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History of List of Chinese and Japanese Encyclopaedic Works

This list started off from Zhong Shaohua 鈡少華, Renlei zhishi de xin gongju – Zhong Ri jindai baikequanshu yanjiu 人類知識的新工具 — 中日近代百科全書研 究,  北京:北京圖書館出版社,1996。Pp. 53-76. MS Anna U, Librarian at the University of Toronto, has traced a number of the items in libraries in the US, China, and Taiwan for Prof. Dolezelova. Dr. Henri Day and Dr. Winter have added corrections and additions. I have gratefully inserted these informations, greatly expanded the record, and spent much time actually getting scans or copies of the relevant materials to provide the framework in which serious research in this important field can begin in earnest.

Sadly, I have not been successful in convincing Prof. Zhong to allow copying of a few of the items from his own library, some of which I have not been able to trace elsewhere.

The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange has gracefully supported the efforts to have many of the materials copied or scanned for use of the scholars in this project. Special thanks go to Mr. Zhu Junzhou of the Shanghai Library, as well as Prof. Lackner and Dr. Schimmelpfenning, University of Erlangen for making accessible their resources. Special thanks are due to the Institute of Modern History in Academia Sinica. It has been kind enough to exchange materials with us so that we were able to add one important item, the large Wanguo zhengshi yixue quanshu (1894 ff.); and to Dr. Frederike Assandri, who was kind enough to have the Timothy Richard’s Guangxue leibian copied for us in Shanghai, which also has been added to the database.

I present now for the Research Group this preliminary list as a tool for their work. The list has a chronological order. Reprints will be again mentioned in the year where they occurred. For each item availability in the Heidelberg database or other on-line access is indicated. A very incomplete bibliography of relevant studies is attached in the end.

The list will continue to grow. I therefore keep a date on top with the information when the latest changes have been made. New dates will be coloured and the information added on that date will have the same color. I am exceedingly grateful for corrections and information about other relevant sources, and, if possible, their whereabouts. Please do send information via e-mail.

In the selection of items to include I have felt that a very rigid definition would not help. In some cases collections of monographs have appeared which were designed as chapters in a long encyclopedia in the manner the Goeschen and Temple collections were built up during the late nineteenth century. I have included them. In other cases, not much organization was visible. But the same authors would come back later with bona fide encyclopedias. I therefore have used a rather wide net with rather fine texture.

The original cut-off point for the project was the end of the Qing empire. I have inserted some post 1912 items with the surprising result that encyclopedia production dramatically declined after the late Qing heyday.

Work has begun to rearrange the files to facilitate their use. This will involve breaking them down into smaller units, inserting full-text readable segments for titles, authors, places, dates, and chapter headings with a portal that will allow search through the entire database. For a search term such as 政治 one will get a list of work and of chapter titles where this term occurs together with a hyperlink directly to the indicated place. Mr. Spiro from Oslo has been kind enough to reformat the Xin wenhua cishu file into a form that is much easier to handle. It has been inserted into the database.

I have begun to systematically explore the Japanese encyclopedias of the Meiji period. Starting off from Kang Youwei’s long list of Japanese books, the Riben shumu zhi, 日本書目志, I found that a very large number of Japanese encyclopedic works as well as many that appeared after the catalogue on which Kang’s list is based, that is after 1894, are available online in a scanned format, HTTP:// This changes the entire research environment for the project. I have added the information I could  gather. Many of these Japanese works have been published by a single publisher, 博文館 Hakubunkan, in Tokyo. This publisher in turn published lists of books he had published, which provides for a fuller list of the titles beyond those accessible. This list is available under the title 博文館発行図書いろは別目録  at the ndl website given above. As to accessing this website, I suggest the following procedure to speed up the process and save you the time of having to input with Japanese-formatted characters. The Japanese titles in my list are nearly all written with Japanese formats. The easiest way, accordingly, is to copy the title from this list into the search slot in the Japanese website, press enter and you will get it.

Finally, I have started to trace more in detail some of the sources of works included in encyclopedia collections. It turns out that items from the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as well as from various segments of the Chambers’s encyclopedia industry in Edinburgh, from the “new Rees” encyclopedia from the early nineteenth century and from Murray’s Cyclopedia of Geography were either made available in Chinese translation or used for compiling encyclopedic works. Given the often close contact between Chinese writers and Westerners present in China, there was considerable knowledge about the existence of such Western encyclopedias, because Chinese writers saw them in the libraries the Westerners or were directly introduced. Lin Zexu, for one, received a copy of Murray, and in his recently discovered and published Yangshi zalu he refers to a xiguoluobiliya (transcription of “encyclopedia”) 西果儸彼釐亞 in over fourty volumes by an Englishman Dr. Ayi Le 阿依勒, which is a reference to Abraham Rees (1743-1825),  The cyclopædia, or, universal dictionary of arts, sciences, and literature, London : Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1819-1820., 45 v. : ill. ; 27 cm. The English word encyclopedia transliterated here is translated by him as Wenxue zidian 文學字典, which is perhaps best rendered as „dictionary of cultured knowledge,“ and he notes that this cyclopedia contains “a complete set of maps of astronomy and geography and everything from the customs, preferences, products, crafts, medicine and mathematics of different countries down to the laws governing water and fire, to herbs, insects,  wild and domestic animals, manufacturing, and opium.” (Lin Zexu, Yangshi zalu, p. 30).

The study of the Chinese encyclopedia in the period under consideration  accordingly has to treat the Western and Japanese encyclopedias of the time as part of the horizon of knowledge within which Chinese authors worked even if these were not available in full or partial translations. It is to be assumed that the missionaries, who wrote extensively on areas of Western knowledge with which they had little familiarity, made ample use of the Western encyclopedias for their own Chinese-language writings.