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Xiao sishu 小四書

Sep 21, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiao sishu 小四書 "Four Books for primary education" is a collection of four texts on primary education written during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). It was compiled and published by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Zhu Shengjiang 朱升將. The title of the book is derived from the canon of the classical Four Books (sishu 四書).

The four texts are Xingli zixun 性理字訓 by Zhu Ruoyong 程若庸 (jinshi degree 1268), Mingwu mengxue 名物蒙求 by Fang Fengchen 方逢辰 (1221-1291), Lidai mengqiu 歷代蒙求 by Chen Li 陳櫟 (1252-1335), and Shixue tiyao 史學提要 by Huang Jishan 黃繼善.

The Xingli zixun deals with the Neo-Confucian concept of the human nature (xing 性 "charcater") as influenced by the Heavenly principle (li 理) that is believed to be naturally good. This principle is embedded in man's heart or mind (xin 心)and therefore allows him to be naturally endowed with the virtues of kindheartedness (ren 仁), propriety (yi 義), etiquette (li 禮) and wisdom (zhi 智). If nourished in the age of a child, these virtues will come to full blossoming in later years. Cheng Ruoyong wrote his book as an easy-to-understand explanation of the book Xiaoxue 小學 (Xiaoxue jizhu 小學集注) that had been written by the great Neo-Confucian master Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), but in a very scholarly way that is only to be read with great difficulties.

The Mingwu mengqiu is a kind of encyclopaedia that was born out of the need to "investigate matters" (ge wu 格物) and therefore explains designations (ming 名) and the appearance of the objects (wu 物) named by them. It describes terms of landscape, objects of daily life and domestic animals.

The Lidai mengqiu and Lixue tiyao are a concise books on history. The latter is written in verses.

Table 1. The series Xiao sishu 小四書
(Ming) 朱升將 Zhu Shengjiang (comp.)
1882 edition by Hongdaotang 宏道堂
書名, length in juan Title Author(s)
性理字訓 一卷 Xingli zixun (Song) 程若庸 Zhu Ruoyong
名物蒙求 一卷 Mingwu mengxue (Song) 方逢辰 Fang Fengchen
歷代蒙求 一卷 Lidai mengqiu (Song) 陳櫟 Chen Li
史學提要 一卷 Shixue tiyao (Song) 黃繼善 Huang Jishan
Sources:
Li Zhenghui 李正輝 (2014). "Xiao sishu bianzuan yu kanke kaoshu 《小四書》編纂與刊刻考述", Tushuguan xuekan 圖書館學刊, 2014 (4).
Shanghai tushuguan 上海圖書館, ed. (1982). Zhongguo congshu zonglu 中國叢書綜錄 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 1, 35.
Wang Yuguang 王余光, Xu Yan 徐雁, ed. (1999). Zhongguo dushu da cidian 中國讀書大辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 471.
Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 439.