An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xiqing gujian 西清古鑑

Oct 23, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

(Qinding) Xiqing gujian (欽定)西清古鑑 (also written 西清古鑒) is a description of collectibles owned by the imperial court of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911). The book of 40 juan length was compiled under the supervision of Grand Academician (Dongge da xueshi 東閣大學士) Liang Shizheng 梁詩正 (1697-1763), finished in 1751, and printed in 1755. Xiqing 西清 "Western Purity" is another name for the southern library (Nanshufang 南書房) of the imperial palace.

It describes and illustrates 1,529 metal objects from the Zhou to the Tang period collected by the Qing emperors. The last 16 fascicles of the catalogue (Qianlu 錢錄) are dedicated to coins. The structure of the book imitates that of the paintings catalogue Xuanhe bogu tu 宣和博古圖. Each fascicle includes a table of contents, presents images of the objects, describes them physically, and discusses inscriptions. Many objects are today still held by the palace museums in Beijing (Gugong Bowuyuan 故宮博物院) and Taipeh (Zhongyang Bowuyuan 中央博物院).

Unfortunately many objects can be identified as forgeries. Moreover, many paintings are not commented, and inscriptions are not verified. Rong Geng 容庚 (1894-1983) therefore compiled a critical list called Xiqing jinwen zhenwei cunyi biao 西清金文真偽存佚表, published in 1929 in the journal Yanjing xuebao 燕京學報.

Two continuations or supplements to the catalogue, called Xiqing xujian 西清續鑒, and having a length of 20 juan each, were compiled under the supervision of Wang Jie 王傑 and finished in 1793—but not printed. It lists no less than 944 (plus 31 metal objects and seals in the appendix, making a total number of 975) objects in the first part (Jiabian 甲編), and 910 in the second one (Yibian 乙編) listing objects of the imperial collection in the secondary capital Shengjing 盛京 (Mukden, today's Shenyang). The first supplement was first published in 1910 by the Commercial Press (Shangwu Yinshuguan 商務印書館), and the second one as late as 1931 by the Beijing Guwu Chenlisuo 北京古物陳列所, both in downscaled versions.

Another, similar collection is the manuscript Ningshou gujian 寧壽古鑒 (also called Ningshou jiangu 寧壽鑒古), listing 600 bronze vessels and 101 metal mirrors assembled in the Ningshou Palace 寧壽宮. It has a length of 16-juan and was published as a facsimile in 1913 by the Commercial Press.

All four catalogues are known as the unit Xiqing sijian 西清四鑒 "Four mirrors of the Western Purity Library". The Xiqing gujian is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

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蜀漢 (221-263)