Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Sung dynasty



Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
28.5 x 20 cm (print: 23 x 16 cm) 
Annotated by Kuo P'u, Chin dynasty (265-317)
Large Sung dynasty (960-1279) imprint by the Directorate of Education

The “Erh-ya” is an ancient text devoted to philology, but the identity of the author(s) still remains unclear today. As to the age of the text, the Ch'ing (1644-1911) editors of the Ssu-k'u ch'uan-shu (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries) indicated that such figures as the Duke of Chou and Confucius (551-479 BC) relied on it.

In the Five Dynasties period (907-960), a compilation of the Confucian Classics was carved on the basis of stone engravings from the T'ang dynasty (618-907). In addition to the nine Classics, four other texts were included, including the “Erh-ya”. Hence, they were known as the "Thirteen Classics," and the “Erh-ya” became important to their study. The Five Dynasties imprint, which has now long been lost, included only the annotations, not the commentaries. In the Southern Sung (1127-1279), the Kuo-tzu-chien (Imperial Academy) had it recarved. However, even surviving copies of this imprint became rare. In addition to this complete copy of one of the Classics in the Museum, only partial ones of two others are even mentioned in historical records. Not only is this book important as a sole surviving example, but it also preserves many features of the Five Dynasties imprint upon which it was based. According to Wei Liao-weng (see “Principal Meaning of The Book of Etiquette and Ceremony”), the annotated versions of the Classics from the Southern Sung court were carved actually in Lin-an prefecture and surrounding areas, while the woodblocks were sent to the Imperial Academy for storage. Although known as an Imperial Academy carving, it is actually a product of the Lin-an area near the capital. Since the size of the book and the characters are large, it is known as a large-print Sung imprint.

This book was once in the collection of a Ch'ing (1644-1911) official named Pi Yüan. In 1799, two years after he died, he was implicated in an incident and his descendants were stripped of office. The court then confiscated the family possessions, and this book therefore entered the imperial collection.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum