Memoirs of Master Chao-te's Readings in the Chün Studio

Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Sung dynasty


Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
34.5 x 22 cm (print: 22 x 17 cm) 
Chao Kung-wu (ca. 1105-1180), Sung dynasty (with additions by Chao Hsi-pien)
Yüan-chou Sung imprint of 1249 by Li An-ch’ao with later revisions and additions

Chao Kung-wu, a native of Shantung, resided in the Chao-te ward of the capital K'ai-feng (Pien-liang)--hence his name "Mr. Chao-te" as indicated in the title of this book. After enemy Chin forces invaded the Sung capital in 1126, he fled with his family to Szechwan. A Szechwan official, Ching Tu, had a collection of books, which he subsequently gave to Chao. Not counting repeats in his own collection, Chao had more than 24,500 volumes. He studied these texts and composed abstracts for them. At the time, Chao was living at Jung-chou and I-chün, so his book was entitled "Memoirs of Readings in the Chün Studio". His book was divided into four parts: the Chinese Classics, history, philosophy, and compendia. Each part composed a summary and a preface, and each subdivision had an individual preface, which was included with the abstract of the first book therein. Each book contains an abstract providing detailed information on the author, annotator, and period in which it was done. Chao provided an invaluable service to later scholars through his impartial and accurate research on the texts in his collection.

The original book had four chüan (chapters) and was printed in Szechwan. Later, in Szechwan, 20 additional chapters were included by Chao's disciple, Yao Ying-chi. In 1249, an imprint was made in Ch'ü-chou of Yao's version and hence known as the Ch'ü-chou Edition. The following year, an addition of two more chapters ("Hou-chih") was made along with an addendum ("Fu-chih") by Chao Hsi-pien. Published together in Yüan-chou, it was known as the Yüan-chou Edition, which is the one now in the Museum collection. The Yüan-chou Edition is ranked over the Ch'ü-chou Edition, because it has seven more parts and an addendum of 569 parts. With the addition by Chao Hsi-pien, it brings the text up to the Ch'ing-yüan era (1195-1200) of the Sung dynasty, thereby superseding the Ch'ü-chou Edition in completeness.

This book in the Museum collection has seven chapters with the first four being from the memoirs itself. Chapters one to three are divided into two sections and chapter four into three. Chapter 5 is the addendum, which is also divided into two parts. The other two chapters represent the "Hou-chih." The imprint is exquisite and the characters beautifully arranged for an archaic style that make this a treasure among rare books.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum