Library History: Seeking the Origin of the Chinese Library from its Tradition

Library History: Seeking the Origin of the Chinese Library from its Tradition
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  Libri 2014; 64(3): 263−276  Yunyan Zheng Library History: Seeking the Origin of the Chinese Library from its Tradition DE GRUYTER  Abstract:  The establishment o the “modern” Chinese li-brary system has always been under dispute: some scholars held that it was the continuation o Chinese traditional book chambers. At the same time, others viewed its appearance as the result o the modernization process. In essence, this dispute reflected different ideas on Chinese social reorma-tion’s motivation. Though the western models had contrib-uted some experiences to the oundation o contemporary Chinese public library systems, the our types o old librar-ies (the governmental library, educational library, religious library and private library) had already been conceived and had accumulated many o the so-called “modern” actors beore Western experience was imported. Keywords : Library history, book collector, Chinese tradi-tion, Western experience DOI 10.1515/libri-2014-0019 received November 11, 2013; revised April 29, 2014; accepted May 1, 2014 Introduction The first Chinese library labelled with the term “modern” was “ 图书馆 ” (library), as one o the expressions mark-ing the modernization progress o Chinese society; it was brought into use in China during the late nineteenth centu-ry rom Japan afer it was translated rom its English srcin (Wang, Wang, and Ma 2008, 28). The dispute o whether the contemporary Chinese library system was brought to China or was a continuation o the traditional book cham-bers started rom that point. The two distinct ideas reflect two opposite theories about modern Chinese history; ei-ther modern Chinese society was based on Western mod-els, or it had developed as a result o Chinese tradition. For instance, in the 1950s, John King Fairbank, the initiator o the Fairbank Center or China Studies o Harvard Univer-sity, proposed the “impulse-response” theory (Teng and Fairbank 1954), that argued that China was transormed into a modern society under the stimulus o the Western world. This theory has met with a lasting discussion in the field o Chinese history, and many scholars started to seek reormation actors in Chinese culture itsel, such as the China-centred approach in 1970s America, and the New Qing History Theory that appeared afer the 1980s in America, which abandoned the Han-centred theory and emphasized the significance o minority groups (Cohen 1984). Yu Yingshi, a Chinese scholar who had undergone Western education and taught in several amous Western universities, believed that Chinese Conucianism as the representative o Chinese traditional culture had never ceased influencing the development during, beore, or a-ter Western influence came into China (He 2009).Thus, more scholars in recent years started to com-bine the two historical interpretation patterns, and viewed the term “modern” as a time boundary, rather than neces-sarily as a symbol related to the explanation o “moderni-zation,” which is also the basis o this article. The construction o libraries as places to conserve books and offer reading services had started in Chinese his-tory long beore external experience began to enter China. On one hand, the appearance o the Chinese library was a result o the ever-increasing necessity o book conservation because o the number o new books created over time or the technical improvements in book production. Paper and printing were said to be two o the most significant inven-tions that China gave to the world. On the other hand, build-ing libraries was not only a necessity to conserve or acilitate the use o books, but also to promote religious or political ideologies, or to support education, especially The Imperial Civil Service Examination (TICSE) system, which was said to be the fifh contribution o China to world history. Library Development in Ancient China The Chinese library appeared soon afer primitive records were created in early China. The earliest primitive orm o   Yunyan Zheng:  Ph.D. candidate, School o History, Renmin University o China, Beijing, ChinaEmail:;  264  Yunyan Zheng, Library History: Seeking the Origin o the Chinese Library rom its Tradition DE GRUYTER writing in Chinese was oracles inscribed on tortoise shells or animal bones, popular in the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC), and buried in caves. Similar to the early library discovered in Nineveh in Mesopotamia that conserved clay tablets around 700 BC, these early Chinese collec-tions also had a library classification system. Useul ma-terials and useless archives were separated and arranged in chronological order (Liu 1986). Thereore, many schol-ars believe them to be instances o the Chinese library. Augurs, who also acted as historians o that time, were in charge o those oracle inscriptions and were seen as the earliest librarians in China. However, shell and bone inscriptions were just primitive book styles, as were two other types o inscriptions, bronze inscriptions, popular in the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC), and stone inscrip-tions started around the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), both o which never became major writing materials. Thereore, institutions conserving those materials were just a primi-tive type o library.The first real records in book orm appeared during the so-called Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC), a period when the country was divided by wars and when different ideas needed to be written down to spread more quickly rom kingdom to kingdom, and many new books were created (Li 2008, 38). Those records were mostly bamboo-and-wood slips, a major type o book beore the invention o paper, or silk manuscripts, one o the high-level writing materials used by the upper classes. With the development o the social division o labour, proessional staff took charge o governmental books and specific in-stitutions, designed to conserve such documents, were constructed and appeared in the imperial palace during the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BC) (Xu 1994; Jiang 2012, 10). Unortunately, there were no specific records indicating which emperor started to appoint specialists to replace the augurs. According to the surviving historic texts, the earliest person recorded as appointed to this position was Lao Zi (571–471 BC), the world-amed Chinese philosopher and the initiator o Daoism, who had served at the palace library “Shoucang Shi,” the first library institution. There-ore, he is regarded as the first librarian o China, and his great achievement was also thought to have benefited rom this appointment (Xu 1994). It was also during this period that one o the most eminent philosophers, Conu-cius (551–479 BC), who became the earliest private book collector (Fan 1987), lived. The Chinese library system was gradually built up with the development o Chinese culture, and numerous new books were compiled. Taking the establishment o the palace library as an example, each dynasty had a gov-ernmental library. There were three levels o governmental libraries: palace libraries, central government libraries, and local government libraries (Fu and Xie 2001). Table 1 is a list o the three levels o governmental libraries in the Song Dynasty, such as Taiqing Lou ( 太清楼 ) located in the palace was one o the major book conservation build-ing o the emperor; Chongwen Yuan (崇文院 ) conserved books to offer reerences to central government officials; local governmental offices o each level also had their own book collections, or instance local gazetteers.As the book collections grew, catalogues had to be compiled, and library management systems were im-proved. For instance, with the books accumulated, the emperors not only built palace libraries to conserve their collections, but also gathered scholars to rearrange the books, including compiling catalogues, recompiling his-tories, or reprinting books, etc. Some examples are shown in Table 2. Starting rom the Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220), the scholar Liu Xiang (77–6 BC) and his son Liu Xin (50 BC-–AD23) compiled the first catalogue or the nation-al library, which divided books into six subjects, a clas-sification that became the basis o later catalogues. In the Jin Dynasty (AD 265–420), Xun Xu ( d. 289), invented the quartation classification, which became widely known through its use in the Siku Quanshu1 o Qianlong Em- 1  The Qianlong Emperor commissioned the Siku Quanshu  to control the intellectual’s mind and prevent the spread o rebellious ideas un-der the name o conserving books and acilitating the study o young intellectuals. Produced between 1773 and 1782, afer a long book gathering process all over the country, this encyclopedic compila-tion o knowledge finally selected 3, 495 books and kept the titles o more than 13,500 books, including 272 overlapping collections.(see Yunyan Zheng, An Overview o Ancient Chinese Books, the Journal of Ottoman Studies , 2013(41): 417). Table 1: Governmental Libraries o Different Levels in Song China Level of LibraryNames Palace libraryTaiqing Lou (  太清楼  ), Longtu Ge (  龙图阁  ), Tianzhang Ge (  天章阁  ), Baowen Ge (  保文阁  ), Xianmo Ge (  显谟阁  ), Huiyou Ge (  徽猷阁  ), Hanlin Yu Shuyuan (  翰林御书院  ), Yuchen Dian (  玉宸殿  )Central government libraryChongwen Yuan (  崇文院  ), Imperial Academy (  国子监  ), Sheren Yuan (  舍人院  ), Yushi Tai (御史台  ), Sitian Jian (  司天监  )Local government libraryGovernmental Institutions o Lu (  路  ), Zhou (  州  ), Fu (  府  ), Xian (  县  ); Local Government School Library   Yunyan Zheng, Library History: Seeking the Origin o the Chinese Library rom its Tradition   265 DE GRUYTER peror in Qing Dynasty. Books were divided into our parts (called quartation classification) in the biggest book se-ries o ancient China, Siku Quanshu: Jing 经  (Classics o Conucianism or studies on these books), Shi 史  (History, geography, etc.), Zi 子  (philosophy, science, etc.) and Ji 集  (literature works).Chinese libraries expanded soon afer their initiation, especially afer the Song Dynasty (960–1279), as a result o the mass production o books influenced by several in-ter-related actors, especially changes in book production techniques, and the introduction o TICSE. Changes in Book Production Techniques Two major improvements in book production, the inven-tion o paper and printing, contributed the most to the his-tory o the Chinese library. Though some scholars believe paper and printing were invented by the Western world independently, more scholars agree that the inventions o paper and printing are two o the major contributions o ancient China to history (Carter 1955). However, the exact timing o their invention in China was unclear until recent  years. The earliest record o paper invention has been traced to A. D. 105, but many archaeological finds date it even earlier, to the reign o Emperor Wu (156–87 BC) o the Han dynasty. Compared to the invention o paper, the in- vention o printing met with more disputes. Most scholars consider the invention o paper most likely to have been near the beginning o the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907), al-though the earliest printed material with an exact date on the text was printed in AD 868, the Vajracchedika-Sutra  or  Diamond Sutra . Following the innovations in printing techniques, not only were manuscripts replaced by printing, but also the binding style o Chinese paper books developed into several other convenient styles, such as scroll, concertina binding, Chinese pithy binding, butterfly binding, back-wrapped binding, thread binding, etc. Furthermore, influ-enced by the changes in book production, especially afer the invention o movable type during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), book prices ell dramatically. For example, between 1250 and 1600, a typical book price dropped rom 35 to 3.5 Wén (a unit o Chinese currency) (McDermott 2006). This made books no longer the privilege o the up-per classes or the wealthy. The development o private libraries in China was deeply influenced by the new printing industry. Accord-ing to the Annalistic Bibliotheca Poem, about 14.3% bib-liophiles had printed their collections with private money. Early in the Tang Dynasty (618–907), a amous bibliophile had printed all the collections in his private library. Mao Jin (1599–1659), the owner o Jigu Ge ( 汲古阁 ) , a amous private book chamber in Ming China (1368–1644), chose master copies and hired proessional crafsman to curve the boards or book reproduction. Because o careul col-lation work comparing several precious versions rom the Song and Yuan periods (960–1368), many mistakes were corrected beore reprinting, and many versions o ancient works were widely seen by later readers. Within 40 years, more than 600 books were reprinted and sold around the country, or example, the “seven-histories” were still one o the best versions o the “twenty-our-histories.” 2  That was why, although Chinese private book collec-tion started in Conucius’ time, it was not until the period 2  The “seven histories” were seven histories o seven dynasties:  Songshu  (history o South Song o the South and North Dynasties Period, 420–479),  Nanqishu  (history o South Qi, 479–502),  Liangshu  (history o South Liang, 502–557), Chenshu  (history o South Chen, 557–589), Weishu  (history o Wei o the South and North Dynasties Period, 220–265),  Beiqishu  (history o North Qi, 550–557),  Zhoushu  (history o North Zhou, 557–581) The “twenty-our histories,” also known as the Standard Histories, are the Chinese official historical books, covering a period rom 3000 BC to the Ming dynasty in the 17th century. From the seventh century, they were written using o-ficial court records. Table 2: Famous Catalogues o Palace Libraries Collections DynastyName of CatalogueCompilerContents West Han (202 B.C.–A.D.9) Bie Lu (A collection o Books)  and Qi Lue (books put into seven categories)Liu Xiang (77–6 B.C. ) and Liu Xin (50 B.C. – A.D. 23)Seven parts, unknown volumes.West Jin (265–316) Zhongjing Xin Bu (new catalogue based on Zhongjing, an old catalogue)Xun Xu (  ? –289)Four parts, 1885 booksTang (618–907) Qunshu Sibu Lu  (categories o books) and Gujin Shulu (Catalogues or books o all dynasties) Ma Huisu (659–718) etc., and Wu Jiong (?–722) etc. Four parts, 2655 books; Four parts, 3060 booksSource: Xiao, He and Zhu 2009, 26, 39-41, 84-85, 92-93.  266  Yunyan Zheng, Library History: Seeking the Origin o the Chinese Library rom its Tradition DE GRUYTER known as “Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms” (907–960) that special buildings to conserve books were widely built. Most o these buildings were given certain names, and catalogues or their collections were also commonly compiled. In Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the last imperial dynasty o China, there were 2,082 private collectors, an amount that was greater than the total number o private collectors o all dynasties in ancient China. Thus, the pri- vate library approached its peak during this period (see Figure 1). Some bibliophiles had more than one private library in their lie time as shown in Figure 2.The book industry had also directly contributed to the development o other types o Chinese libraries. The acquisition o books by the our major types o libraries, the governmental library, educational library, religious li-brary and private library, had supported almost all three main types o printing institutions in China: government, bookshop, and private printing, which in turn stimulated the development o those libraries. For example, Wuying Dian, the amous palace book chamber o the Qing dynas-ty, had srcinally accumulated its books as the place to print some important books or the government, includ-ing the twenty-our-histories, which was the most widely used version later on. The Imperial College, both a gov-ernmental library and an educational library, was also known as a amous printing institution in ancient China. Shu Yuan, the major private school system during Song Dynasty (960–1271), as well as beginning to accumulate books or its libraries, had also started printing books, which were mostly or copies or its students, but also sold to raise unds or the institution as well (Jia 1991). Print-ing in the religious libraries started even earlier and was believed to have promoted the development o Chinese printing techniques (Zheng 2013) . Figure 1: Number o bibliophiles over History Figure 2: Number o Private Libraries with Certain Historical recordsNote: Some o Bibliophiles had built more than one private library in their lietime, and that is why the number o private libraries does not match the number o bibliophiles.   Yunyan Zheng, Library History: Seeking the Origin o the Chinese Library rom its Tradition   267 DE GRUYTER The Imperial Civil Service Examination (TICSE) Besides the low price o books, TICSE contributed an au-tocatalytic stimulus o book conservation, and then influ-enced the construction o libraries. TICSE started during the Sui Dynasty (AD 581–618). Almost all government officials were selected rom intellectuals who could pass this examination, which tested mostly knowledge about the Conucianism classics. According to Elman, though the rough number o the Jinshi, who passed the final level o the test, were only 0.25 million, there were around 2 million test takers in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and the number o test takers almost doubled in the ollowing Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) (Elman 2009). From this we can see the popularity o TICSE in ancient China.The increase o social mobility caused by taking the test also changed people’s notions o books in ancient China. There is a amous saying that “you will gain a beautiul wie and rooms o gold by reading books” popular afer the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Books even became sacred objects un-der a special olk belie in ancient China, ofen reerred to as “word-paper worship.” According to its doctrine,   paper with words should not be abandoned reely, but gathered and collected. They burned them and threw the ashes at a certain place, usually the ocean or a temple built or such purposes. Otherwise, there was thought to be a serious ret-ribution to be paid by the individual or their offspring (Bai 2011). This olk belie was thought to be created out o sav-ing paper because it was very expensive in the past, but it is hard to explain why the “word-paper worship” became popular afer the Song dynasty (960–1279), especially dur-ing the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties when paper production and printing techniques became more advanced. Thereore, many scholars noticed another actor that supported the belie, i.e. the TICSE (Sun 2007 Bai 2011). There was a amous story that validated such pre-sumption: Wang Zeng (978–1038), whose ather adhered strictly to the discipline required by “word-paper worship” in throughout his whole lie, was able to pass the TICSE successully and in a short time he was promoted to the po-sition o national prime minister. Because the major instructional object o libraries at-tached to educational institutions was to offer reerence Figure 3: Distribution o Shu Yuan in Song China (960-1279)Source: Deng Hongbo, History of Chinese Shu Yuan , 65; Tan Qixiang, The Historical Atlas of China, 1: 3–4; 42–43.
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