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Chinese Literature
Xiaoxue ganzhu 小學紺珠 "Stringed-up Pearls for Primary Learning"

The Xiaoxue ganzhu 小學紺珠 "Stringed-up pearls for primary learning" is an encyclopedia compiled for the purpose of learning language (xiaoxue "the small learning"). It author is the late Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Wang Yinglin 王應麟, who also authored the encyclopedia Yuhai 玉海. The book is 10 juan "scrolls" long and includes 17 themes covering 2,257 topics. The headline of each section includes a number, like liangyi 兩儀 "The Two Orders", sancai 三才 "The Three Crafts", sida 四大 "The Four Great", jiutian 九天 "The Nine Heavens", and so on, and imitates the poem Sibamu 四八目 by Tao Qian 陶潛 from the Jin period 晉 (265-420). The arrangement in numbers is also typical for other books of primary education (mengxue 蒙學). The title is derived from a technique allegedly used by the Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Zhang Yangong 張燕公, who used pearls, lined up on a thread, and with this rosary-like tool, he was able to remember things by repetitively murmuring them. The arrangement of the Xiaoxue ganzhu is rated as somewhat crude and chaotic, with a missing structure in the sequence of the chapters. The chapter on music and calendar, for example, begins with musical notes and the length and weight measures derived from the length of the pitchpipes, then goes to the seasons and months, before returning to the musical notes and modes, only to speak again of intercalary months thereafter.
The pattern of the Xiaoxue ganzhu itself served later generations for compiling their own handbook for primary learning, like Zhang Jiushao's 張九韶 Qunshu shituo 群書拾唾, or Gong Mengren's 宮夢仁 Dushu jishu lüe 讀書紀數略. The Xiaoxue ganzhu is included in the collectanea Congshu jicheng 叢書集成 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書, and appended to the encyclopedia Yuhai 玉海. In 1965 the Taiwan shangwu press 台灣商務印書館 published a modern edition, in 1987 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2042. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Zhao Hankun 趙含坤 (2005). Zhongguo leishu 中國類書, pp. 132-133. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe.

1. 天道 Tiandao The Way of Heaven
2. 律曆 Lüli Pitchpipes and calendar
3. 地理 Dili Administrative geography
4. 人倫 Renlun Social relations
5. 性理 Xingli Human character
6. 人事 Renshi Human affairs
7. 藝文 Yiwen Literature
8. 歷代 Lidai History
9. 聖賢 Shengxian Saints and worthies
10. 名臣 Mingchen Great ministers
11. 氏族 Shizu Grand families
12. 職官 Zhiguan State offices
13. 治道 Zhidao The Way of government
14 .制度 Zhidu Regulations and measures
15. 器用 Qiyong Tools and implements
16. 儆戒 Jingjie Admonishings
17. 動植 Dong-zhi Animals and plants
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

October 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail