An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tianyige shumu 天一閣書目

Feb 19, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Tianyige shumu 天一閣書目 or Tianyige cangshu mulu 天一閣藏書目錄 "Catalogue of the books owned by the Hall of Celestial Unity" is a book catalogue of the library of the Tianyige Studio 天一閣. The 10-juan long book, with one additional fascicle including stone tablet inscriptions (Bei mu 碑目) was compiled during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Fan Maozhu 范懋柱 (1718-1788), courtesy name Hanheng 漢衡.

Fan Maozhu was a descendant of Fan Qin 范欽 (1506-1585), a famous collector of books, and inherited his forebear's library. As owner of one of the largest libraries of the country he was consulted during the compilation of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. The categories of the Tianyige shumu are roughly identical to those in the Siku quanshu and might have played a decisive role for the large imperial collection.

The Tianyige Library is the oldest, and one of the largest private libraries in China. It is located in Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiang, and was inaugurated in 1532 by Fan Qin. Fan Qin, who climbed the ladder of carrer up to a position in the Ministry of War, loved reading and collecting books. In his early years he was disappointed by the condition of books present in the Wanjuanlou Library 萬卷樓 of Feng Fang 豐坊 (1492-1563). Feng Fang entrusted many of his books to Fan Qin. Fan Qin and his colleague Wang Shizhen 王世貞 (1526-1590) copied numerous rare books from various libraries and started establishing their own library.

The Tianyige Hall has two stories, the upper of which is not divided into rooms, while the lower storey is divided into six rooms. This construction represents the unity of Heaven (the name of the hall is therefore "Hall of Celestial Unity") and the division of Earthly phenomena and beings into categories. The books are all standing in the upper floor, in bookshelves that are arranged to shape several "rooms", three in the centre, one to the west, and one to the east. While the wind can go through all shelves from most sides, the shelves on the eastern side are not occupied by books in fear of moisture damage. For the same reasons the shelves have a fundament of stones.

The construction of the Tianyige served as archetype of the Wenyuange Hall 文淵閣 and the other halls in which the seven copies of the Siku quanshu were stored.

The books Fan Qin was interested in were mainly products of his own times, the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). He assembled lists of graduates of state examinations and local gazetters from throughout the country, even from remote places as Yunnan and the island of Hainan. Today, these books are very rare.

His collection also includes a lot of literary writings from the Ming period, as well as Ming-period reprints from older books of the Song 宋 (960-1279) and Yuan 元 (1279-1368) periods. Later on, the owners of the Tianyige Library also collected rubbings of stone tablet inscriptions, of which more than 700 were collected. They are catalogued in the book Tianyige beimu 天一閣碑目, compiled by Qian Daxin 錢大昕 (1728-1804) and Zhang Yanchang 張燕昌 (1738-1814). Another list of rubbings was compiled by Quan Zuwang 全祖望 (1705-1755), Tianyige beimu 天一閣碑目 (lost).

Three specialized catalogues were focusing on local gazetteers, namely Feng Zhenqun's 馮貞群 (1886-1962) Tianyige fangzhi mu 天一閣方志目, and Luo Zhaoping's 駱兆平 (b. 1934) Tianyige cang Mingdai difangzhi kaolu 天一閣藏明代地方志考錄, and examination graduates, respectively, namely Fang Zhenqun's Tianyige cang Mingdai shishi lu mu 天一閣藏明代試士錄目.

The library was so famous and important that it was often visited by scholars to consult old books. The owners therefore had to keep a strict eye on their books and cared for the safety of this important collection. During the 17th century there were some losses, and the books presented to the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆帝 (r. 1736-1795) for the compilation of the Siku quanshu also have to be counted among the losses.

There were in total 18 catalogues recording the books stored in the Tianyige Library. The oldest of them, Fanshi dongming shumu 范氏東明書目, Siming Fanshi shumu 四明范氏書目 and Siming Fanshi Tianyige cangshu mu 四明范氏天一閣藏書目, are not suriving. The most complete premodern catalogues are the so-called Mantang manuscript (Mantang chaoben 漫堂鈔本), and the Jiefu manuscript 介夫鈔本 by the family Shulumu 舒木魯 (afterword dated 1716).

The first draft for a catalogue was made by Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610-1695) in 1673. This version was copied by Xue Qianxue 徐乾學 (1631-1694) and brought into circulation. During the Jiaqing reign-period 嘉慶 (1796-1820), the scholar Ruan Yuan 阮元 (1764-1849), at that time provincial education commissioner (tidu xuezheng 提督學政) of Zhejiang, ordered Fan Bangdian 范邦甸 to publish the catalogue which happened in 1808. The Tianyige Catalogue had a length of 10 juan and recorded 4,094 texts, with a total length of 53,799 juan. This catalogue included not just the titles and their juan size, but also information on prefaces and afterwords, editions, seals of (former) owners, and critical commentaries.

During the Opium War (1839-1842), British soldiers stole the imperial geography of the Ming, the Da-Ming yitong zhi 大明一統志, and many local gazetteers from that time. Further damage occurred during the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864). Yet the greatest loss occurred in 1924, when the Tianyige Library was plundered by some profiteers that sold the books on the antiques market. Of the once 70,000 juan of books, only a seventh is left today. Only a small part of the lost books could be purchased back or were presented by other private collectors.

In 1880, Xue Fucheng 薛福成 (1838-1894) and Qian Xuejia 錢學嘉 published in 1894 a catalogue on the remains of the Tianyige Library called Tianyige xiancun shumu 天一閣見存書目, with a length of 4 juan, and recording but 2,056 (2,153) titles, but not including rare prints, lists of graduates and private biographies. A private compilation of the remains with a length of 20 juan and made by Liu Xihai 劉喜海 (1793-1852) was not published.

The first juan of the Tianyige shumu includes one very large book presented by the emperor, two books for which the emperor wrote calligraphy for the title, two books with illustrations presented by the emperor, and a list of 696 books that the family Fan presented to the emperor.

The section of the Confucian Classics includes 226 books, the historiographical section 1,276 books., the section of masters and philosophers 1,011 books, and the section of belles-lettres 827 books. A small supplement (Buyi 補遺) contains 38 further books and illustrations, as well as 16 books written by members of the family Fan. The last, appended juan, is the list of rubbings of stone inscriptions.

The catalogue is very detailed and provides the titles of books, authors' names, the number of juan and information about different prints. A lot of books are also commented with indications about prefaces and postfaces, and a summary of the content and the history of the transmission. The Tianyige shumu is included in the series Xiancunzhai congshu 現存齋叢書. The catalogue Siming Tianyige cangshu mulu 四明天一閣藏書目錄, compiled around 1800 and listing 4,749 titles, is included in Luo Zhenyu's 羅振玉 (1866-1940) series Yujianzhai congshu 玉簡齋叢書. It is arranged according to "book shelves" (shuchu 書櫥), not book themes.

The first modern catalogue of the library, Ningbo Fanshi Tianyige tushu mulu 寧波范氏天一閣圖書目錄, appeared in 1930 by Yang Tiefu 楊鐵夫 (1869-1943, under the name of the local administrator Yang Ziyi 楊子毅), with 962 titles in 7,971 booklets. In 1933, Zhao Wanli 趙萬里 (1905-1980) and Feng Zhenqun published a separate catalogue, Yin Fanshi Tianyige shumu neibian 鄞范氏天一閣書目內編, in 1940. The quality of this catalogue is excellent, and it includes detailed information on each titles, lists 36 writings of the Fan family, as well as illustrations and rubbings owned by the Library. The latest publication is Luo Zhaoping's Xinbian Tianyige shumu 新編天一閣書目 from 1996 (Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局).

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