Literary Collection of Fan Wen-cheng

Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Sung dynasty


Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
34.5 x 20.5 cm (print: 22.8 x 16.7 cm) 
Fan Chung-yen (989-1052), Sung dynasty
1328 Yüan dynasty edition by Fan’s Sui-han Hall with additions and corrections

Fan Chung-yen (style name Hsi-wen), also known as Fan Wen-cheng, was a native of Wu-hsien, Kiangsu province. Left fatherless when still an infant, he went on to become a diligent student with high ambitions, talent, and a strong sense social duty. Throughout his life, he was loyal and hard working. He advocated justice, the promotion of talented people, and relief for the poor. Among his peers, he was unsurpassed in moral character and personal accomplishment. The “Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu tsung-mu (Full List of the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries)” describes him as, "A scholar of profundity and virtue that in his affairs sought to have a clear conscious before the virtuous and in his studies sought to aid the world. His thought was grounded in traditional Chinese culture, and in government he sought to serve society for the betterment of the people. These things were achieved by Master Fan Wen-cheng." In his writing, Fan displays his mastery of the classical arts and the workings of government. His work was so widely read that in Sung times there was a saying that, "Among the literati and officials who visited Wu county, none failed to read the work of Wen-cheng."

Fan's collected writings were originally entitled “Tan-yang chi (Tan-yang Anthology)”, though after the author's death it was re-named as "Wen-cheng". According to Fu Tseng-hsiang's “Ts'ang-yüan ch'ün-shu t'i-chi”, there are no extant copies of the Northern Sung editions of Fan's work. The earliest known edition is the Jao-chou Circuit edition published during the Ch'ien-tao period (1165-1173) in the Southern Sung. Although this version was revised successively in the Ch'un-hsi and Chia-ting periods later in the Southern Sung, only slight modifications were made. The “Wen-cheng kung chi” edition in the National Palace Museum collection was reproduced from the Ch'ien-tao edition in the T'ien-li period (1328-1329) of the Yüan dynasty. It is identical to its Sung predecessor in terms of both classic elegance and arrangement of text. The reproduction was in fact so perfect that the Ch'ing imperial edition of the “T'ien-lu lin-lang hsü-mu (Additional Catalog of the T'ien-lu lin-lang)” mistakenly records it as the original Ch'ien-tao edition. The edition was dated to the Yuan dynasty only after it was discovered, in the course of editing the catalog of rare books in the National Palace Museum collection, that the block print engraving--the work of Chang Yün, Chou Ch'eng, Chang I, Ch’en Tzu-jen and others--matched the engraving style of the T'ien-li edition recorded in Wang Wen-chin's “Wen-lu-t'ang fan-shu chi”. The characters are engraved in a round, animated style and the paper and ink bear an ancient hue, faithful to the Ch'ien-tao edition. Though not the Sung original, its value is in no way diminished. Each volume of the set bears the imperial seal of the "T'ien-lu lin-lang" collection.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum