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Chinese Literature
Tongya 通雅 "The Comprehensive Correct [Dictionary]"


The Tongya 通雅 "Comprehensive correct [dictionary]" is a glossary dictionary on miscellaneous matters compiled by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Fang Yizhi 方以智 (1579-1671). The book is 52 juan "scrolls" long, with an introduction of 3 juan length. After the downfall of the Ming, Fang Yizhi became a Buddhist monk and adopted the name Hongzhi 弘智. The book is a compilation of the notes on characters and words Fang Yizhi made when he read books. The title is derived from Fang's idea to unite the old with the new. The words in his book are arranged according to encyclopedic principles. The author tried to assemble as much information on pronunciation and meaning as possible and made also critical comments to wrong statements he found in his sources. In the chapter Yishi 疑始 he makes comments about the question of phonetics and the traditional rhyme groups. In the chapter Shigu 釋詁 he explains the meanings of certain words, in the chapter Yanyuan 諺原 he speaks about topolects and colloquial language. Fang Yizhi stressed the importance to reconstruct the original sound of a word. Sound and meaning of a character, he said, have an inherent relation that has to be observed in order to understand the real meaning of a character or a word. The characters 爾, 尔 and 你 are three different writings for the same word "you", inspite of their different pronunciation (er, resp. ni) in contemporary Chinese, compare the surname 倪 Ni which has the phonetic part 兒 er. By investigating various topolects, Fang Yizhi demonstrated that 某 mou, 每 mei and 麼 me/mo are actually the same word "something", as well as 怎 zen and 甚 shen "what".

Source: Zhou Zumo 周祖謨 (1988). "Tongya 通雅", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yuyan wenzi 語言文字, p. 383. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

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February 27, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail