An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tianzhongji 天中記

Dec 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Tianzhongji 天中記 "Records from Mt. Tianzhong" is an encylopaedia compiled during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Chen Yuewen (Chen Yaowen) 陳躍文, who lived on Mt. Tianzhong (i.e., Mt. Tiantai 天臺山), hence the title of the book. Is is also called Songhai huibian 宋海彙編. Chen Yaowen has also written the books Jingdian qiyi 經典稽疑 and Xuelin zhengjiu 學林正就.

The Tianzhongji was finished in 1589 after twenty years of compilation. It has an appendix containing a rhapsody on astronomy by the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) writer Zhang Heng 張衡 (78-139) called Zhoutian daxiang fu 週天大象賦. The first printed version is 50-juan-long, and a version from the late 16th century 60 juan, covering 796 topics. The book is only divided into small categories, without larger headlines.

Figure 1. First page of the Tianzhongji 天中記
Reprint by Taibei Wenhai Shuju 臺灣文海書局, 1964.

The Tianzhongji quotes a tremendous amount of primary literature, which Chen all comments in details and indicating the sources, sometimes above the article, and sometimes below. He also corrected errors occurring in his sources. One weak point of the encyclopaedia is that there are no first-level headlines of thematic fields, so that all themes are grouped in untitled chapters.

There are surviving prints from the Longqing 隆慶 (1567-1572) and the Wanli 萬曆 (1573-1619) reign-periods, in 50 juan, and a print from 1610 in 60 juan. The Tianzhongji is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. In 1991 the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社 published this edition separately. The Wenhai Press 文海出版社 in Taibei had published it separately in 1964.

Table 1. Contents of the Tianzhongji 天中記
1.-6. Astronomy, weather, seasons, calendar
7.-8. Mountains
9.-10. Rivers
11. Rulers
12. Imperial commands, the royal house, palaces
13. Local administration
14.-16. Buildings, places
17.-19. Family relationship
20.-21. Social relationship
22.-23. The human body and nature
24.-29. Character, feelings, comportment
30.-34. Government structure
35.-36. Buddhism and Daoism
37. Literature
38. Tools of the study
39. Human conditions
40. Divination
41. Sports and entertainment
42. Ritual
43. Music
44. Wine and tea
45. Grains and hemp
46. Various plants
47.-48. Caps and robes
49. Furniture, tools, decoration, jewelry
50. Fabric and metals
51.-52. Trees
53. Useful plants
54.-55. Domestic animals
56. Dragons, snakes and fish
57. Frogs, worms, insects
58.-59. Birds
60. Unicorns, wild animals
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Zhu Xianlin 朱仙林 (2014). "Tianzhongji banben yuanliu kaolüe 《天中記》版本源流考略", Tushuguan zazhi 圖書館雜誌, 2014 (7): 98-107.