On Yuan Jue and His History of Book Collection

Vol. 38 No. 3   9/2008    


On Yuan Jue and His History of Book Collection


Nicholas L. Chan









Key words

Yuan Jue, book collection, Yuan Dynasty culture , documentology, Zhejiang Province


  The duration of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) was less than one century, and the history of book-collecting in this period has seldom been studied by scholars. A descendant of a politically influential family in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Yuan Jue (1266-1327) was a notable bookcollector and the compiler of two bibliographies, Yuan Shi Jiu Shu Mu and Yuan Shi Xin Shu Mu. Since Yuan Jue's book collection gradually disappeared after his death and his bibliographies are no longer extant, it is difficult to gain a thorough knowledge of his book-collecting. Focusing on the related materials in Yuan Jue'Qing Rong Ju Shi Ji and Yan You Si Ming Zhi as well as other classical works, this article introduces Yuan Jue's life and philosophy, probes his ideas of documentology, and investigates the history of his book collection. This will allow us to increase our understanding of book-collecting in the Yuan Dynasty.

  Yuan Jue was a famous historian. He maintained a neutral stance toward neo-Confucianism, and he encouraged people to learn from the Tang

poetry for creative writing. He was also interested in bibliographical study and was a connoisseur of ancient books. In his childhood, he started to

gather and classify the historical materials of the Song Dynasty. Since the time of Yuan Shao, the great-grandfather of Yuan Jue, the Yuan family had

been collecting books. The books were obtained by copying, purchasing and receiving as gifts. After the death of Yuan Jue, the books were kept by

his grandson Yuan Yan, who later donated thousands of volumes for the government's compilation of The History of the Song Dynasty. Unfortu

nately, the peasant rebellions in the late Yuan Dynasty caused the decline of the Yuan family, and the loss of the book collection as well. The books

were either destroyed by maids or stolen by servants. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that six generations of the Yuan family kept the books for over

a hundred years. Yuan Jue's book collection was the most famous one in Zhejiang Province during the Yuan Dynasty, and examining it is a good way

to study the conditions of book-collecting in this period.



Author: Nicholas L. Chan
Genre: Article