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New Imprint of the Grand and Illuminous Explication of Huai-nan-tzu

Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Sung dynasty


Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
26.5 x 16.5 cm (print: 16 x 10.5 cm) 
Liu An, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) with commentaries by Hsü Shen (ca. 58-ca. 147)
Late Sung dynasty (960-1279) edition proofed and printed by T’an Shu-tuan of Ch'a-ling

The book "Huai-nan-tzu" was written in the Western Han (206 BC-9 AD) under Liu An, a member of the imperial clan. According to the literary section of "The Book of Han", it had 21 "central" volumes and 33 "peripheral" ones. The "central" volumes were said to be discussions of the Way, and the "peripheral" ones on various sayings. Nowadays, 21 volumes survive and probably are all from the central section. According to the preface by Kao Yu, "grand" refers to "broad", and "luminous" means "enlightening", indicating the importance attached to this by the author. The contents are varied, including discussions on the Way, the yin and yang, and Taoist arts combined with some Confucian thoughts. "The Book of Han" regards this as a "miscellaneous teaching".

The most common annotated edition of the "Huai-nan-tzu" is the one by Kao Yu. However, there was another annotation by Hsu Shen. According to a detailed study by the Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries) collectanea editors in the Ch'ing dynasty, annotated editions by Kao Yu and Hsü Shen of "Huai-nan-tzu" appeared in the Sui and T'ang dynasties. Later, because the annotations by Hsü were much more abbreviated than those by Kao, Hsü's edition gradually disappeared but were still popular in the late Sung dynasty.

Sung dynasty imprints of "Huai-nan-tzu" are quite rare. In the Ch'ing dynasty is a record that the great book collector Huang P’i-lieh had a 21-chapter book in small print. The book was once owned by Ts'ao Yin, but its whereabouts are unknown today. The 21-chapter edition in the Museum collection was printed by Mr. T'an of Ch'a-ling and can be said to be a sole surviving Sung dynasty imprint. In the early 20th century, it was in the collection of Liu Shih-heng, was bought by Fu Tseng-hsiang, and then entered the Yen-i lou collection of a Mr. Shen.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum