Qieyun 切韻 "Cut rhymes" is the oldest surviving dictionary arranging characters according to pronunciation. It was written by Lu Fayan 陸法言 (fl. 601) during the Sui period 隋 (581-618).
The pronunciation of the characters is indicated by the so-called fanqie system 反切 ("reverse cuts") which came up during the period of the Southern and Northern dynasties 南北朝 (300~600) when the changing shapes of characters (from seal script to chancery script), changing pronunciation and the intensive contact with foreign languages in shape of Buddhist writings made it necessary to create a standard pronunciation. Two older books using the principle of rhymes, Li Deng's 李登 (mid-3rd cent. CE) Shenglei 聲類 and Lü Jing's 呂靜 (c. 300 CE) Yunji 韻集, from the Three Empires 三國 (220-280) and the Jin period 晉 (265-420), respectively, are lost.
The Qieyun was finished in 601. The original is lost, but a manuscript fragment (Tang xie canjuan 唐寫殘卷) is preserved which was discovered in Dunhuang 敦煌 by Aurel Stein (1862-1943), as well as fragments quoted in other books. In the past decades, numerous manuscript fragments from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) came to light which makes it possible to understand the general structure of the book, even if the text is not preserved completely. Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877-1927) published some of these fragments in manuscript form (Tang xieben Qieyun canjuan 唐寫本切韻殘卷).
The Qieyun consisted of 8 juan and included 11,500 characters, arranged in 193 rhyme groups (yun 韻). 53 rhyme groups were level-tone rhymes (pingsheng 平聲), 51 falling-rising-tone rhymes (shangsheng 上聲), 56 falling-tone rhymes (qusheng 去聲), and 32 entering-tone rhymes (rusheng 入聲). The first three categories were arranged in a fixed sequence. Below the rhyme-group level, the characters were arranged in groups of homophones.
The first lemma of homophone groups begins with the pronunciation as indicated by the fanqie system, followed by the number of homophones. The meaning of each character entry is explained briefly, and many common characters (which the user should know) do not have such an explanation at all – the Qieyun thus served apparently to check the correct pronunciaton of a character. For quite a few characters, an alternative pronunciation is indicated (you yin X 又音Ｘ "also pronounced X").
The oldest commentary on the Qiequn was written by Zhangsun Neyan 長孫訥言 (fl. 678), another one by Pei Wuqi 裴務齊 (c. 700).
There were some revisions of the text in which not only errors were corrected, but missing characters and definitions added. These editions are called "enlarged editions" (zengdingben 曾訂本), and include the versions or editions of Guo Zhixuan 郭知玄, Guan Liang 關亮, Xue Xun 薛珣, Zhu Shang 祝尚 and Qiu Ti 邱遞. In some of them, the characters indicating the pronunciation were "modernized" to adapt pronuncatiation to younger standards. In others, some of the rhyme groups were split into two (namely 儼 and 釅).
The greatest change in this respect was realized by the Tang-period scholar Wang Renxu 王仁昫 (fl. 706) in his Kanmiu buque Qieyun 刊謬補缺切韻 "Cut Rhymes, revised and enlarged". One fragmentary copy of Wang Renxu's edition, found in Dunhuang, is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, another one, based on the Dunhuang version, is part of Liu Fu's 劉復 (1891-1934) collection Dunhuang duosuo 敦煌掇瑣. A complete edition of Wang's version, with a colophon (ba 跋) of Song Lian 宋濂 (1310-1381), was published in 1947 by the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuguan 故宮博物館).
There are basically two revised editions of the Qieyun of superior quality. One is Wang Renxu's edition, and the other is an integral part of Chen Pengnian's 陳彭年 (961-1017) Da-Song chongxiu Guangyun 大宋重修廣韻 from the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). A third edition of rather good quality is an edition with a colophon written by Xiang Yuanbian 項元汴 (1525-1590) - the so-called "colophon version" baben 跋本 or "version held by the Imperial Household" (neifu cang ben 內府藏唐寫本, based on Wang Renxu's version). All these revisions are based on the Tang-period manuscript (Tang xieben 唐寫本).
There was another book called Qieyun, compiled by the Tang-period scholar Li Zhou 李舟 (740-787). The book is lost, but it is known that its arrangement of rhyme groups influenced later rhyme dictionaries.
Cao Shujing 曹述敬 (1988). "Yunshu 韻書", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yuyan wenzi 語言•文字 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 505.
Cao Shujing 曹述敬, ed. (1991). Yinyunxue cidian 音韻學辭典 (Changsha: Hunan chubanshe), 155.
Chan, Abraham (2004). "Early Middle Chinese: Towards a New Paradigm", T'oung Pao, 90/1-3: 122-162.
Chang, Kuang-yu (1989). "The Reconstruction of the qieyun Grade I and Grade II Finals", Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies, 19/2: 165-193.
Chu Taisong 儲泰松, Yang Jun 楊軍 (2011). "Tangdai qianqi Fodian jingshu yin Qieyun kao 唐代前期佛典經疏引《切韻》考", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 2011 (10).
Coblin, W. South (1996). "Marginalia on Two Translations of the qieyun Preface", Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 24/1, 85-97.
Deng Wenbin 鄧文彬 (2004). "Zaoqi yunshu de chansheng yu Lu Fayan Qieyun zai yinyunxue shi shang de diwei he yingxiang 早期韻書的產生與陸法言《切韻》在音韻學史上的地位和影響", Xinan Minzu Daxue xuebao (Renwen sheke ban) 西南民族大學學報(人文社科版), 2004 (3).
Goh, Meow Hui (2015). "The Rhyme Book Culture of Pre-Tang China", Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, 2/2: 419-443.
Huang Xiaoshan 黃笑山 (1996). "Qieyun sandeng yun de fenlei wenti 《切韻》三等韻的分類問題", Zhengzhou Daxue xuebao (Zhexue shehui kexue ban) 鄭州大學學報(哲學社會科學版), 1996 (8).
Huang Xiaoshan 黃笑山 (2002). "Qieyun yuanyin fenlei de jiashe he yinweihua gouni 《切韻》元音分韻的假設和音位化構擬", Gu Hanyu yanjiu 古漢語研究, 2002 (9).
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 759.
Mai Yun 麥耘 (1992). "Lun chongniu ji Qieyun de jieyin xitong 論重紐及《切韻》的介音系統", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 1992 (11).
Mai Yun 麥耘 (1994). "Qieyun ershiba shengmu shuo 《切韻》二十八聲母說", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 1994 (12).
Pan Wuyun & Zhang Hongming (2015). "Middle Chinese Phonology and qieyun", in William S.Y. Wang & Sun Chaofen, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Linguistics (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press), 80-90.
Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1998). "Qieyun and Yunjing: The Essential Foundation for Chinese Historical Linguistics", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 118/2: 200-216.
Schuessler, Axel (2006). "The qièyùn System 'Divisions' as the Result of Vowel Warping", in David Prager Branner, ed. The Chinese Rime Tables: Linguistic Philosophy and Historical-Comparative Phonology (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins), 83-96.
Shao Longqing 邵龍青 (1993). "Qieyun 切韻", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 661.
Shao Rongfen 邵榮芬 (1988). "Qieyun", Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yuyan wenzi 語言文字 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 317.
Simmons, Richard Vanness. "How Rime Book Based Analyses Can Lead us Astray", in David Prager Branner, ed. The Chinese Rime Tables: Linguistic Philosophy and Historical-Comparative Phonology (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, 171-181.
Song Yayun 宋亞雲, Zhang Rong 張榮 (2001). "Qieyun xiyun shu chongjiu yanjiu zongshu 《切韻》系韻書重紐研究綜述", Gu Hanyu yanjiu 古漢語研究, 2001 (6).
Tong Xiaolin 仝小琳 (2013). "Qieyun xiyun shu yunmu liubian yanjiu 《切韻》系韻書韻目流變研究", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 2013 (10).
Tong Xiaolin 仝小琳 (2018). "Lun Qieyun xiyun shu tizhi de liubian 論《切韻》系韻書體制之流變", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 2018 (4).
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 115.
Xing, Guang (2014). "Indic Influence on Chinese Language", in Ithamar Theodor & Yao Zhihua, eds. Brahman and Dao: Comparative Studies of Indian and Chinese Philosophy and Religion (Lanham,
MD/Plymouth: Lexington), 195-207.
Xue Fengsheng 薛鳳生 (1996). "Shilun Qieyun yinxi de yuanyin yinwei yu chongjiu, chongyun deng xianxiang 試論《切韻》音系的元音音位與“重紐、重韻”等現象", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 1996 (6).
Yang Jianqiao 楊劍橋 (1992). "Qieyun 切韻", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yuyan wenzi 語言文字卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 3.
Zhang Xianbao 張賢豹 (1985). "Qieyun chun sideng yun de zhuyao yuanyin ji xiangguan wenti 《切韻》純四等韻的主要元音及相關問題", Yuyan yanjiu 語言研究, 1985 (11).
Zeng Xiaoyu 曾曉渝, Liu Chuntao 劉春陶 (2010). "Qieyun yinxi de zonghe xingzhi zai tantao 《切韻》音系的綜合性質再探討", Gu Hanyu yanjiu 古漢語研究, 2010 (3).
Zheng Min 鄭民 (2007). "Lun Qieyun Dunhuang xieben ji chuanshi ben zhi zhengzi guan 論《切韻》敦煌寫本及傳世本之正字觀", Zhongguo dianji yu wenhua, 中國典籍與文化, 2007 (9).