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Chinese Literature
Yuanwenlei 元文類 "Categorized Literature from the Yuan Period"

The Yuanwenlei 元文類 "Categorized literature from the Yuan period" is a collection of poetry and prose literature from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The original title was Guochao wenlei 國朝文類 "Categorized literature from Our Dynasty". The book was compiled by Su Tianjue 蘇天爵 and finished in 1334. In 70 juan "scrolls" it comprises literature works from the times of Ögödei Qan (r. 1229-1241) to emperor Renzong 元仁宗 (r. 1311-1320). The more than 800 works are divided into 13 different categories (lei 類).
Su Tianjue himself was a historian an took part in the compilation of the veritable records (shilu 實錄) of the emperors Wuzong 元武宗 (r. 1307-1311) and Wenzong 元文宗 (r. 1328, 1329-1331). His intention was to use literary sources as sources for historiography. For this reason his book has not only literary value but has also to be viewed from the sight of historiography. It can be compared with similar works like Yao Xuan's 姚鉉 Tangwencui 唐文粹 or Lü Zuqian's 呂祖謙 Songwenjian 宋文鑒. The Yuanwenlei is, of course, a treasury for Yuan period literature which is only preserved in this book, like writings of Wang E 王鶚, Li Qian 李謙, Yan Fu 閻復, or Yuan Mingshan 元明善. Very interesting are the tomb stone inscriptions collected by Yao Sui 姚燧. His collection Mu'anji 牧庵集 as contained in the reprint series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 has been thoroughly revised for this project. In the Yuanwenlei the original text is preserved. The Yuanwenlei has been criticized because it contains a lot of works concerned with practical politics and miss literary quality, while better writings have not been considered by Su Tianjue.
The commonly used version is the reprint in the reprints series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 which is a facsimile of the 1342 printing from the Xihu shuyuan press 西湖書院 in Hangzhou.

Fan Ning 范寧 (1986). "Yuanwenlei 元文類", Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 2, p. 1206. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Yang Ne 楊訥 (1992). "Yuanwenlei 元文類", Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 3, p. 1459. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail