。直也。即也。又音容。賃也。二。 ■ is vulgar for correct 傭. /ȶʰ-ĭwoŋ˥˩/. Direct. Immediate. Also read /jĭwoŋ˩/. To lend. 2 alternative characters.
【㒂】俗【儲】正。音除。貯也。積也。備也。偫。直利反。二。 㒂 is vulgar for correct 儲. /ɖʰĭo˩/. To store. To accumulate. To treat. To assemble ([the latter is read] /ɖʰ-i˩˥/. 2 alternative characters.
【僵】居良反。僵仆也。 /k-ĭaŋ˥˩/. Coarse.
【■】【𠍪】二俗。【■】古。【𠇓】通。【低】正【仾】今。都奚反。低昂垂免也。六。 Both vulgar, ■ old, ■ commonly used for correct 低, or currently used 仾. /t-iei˥˩/. To press down. To hang down. 6 alternative characters.
【■】俗。【儜】正。女耕反。弱也。用也。二。 ■ is vulgar for correct 儜. /ɳ-æŋ˩/. Weak. In distress. 2 alternative characters.
【𠐤】【■】二或作【𠎺】通。【傀】正。女回反。美也。盛也。偉大貌也。亦怪也。異也。下又口罪反。傀儡。四。 Both also commonly written ■ or correctly 傀. /ɳ-uɒi˥˩/. Beautiful. Abundant. Impressive. Also, to feel strange, different. The last two variants also read /kʰ-uɒi˥/. A puppet. 4 alternative characters.
【俅】音求。戴也。【■】俗【仇】正。音求。雔也。又姓。三。 /gʰĭəu˩/. To wear. ■ is vulgar for 仇. /gʰĭəu˩/. A spouse. Also a surname. 3 alternative characters.
【傎】正。【■】今。丁年反。例也。隕也。二。 傎 it correct for presently used ■. /t-ien˩/. Upside down. To fall down. 2 alternative characters.
【倡】音昌。俳優樂也。又音唱。導引聲也。 /tɕʰĭaŋ˥˩/. To entertain with music. Also read /tɕʰĭaŋ˩˥/. To lead a group.
【倪】丑兮反。人姓也。 /ŋ-iei˩/. A surname.
【傞】七何。素何二反。舞不正也。又俗音差。 /tsʰ-ɑ˥˩/ or /s-ɑ˥˩/. To dance not correctly. Also commonly read /tʃʰa˩˥/.
【■】俗【侜】正【■】今。陟流反。壅蔽貌。又侜張幻惑欺誑人也。二。 ■ is vulgar for correct 侜 or commonly used ■. [ȶ-ĭəu˥˩]. To conceal. Or to betray someone and lie at him. 2 altnative characters.
【侏】音朱。侏儒短人也。又張流反。 /tɕĭu˥˩/. A short person. Also read /ȶ-ĭəu˥˩/.
【偕】音皆。俱也。 /kɐi˥˩/. Complete.
【償】音常。還報。當復也。又書兩反。又音尚。備也。填也。 /ʑĭaŋ˩/. To give back. To retribute. Also read /ɕ-ĭaŋ˥/ or /ʑĭaŋ˩˥/. To prepare. To provide.
【伶】郎丁反。樂人也。《三倉》又伶俜。孤獨貌也。 /l-ieŋ˩/. A musician. The book Sancang also says, orphaned.

In spite of all these inconsistencies, the Longkan shoujian is remarkable for its simplification of the radical system, and it must be seen as a first step in the direction to the 214 radical system. It has 241 radicals (including the redundant radicals) and one category of miscellaneous characters which Xingjun could not attribute to a radical of his system, like 雜, 凹, 囪, 壺, 夊, 乇, 丰, and many more. The Longkan shoujian is mainly a collection of characters, with an indication of the pronunciations. Explanations of the meaning are very short, if provided at all. There are very few references to other dictionaries.

A Song-period print of the Longkan shoujing is included in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 and Hanhai 函海. It is also included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Table 1. "Radicals" of the Longkan shoujian 龍龕手鍳
Numbers in brackets are counts on the fascicle level. Based on the Hanhai 函海 edition. Note that the radicals are not used in the proper sense as carriers of meaning, but in many cases just graphically.
