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The Yongle Encyclopedia

The Yongle Encyclopedia or Yongle Dadian (simplified Chinese: 永乐大典; traditional Chinese: 永樂大典; pinyin: Yǒnglè Dàdiǎn; Wade–Giles: Yung-lo Ta-tien; literally: "Great Canon of Yongle") was a Chinese leishu encyclopedia commissioned by the Ming dynasty emperor Yongle in 1403 and completed by 1408. It was the world's largest known general encyclopedia for six centuries.[1]

Development[edit]

The Yongle Dadian was commissioned by the Yongle Emperor (reigned 1402–24) and completed in 1408. 2,169 scholars spent four years compiling the leishu encyclopedia, under the leadership of general editor Yao Guangxiao (姚廣孝).[2]

The scholars incorporated 8,000 texts from ancient times through the early Ming dynasty. Many subjects were covered, including agriculture, art, astronomy, drama, geology, history, literature, medicine, natural sciences, religion and technology, as well as descriptions of unusual natural events.[3]

The encyclopedia was completed in 1408[4] at Nanjing Guozijian (南京國子監; Imperial University in Nanking). It comprised 22,937 manuscript rolls[4] or chapters, in 11,095 volumes, occupying roughly 40 cubic meters (1400 ft3), and using 370 million Chinese characters.[3][5] It was designed to include all that had been written on the Confucian canon, as well as all history, philosophy, arts and sciences. It was a massive collation of excerpts and works from the entirety of Chinese literature and knowledge.

Disappearance[edit]

The Yongle Dadian was not printed, because the treasury had run out of funds when it was completed in 1408. A manuscript copy was made in 1567.[2] In 1557, during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor, the encyclopedia was narrowly saved from a fire that burnt down three palaces in the Forbidden City. Afterwards, the emperor ordered the transcription of a copy of the encyclopedia.[citation needed]

The original manuscript of the Yongle Dadian was almost completely lost by the end of the Ming dynasty,[2] but 90% of the 1567 manuscript survived until the Second Opium War. In 1860, the Anglo-French invasion of Beijing resulted in extensive burning and looting of the city,[6] with the British and French soldiers taking a large portion of the manuscript as souvenirs.[2] 5,000 volumes remained by 1875, less than half of the original, which dwindled to 800 by 1894. During the Boxer Rebellion and the 1900 Eight-Nation Alliance occupation of Beijing, allied soldiers took hundreds of volumes, and many were destroyed. Only 60 volumes remained in Beijing.[2]

Current status[edit]

Fewer than 400 volumes survive today,[3] comprising about 800 chapters (rolls), or 3.5% of the original work.[6] The most complete collection is kept at the National Library of China in Beijing, which holds 221 volumes.[3] The next largest collection is at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which holds 62 volumes.[7] The Library of Congress of the United States holds 41 volumes; 51 volumes are in the United Kingdom held at the British Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, and Cambridge University Library; and 5 volumes held in various libraries in Germany.[8]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Encyclopedias and Dictionaries". Encyclopedia Britannica 18 (15th ed.). 2007. p. 257. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Wilkinson, Endymion (2000). Chinese History: A Manual. Harvard University Asia Center. pp. 604–5. ISBN 978-0-674-00249-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Yongle Encyclopedia". World Digital Library. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Kathleen Kuiper (31 Aug 2006). "Yongle dadian (Chinese encyclopaedia)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved 9 May 2012.  Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.
  5. ^ 陈红彦. 国家图书馆《永乐大典》收藏史话. (2008) "http://www.nlc.gov.cn/old2008/service/wjls/pdf/04/04_04_a4b7c3.pdf"
  6. ^ a b Foot, Sarah; Woolf, Daniel R.; Robinson, Chase F. (2012). The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 2: 400-1400. Oxford University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-19-923642-8. 
  7. ^ Yung-lo ta-tien (Vast Documents of the Yung-lo Era) National Palace Museum
  8. ^ "Experts Urge Collectors To Share World's Earliest Encyclopedia". Xinhua News Agency. April 2002. 

References[edit]

  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, Anne Walthall, James B. Palais. (2006). East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-13384-4.
  • Guo Bogong 郭佰恭. Yongle dadian kao 永樂大典考. Shanghai, Commercial Press, 1937.

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yongle_Encyclopedia — Please support Wikipedia.
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23 news items

 
Los Angeles Times
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:01:07 -0700

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced Thursday that it has portions of a rare and important Chinese manuscript called the Yongle Encyclopedia -- with 11,095 volumes, the largest book ever written in China. The book ...
 
ILAB
Thu, 21 Mar 2013 04:44:28 -0700

Chinese scholars have been working through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to reconstruct the lost encyclopedia. It's not as hopeless a task as it sounds: other works quoted the Yongle Encyclopedia at length, and by going through them ...

Wall Street Journal (blog)

Wall Street Journal (blog)
Sun, 26 Oct 2014 23:47:42 -0700

Containing sections 10,270 and 10,271 of the Yongle Encyclopedia, the volume was given to the California-based Huntington Library in 1968 by the American daughter of Joseph Whiting, a Presbyterian missionary who once lived in Beijing. The handwritten ...

MFA China

MFA China
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:52:30 -0700

I feel honoured to be part of this grand gathering of museum curators and gallery directors. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy, I warmly congratulate the launch of London Autumn Cultural Season 2014. I also thank London & Partners and all those who have ...
 
Los Angeles Times
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:19:58 -0700

No one can pen profanity quite like playwright David Mamet. His mastery of the verbally obscene apparently also extends to press releases. lRelated Huntington archivist finds historic piece of China's largest book. Culture Monster · Huntington ...

Chinadaily USA

Chinadaily USA
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 00:15:00 -0800

Chen Tingyi has been honored for producing the most biographies by a Chinese writer. Liu Zhihua looks at the legacy of the man whose goal has been to chronicle others' lives. Shanghai Big World Guinness recently recognized Beijing-based author Chen ...

Chinadaily USA

Chinadaily USA
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 00:15:00 -0800

Related Stories. Biographer sets record · Brigitte Lin turns 60, publishes her 2nd book · Fragments from Yongle Encyclopedia debut in Nanjing · Chinese book fair attracts scores of Cambodian students · Chinese devour APEC leader bios · More China News.

gulfnews.com

gulfnews.com
Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:11:15 -0700

Another eunuch agency published the imperial books and compiled the Yongle encyclopedia — a compilation of ancient texts on philosophy, poetry and science, while one of the most striking documents from 1447 describes the five classic human ...
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