An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xuegubian 學古編

Jun 10, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Xuegubian 學古編 "Studies in antiquity" is a book on seal carving compiled during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) by Wuqiu Yan 吾丘衍 (1268-1311, also written Wuqiu Yan 吾邱衍 in order to avoid the character 丘, part of the personal name of Confucius), also called Wu Yan 吾衍, courtesy name Zixing 子行, style Zhenbai 貞白, Zhufang 竹房 or Zhusu 竹素, Daoist name Buyi Daoshi 布衣道士 of Zhenbai Daoshi 真白居士, clerical name Shenghuafang 生花坊, from Kaihua 開化, Zhejiang. He was a great poet, calligrapher and musician and wrote several books on seals, among others, Sanshiwu ju 三十五舉 (in some editions made the first fascicle of a 2-juan version of the Xuegubian) and Yinshi 印史, and also the books Zhou-Qin shike shiyin 周秦石刻釋音, Ziyuan qibian 字源七辨 and Xianjulu 閑居錄. His collected poems are called Zhusu Shanfang shiji 竹素山房詩集.

The introduction to the book Xuegubian explains the change of the Chinese script and the development of the so-called seal script (zhuanshu 篆書), as well as methods to carve it into seal stones. The 46 chapters describe the different use of seal script that can be applied to a wide range of different surfaces and objects, from seals and bronze vessels to stone slabs, objects of daily use and wooden tablets hanging over the entrance of buildings. The author also explains how water or oil were used during the cutting process. The author holds that although private seal carving can be seen as a "lesser art" (xiaoji 小技) it was nevertheless no match for calligraphy nor was it a type of the lower crafts. The skill of seal carving was mastered by numerous scholars like Chao Keyi 晁克一 (d. 764), Wang Qiu 王俅 (fl. 1146), Yan Shuxia 顏叔夏 (b. c. 1106), Jiang Kui 姜夔 (1155-1209) or Wang Houzhi 王厚之 (1131-1204). Wuqiu Yan describes skills of former masters and critically examines their works. His book is based on the writings of older scholars, but enriched with a lot of his own opinions, as the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Xu Guan 徐官 observed in his book Gujin yinshi 古今印史.

The Xuegubian is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書, Guang baichuan xuehai 廣百川學海, Shuyuan 書苑, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討源 and Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘.

Hong Jinghui 洪敬輝 (1996). "Xuegubian 學古編", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 499.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1821.
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Oda Satoru 野田悟 (2010). "Xuegubian banben kaoping 《學古編》版本考評", in Yishushi yanjiu 藝術史研究, 2010 (2): 43-47.
Wang Chongren 王崇人, ed. (2002). Zhongguo shuhua yishu cidian 中國書畫藝術辭典, Vol. Zhuanke 篆刻卷 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin meishu chubanshe), 198.
Yu Lianchen 于連成 (1993). "Xuegubian 學古編", in Ru Xin 汝信, ed. Shijie baike zhuzuo cidian 世界百科著作辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo gongren chubanshe), 362.