卷一平聲韻 Level-tone radicals
1 metal
2 man
3 speech
4 feeling
5 mountain
6 carriage
7 長(髟) hair, long
8 gate
9 knife
10 clothes
11 礻[在左] to signify, spiritual matters (=168)
12 ox
13 bed
14 文(攵) graph, ornament, pattern; whip (=217)
15 branch
16 skin
17 direction
18 wind
19 𠘨[在上] graphical cover (=132)
20 head, above
21 boat
22 hair
23 axe, weight
24 silk, cloth (=232)
25 to embrace, to hold
26 spear
27 grain plant
28 small bird
29 bow
30 field
31 roof
32 sheep, goat
33 body, self
34 corpse, body
35 fish
36 halberd
37 enclosure
38 both sides of leather
39 sound
40 many
41 curved leg (=61, 73, 131, 132, 209)
42 brilliance
43 perfume
44 confusion
45 soundstone
46 yellow
47 spicy, eighth of the Celestial Stems
48 self
49 high
50 basket, his, this
51 stanza, rule
52 produce, birth
53 ice
54 hair, decoration
55 grain, come
56 son
57 beard, and, but
58 subject, civil servant
59 weak, exhausted
60 tortoise
61 亣(元) great, large (origin) (=41, 73, 131, 132, 209)
62 云(𠫓) movement of air (disobedience)
63 cloud
64 container
65 club
66 melon, gourd
67 dragon
68 畨(番) round, turn
69 many, together
70 Heaven, sky
71 西(襾) west, cover
72 burp
73 all, together, normal (=41, 61, 131, 132, 209)
74 name, designation
75 pavillion
76 molar teeth
77 low, unworthy
78 tranquil, peaceful
79 man
80 confidence, breed
81 goose
82 to reach out, ninth of the Terrestrial Branches
83 tiger pattern
84 bad, evil (=205)
85 sweet
86 么(幺) small, young
87 stream, river
88 calamity, cultivated field
89 because, origin
90 nun, approach from behind
91 vast, wide
92 single, solitary
93 jade tablet
94 㓙(凶) unfortunate
95 rise, flourish
96 cinnabar
97 wise, to know
卷二上聲韻 rising-tone radicals
(1)98 hand
(2)99 vermin, insect
(3)100 water
(4)101 fire
(5)102 earth
(6)103 grass, herb
(7)104 mouth
(8)105 female
(9)106 bird
(10)107 horse
(11)108 raised structure
(12)109 广 roof, great
(13)110 cliff
(14)111 house
(15)112 rice, millet grains
(16)113 rain
(17)114 jug
(18)115 teeth
(19)116 ear
(20)117 tile, brick
(21)118 dog
(22)119 pig
(23)120 cat, small carnivore
(24)121 tiger
(25)122 ghost, demon
(26)123 to walk
(27)124 wings
(28)125 dish
(29)126 𠕀(冈,网) net (=166)
(30)127 claw, grip
(31)128 arrow
(32)129 glutinous millet
(33)130 𠧸(鹵) salt
(34)131 nine (=41, 61, 73, 132, 209)
(35)132 几[在下] low table (=19)
(36)133 a volume measure
(37)134 rat, mouse
(38)135 long-lasting, comprehensive
(39)136 this
(40)137 stop
(41)138 (male) hemp plant
(42)139 child
(43)140 drum
(44)141 little, small, young
(45)142 𦈢(缶) mug
(46)143 old, aged
(47)144 well
(48)145 joy
(49)146 ancient
(50)147 breast, speak with difficulty
(51)148 hamlet, mile
(52)149 尒(𠇍) you
(53)150 box
(54)151 amphibium
(55)152 mortar
(56)153 is, stress particle
(57)154 compare
(58)155 right, correct, is
(59)156 head
(60)157 fruit, outcome
卷三去聲韻 falling-tone radicals
(1)158 to see
(2)159 face
(3)160 hand, also, again
(4)161 cowry shell, valuables
(5)162 lack
(6)163 large
(7)164 vessel, one
(8)165 beaker
(9)166 罒(网) net (=126)
(10)167 piece, slip
(11)168 示[在下] to signify, spiritual matters (=11)
(12)169 nose
(13)170 self
(14)171 plow
(15)172 year, age
(16)173 to change
(17)174 night
(18)175 to discard
(19)176 two
(20)177 inch
(21)178 order, command
(22)179 𠁅(處) place, to treat
(23)180 pig's head
(24)181 air, breeze, energy
(25)182 banner
(26)183 hook
卷四入聲韻 entering-tone radicals
(1)184 tree
(2)185 bamboo
(3)186 系(糸) thread, textile
(4)187 meat
(5)188 eye
(6)189 sun
(7)190 white, self
(8)191 jade
(9)192 stone
(10)193 tanned leather
(11)194 village, settlement
(12)195 foot
(13)196 sickbed
(14)197 bone
(15)198 side, face
(16)199 to go
(17)200 pace
(18)201 food, to eat
(19)202 grain, wheat
(20)203 hole, cavity
(21)204 horn, corner, angle
(22)205 bad, evil (=84)
(23)206 force, power
(24)207 to stand, to erect
(25)208 鹿 stag, deer
(26)209 high and flat (=41, 61, 73, 131, 132)
(27)210 colour, facial expression
(28)211 red
(29)212 one, unity
(30)213 valley
(31)214 plug
(32)215 two hands
(33)216 to enter
(34)217 whip, to beat (=14)
(35)218 black, soot
(36)219 tongue
(37)220 tripod, same as 221
(38)221 tripod
(39)222 to learn
(40)223 cover
(41)224 to exit, to emerge
(42)225 ten
(43)226 seal
(44)227 blood
(45)228 oracle
(46)229 blocked hands or feet
(47)230 lofty, brilliang
(48)231 not
(49)232 silk, cloth (=24)
(50)233 bolt of cloth
(51)234 abundant, to overflow
(52)235 can, one
(53)236 two, second of the Celestial Stems
(54)237 armour, first of the Celestial Stems
(55)238 brush
(56)239 to bind, to wrap
(57)240 necessary, must
(58)241 not
(59)242 雜部 miscellaneous radicals
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