Classified Draft of the Yüan-feng Era

Tags: National Palace Museum | rare books | Yuan dynasty


Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
32 x 21 cm (print: 24 x 16.5 cm) 
Compiled by Tseng Kung (1019-1083), Sung dynasty
1297 Yüan dynasty imprint by Ting Ssu-ching of Nan-feng

Tseng Kung (style name, Tzu-ku) was a native of Nan-feng in Chien-ch'ang (modern Nan-feng, Kiangsi). A lifelong collector of books, he assembled a library of rare works that he also collated himself, becoming noted at the time for his wide learning. His literary style was known for its simple elegance, earning him a place among the Eight Great Writers of the T'ang and Sung. His younger brother Tseng Chao wrote that even though Tseng Kung did not write books on his learning, he collected his discourses into manuscripts (a 50-chüan (chapter) encyclopedia entitled "Yüan-feng (1078-1085) lei-kao", a 40-chapter "Hsü Yüan-feng lei-kao (Continuation of Yüan-feng lei-kao)" and a 10-chapter "Wai-chi (Miscellanea)." "Hsü-kao" and "Wai-chi" were lost sometime during the Southern Sung (1127-1279). In the K'ai-hsi era (1205-1207), however, the Chien-ch'ang Prefect Chao Ju-li and others re-compiled the 40-chapter "Hsü-kao" from different sources. Regrettably, the results of this endeavor were once again lost in the early Yüan (1279-1368), leaving only the 50-chapter "Yüan-feng lei-kao" extant.

Of the original Sung edition of "Yuan-feng lei-kao", only a single chapter survived in Wang Wen-chin's "Wen-lu t'ang fang-shu chi". Although the "T'ien-lu lin-lang shu-mu" imperial catalogue recorded a Sung edition entitled "Nan-feng Tseng Tzu-ku hsien-sheng chi (Collected Works of Tseng Tzu-ku from Nan-feng,)" in 34 chapters, it was destroyed in the 1797 court fire at the Chao-jen Hall. It is consequently impossible to determine what the original edition was like. The "Nan-feng" edition preserved in the National Palace Museum collection was printed by Ting Ssu-ching of Nan-feng in 1297, making it the earliest surviving intact edition. The calligraphic woodblock carving exhibits a classical elegance, and the work was printed on high-grade paper with fine ink, attesting to the Yüan origins of this publication. A sole surviving edition, this work is an irreplaceable treasure. The book also bears the collector's seal of Li T'ing-hsiang, the Minister of Finance at Nanking during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum