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Chinese Literature
Yuzhu baodian 玉燭寶典 "Treasure Canon of Jade Candles"


The Yuzhu baodian 玉燭寶典 "Treasure canon of jade candles" is a book about festivals, customs and rituals through the year written by the Sui period 隋 (581-618) scholar Du Tingqing 杜臺卿, courtesy name Du Shaoshan 杜少山. Du came from Boling 博陵, Hebei, and was appointed Director of the Chancellery (zhongshu huangmen shilang 中書黃門侍郎) during the Northern Qi period 北齊 (550-577). When the Northern Zhou dynasty 北周 (557-581) took over he returned to his home town and only reented civil service after the foundation of the Sui dynasty. He became a court gentleman (lang 郎), and in 594 also an attendant gentleman (shilang 侍郎). The 12 juan "scrolls" long Yuzhu baodian must have been written before the founding of the Sui empire. When he submitted the text to the throne he was presented with 200 bolts of silk. It is listed in the Song period 宋 (960-1279) bibliography Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題 but was lost afterwards. The Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Li Shuchang 黎庶昌 was able to obtain a manuscript copy in Japan, with a length of only 5 juan, each scroll presenting one month. The Japanese manscript thus ends in the mid-summer month. The first juan begins with an introduction, in which the author is not mentioned, but the title of the book is explained as a combination of the words "jade candle" that are mentioned in the gloss book Erya 爾雅, and the word "treasure canon" that is derived from the section Zhoushu 周書 in the Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents". The book begins with quotations from the chapter Yueling 月令 in the "Book of Rites" Liji 禮記, including the explanations by the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) scholar Cai Yong 蔡邕, as well as quotations from the partially lost texts Xia xiazheng 夏小正 and Huainan shize 淮南時則. The Yuzhu baodian extensively quotes from various writings or histories, masters and philosophers, poems, and even from Buddhist and Daoist literature. It is rich in explaining customs and habits of the rural population of China, with a lot of interesting information on the beliefs of the common people on thunder and lighting, rain and snow, birds and beasts, and all kinds of plants. Some strange statements are even commented with an attempt at correction.
Part of the Yuzhu baodian is quoted in the collection Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei shantang 宛委山堂 edition). Li Shuchang has published a facsimile of the Japanese version in his collectaneum Guyi congshu 古逸叢書.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 1, p. 1053. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

January 23, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail