Trea­sur­ing the Move­able Type

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Xiao­hua Edited by Mark Zuiderveld Photo cour­tesy of Wang Yong

Qind­ing wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu is a se­ries of 138 rare books. As the only copy in ex­is­tence, it is pre­cious, rare and com­plete in con­tent, fea­tur­ing ex­quis­ite block-print­ing.

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long (1736–1795) of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911), the em­peror es­tab­lished a spe­cial ed­i­to­rial board to com­pile Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions. The board was also in charge of col­lat­ing The Yon­gle Canon and com­pil­ing book se­ries. How­ever, think­ing that com­pi­la­tion of Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions lasted too long, the em­peror or­dered the staff mem­bers to com­pile and edit 138 kinds of rare works and post­hu­mous works of the Song (AD 960– 1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) dy­nas­ties from The Yon­gle Canon. More­over, he re­quired books to be “con­ducive to the way of the world and hu­man heart” and printed first for cir­cu­la­tion, and that the first four kinds be printed and dis­trib­uted with block- print­ing tech­nol­ogy. Later, at the sug­ges­tion of Jin Jian (?–1794), min­is­ter of the Im­pe­rial House­hold De­part­ment, the re­main­ing 134 kinds of books were type­set and printed with wooden move­able- type print­ing tech­nol­ogy. This book se­ries, a col­lec­tion of 138 rare books, is named Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu (“gath­ered trea­sure edi­tion book se­ries of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our com­piled at im­pe­rial or­der”).

This vo­lu­mi­nous book se­ries is not only a mon­u­men­tal work of largest-scale type­set and printed with wooden type in the Hall of Mar­tial Val­our of the Qing Dy­nasty, but also a prod­uct of bookprint­ing with wooden type which saw the largest scale use in Chi­nese his­tory, rep­re­sent­ing an im­mor­tal chap­ter in the his­tory of China’s book-print­ing.

Im­pe­rial De­cree to Search for Rare Books

In 1388, Em­peror Taizu (reign: 1368–1399) of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) wished to com­pile ref­er­ence books with ma­te­ri­als taken from var­i­ous sources en­ti­tled Lei yao (“es­sen­tials of var­i­ous schools of Thought”). How­ever, he failed to re­alise his wish. After Em­peror Chengzu (1403–1425) of Ming suc­ceeded to the throne, he or­dered grand sec­re­taries to com­pile an en­cy­clopae­dia which in­cluded the Con­fu­cian clas­sics, his­tor­i­cal records, philo­soph­i­cal writ­ings and mis­cel­la­neous works, hence the book Wenx­ian Jicheng (“col­lected works of lit­er­a­ture”).

Book com­piled, it was sub­mit­ted to the Em­peror for royal as­sent. The em­peror, how­ever, felt dis­sat­is­fied, think­ing that much is not in­cluded in the book. There­fore, from 1405, Em­peror Chengzu de­creed some schol­ars con­tinue com­pil­ing this ref­er­ence book. This time, over 3,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the com­pi­la­tion. An­other two years were spent on elab­o­rate com­pi­la­tion and even­tu­ally the as­sign­ment was com­pleted. Read­ing it through, the Em­peror felt very sat­is­fied. He named this book The Yon­gle Canon ( Yon­gle was the reign ti­tle of Em­peror Chengzu) and wrote a pref­ace for it.

Com­pi­la­tion of the book com­pleted, it was bound into 11,095 vol­umes which con­tained as many as over 370 mil­lion Chi­nese char­ac­ters. This mon­u­men­tal work in­volved as many as 7,000 to 8,000 kinds of an­cient books. As­sem­bling var­i­ous books of dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods, The Yon­gle Canon was a Chi­nese en­cy­clopae­dia, the largest scale of its kind in Chi­nese his­tory. How­ever, as this ref­er­ence book was too vo­lu­mi­nous, and wasn’t cut into blocks for print­ing. Only one copy of the book was tran­scribed by schol­ars. In 1420, Em­peror Chengzu had the cap­i­tal moved to Bei­jing. So, The Yon­gle Canon was brought to Bei­jing. From that point on, this work was pre­served in the palace. Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Ji­a­jing (1522–1567), the Em­peror or­dered an­other copy of The Yon­gle Canon to be tran­scribed. Un­for­tu­nately, to­ward the end of the Ming Dy­nasty, the orig­i­nal copy of The Yon­gle Canon was lost with only a du­pli­cate left be­hind.

After the Qing Dy­nasty con­quered and be­gan to rule over the Cen­tral Plains, its rulers at­tached great im­por­tance to col­lect­ing and sort­ing out books.

In 1680, Em­peror Kangxi (reign: 1662– 1723) changed the left and right bun­ga­lows of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our into Book Com­pil­ing Bu­reau and named it Work­shop of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our which spe­cialised in print­ing and dec­o­rat­ing books.

In 1729, it was re­named Book Com­pil­ing Bu­reau of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our which con­sisted of Man­u­fac­tur­ing Su­per­vi­sion Academy and the Im­pe­rial Col­la­tion Academy. Book Com­pil­ing Bu­reau of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our spe­cialised in print­ing and pub­lish­ing books. From then on, Hall of Mar­tial Val­our be­came an in­sti­tu­tion de­voted to col­lat­ing and print­ing books, with books block-printed there called “palace ver­sions.”

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long (1736–1796), the em­peror at­tached great im­por­tance to search­ing for books that were al­most unavail­able. This job lasted for tens of years. In 1772, Zhu Jun (1729–1781), a pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sioner from An­hui, put for­ward four pieces of ad­vice to the em­peror on search­ing for and col­lat­ing books. One piece of ad­vice men­tioned that The Yon­gle Canon in the palace pre­served many rare books. Zhu Jun sug­gested the Em­peror or­gan­ise spe­cially-as­signed per­sons to edit, col­late and proof­read th­ese rare books. How­ever, by then, over 2,000 vol­umes in The Yon­gle Canon had been lost. Agree­ing strongly on his sug­ges­tions, the em­peror de­creed books from The Yon­gle Canon be care­fully se­lected and col­lated and that the vol­umes that have been col­lated and proof­read be pub­lished for cir­cu­la­tion, with other vol­umes to be in­cluded and edited. Th­ese books, to­gether with all of­fi­cially block-printed books by the prov­inces and the Hall of Mar­tial Val­our, were to be cat­a­logued in ac­cor­dance with the Con­fu­cian clas­sics, his­tor­i­cal records, philo­soph­i­cal writ­ings, and mis­cel­la­neous works, and be col­lec­tively ti­tled Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions.

In the fol­low­ing year after the afore­men­tioned de­cree was pro­mul­gated, the em­peror or­dered Academy of Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions be founded to col­lect books. What’s more, the em­peror awarded those who do­nated books and had their names in­scribed in the Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions. In this way, he en­cour­aged peo­ple to do­nate books to the im­pe­rial court.

As a re­sult, books from all cor­ners of the coun­try swarmed in Bei­jing. The books col­lected boasted over 10,000 cat­e­gories, all of which were sent to the Academy of Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions. Mean­while, Em­peror Qian­long pro­mul­gated an im­pe­rial de­cree that “for those books in­cluded in The Yon­gle Canon which are

hardly ex­tant and are ben­e­fi­cial to schol­ars of a younger age, their ti­tles should be picked up and sum­maries of the books should be writ­ten. Then those in charge should list th­ese books into a cat­a­logue and sub­mit it to the court so that they could be block-printed.”

Print­ing with Move­able Type

Academy of Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions was the in­sti­tu­tion of com­pil­ing Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions. Re­ceiv­ing the im­pe­rial de­cree, the staff mem­bers of the Academy be­gan to make ar­range­ments. They first sorted out and made use of The Yon­gle Canon. Em­peror Qian­long felt very sat­is­fied with the work of the staff mem­bers of the Academy and gave out an im­pe­rial de­cree to as­sign Jin Jian, a Korean and a min­is­ter from the Im­pe­rial House­hold De­part­ment, to take care of this task. After Academy of Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions was founded, Jin Jian was ap­pointed vice-pres­i­dent in charge of is­sues con­cern­ing Com­plete Li­brary in Four Sec­tions and the com­pi­la­tion and block­print­ing af­fairs of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our. He also wrote the book Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban cheng­shi (“print­ing man­ual for gath­ered trea­sure edi­tion of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our at im­pe­rial or­der”).

In 1773, staff mem­bers of the Academy be­gan com­pil­ing and edit­ing four rare books— Di­fan (“golden say­ings of Tang’s em­peror”), Han­gong ji­uyi (“eti­quette of of­fi­cials of the Han Dy­nasty”), Yi­wei bazhong (“eight kinds of the apoc­rypha texts on the Changes”), Weizheng­gong jianxu lu (“re­mon­strance of Wei Zheng”)—from The Yon­gle Canon. How­ever, books com­piled and edited then were, in most cases, dot­ted with an­no­ta­tions and com­ments. There­fore, the staff mem­bers needed to tran­scribe manuscripts be­fore the books were block­printed. Such manuscripts were called “Qing Dy­nasty Manuscripts.”

On the ba­sis of the Qing Dy­nasty Manuscripts, the crafts­men block-printed all the four books within four months. How­ever, other books which were to be printed and pub­lished and amounted to as many as 134 cat­e­gories. Jin Jian, think­ing it dif­fi­cult to block print all of them, pro­posed to the Hall of Mar­tial Val­our to or­gan­ise crafts­men to type­set and print other books with wooden move­able type. In this way, books were printed more ef­fi­ciently.

Jin Jian care­fully cal­cu­lated the labour and ma­te­rial needed in block carv­ing th­ese wooden types. Around 1,400 taels of sil­ver were needed. This would save a great deal in man­power, ma­te­rial and fi­nan­cial re­sources. Em­peror Qian­long praised this scheme for book print­ing and gave out an im­pe­rial de­cree that “It is a good plan and pro­ceed as planned.” He then or­dered crafts­men of the Hall of Mar­tial Val­our to make 100,000 more com­mon ju­jube wooden char­ac­ters aside from the 150,000 wooden move­able types al­ready made. The move­able char­ac­ters to­talled 250,000 in num­ber.

The scheme was ap­proved by the em­peror, and Jin Jian felt grat­i­fied. He made ef­forts in ful­fill­ing the task. Led by him, the crafts­men en­graved wooden move­able types day and night. Over a year, 250,000 wooden move­able char­ac­ters were en­graved.

Th­ese wooden types en­graved were cat­e­gorised in a cer­tain or­der. Six crafts­men were re­spon­si­ble for type­set­ting and print­ing. Two of them spe­cialised in type­set­ting and the other four were in charge of the four tones re­spec­tively. The type­set­ters chanted the char­ac­ters to ask for the cor­re­spond­ing char­ac­ters while crafts­men in charge of the four tones iden­ti­fied rhymes ac­cord­ing to sound and sorted out char­ac­ters. When a book was type­set, a proof would be printed out and then sent to the Im­pe­rial Col­la­tion Academy for proof­read­ing. If all char­ac­ters were cor­rectly col­lated, the crafts­men would then type­set and print the books.

This task lasted for over 20 years. Even­tu­ally, the re­main­ing 134 kinds of books were printed through move­able-type print­ing tech­nique in 1794. Thanks to the ef­forts of the crafts­men, 138 kinds of books were printed out. Ini­tially, th­ese books were called “move­able type ver­sion.” How­ever, as Em­peror Qian­long thought that the name move­able type was not so grace­ful, he named it Juzhen (gath­ered trea­sure).” As the four kinds of orig­i­nal block-printed edi­tions were es­sen­tially the same in for­mat as the move­able type edi­tions, they were col­lec­tively called Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu.

Rare Books and Copies Handed Down

While print­ing the book se­ries with wooden move­able type, Jin Jian com­piled a book en­ti­tled Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban cheng­shi which recorded the process of book print­ing in de­tail, in­clud­ing the tech­niques for mak­ing move­able type, print­ing tech­nol­ogy, and the stan­dard and rigid work­man­ship. The book pro­vided a vivid de­scrip­tion that move­able-type print­ing tech­nique ap­proached the peak of artistry. This set of move­able types used by Jin Jian to move­able-type print Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu adopted type­face which was shaped into a cube but slightly cir­cu­lar. This type­face looked prim­i­tive and el­e­gant. The mas­stone printed fea­tured dif­fer­ences in de­gree of dark­ness and shade. More­over,

the print­ing pa­per was mostly writ­ing pa­per made from bam­boo pro­duced in Jiangxi and some was pro­duced in Fu­jian, with a pale yel­low­ish pa­per.

The book com­piled was to ob­serve and study af­fairs in the an­cient times and pa­tro­n­ise lit­er­a­ture and the arts and ben­e­fit young stu­dents, for which Em­peror Qian­long gave out an im­pe­rial de­cree to is­sue this book se­ries in prov­inces in South­east China and per­mit­ted it could be printed and dis­trib­uted through­out the coun­try. There­fore, book-print­ing be­gan at the im­pe­rial or­der in Jiangn­ing of Jiangsu, Zhe­jiang, Jiangxi and Fu­jian. In th­ese places, the book was re-en­graved through block print­ing. Among them, eight kinds of books were printed in Jiangn­ing, and 38 kinds in Zhe­jiang. Books block-printed in th­ese two places were all small-sized books. While in Jiangxi and Fu­jian, 54 and 123 kinds of books were re­spec­tively block-printed ac­cord­ing to the size of the orig­i­nal copy. As books printed in th­ese places were in the same for­mat as the orig­i­nal copy de­spite dif­fer­ent print­ing meth­ods, th­ese du­pli­cates were called “outer gath­ered trea­sures.” The Gath­ered Trea­sures of Hall of Mar­i­tal Val­our were called “in­ner gath­ered trea­sures” to dif­fer­en­ti­ate one from the other.

Dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Ji­aqing (1795–1821) of the Qing Dy­nasty, seven kinds of books were printed in gath­ered trea­sure ver­sion in Hall of Mar­tial Val­our. Their form and ar­range­ment of lines and for­mat were ba­si­cally iden­ti­cal with those of the gath­ered trea­sure ver­sion dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long. The be­gin­ning of th­ese books was the poem in­scribed by Em­peror Qian­long and at the bot­tom of the first line of the first page of ev­ery book were six Chi­nese char­ac­ters that read “Gath­ered Trea­sure Edi­tion of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our” ex­cept be­low the typed area there were no names of the en­gravers and col­la­tors. For this rea­son, th­ese seven books were called “sep­a­rate edi­tions of gath­ered trea­sure.” The 138 kinds of gath­ered trea­sure edi­tion and the seven kinds of sep­a­rate edi­tion of gath­ered trea­sure ver­sion dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long formed a com­plete ver­sion of Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu.

Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu was char­ac­terised by its es­sen­tial con­tents. Most books were edited and com­piled on the ba­sis of pre­cious and rare books. Fur­ther­more, it fea­tured elab­o­rate col­la­tion and ex­quis­ite block print­ing. For this rea­son, it be­came the most out­stand­ing book among all the palace books from the Qing Dy­nasty. On the other hand, the wide ap­pli­ca­tion of move­able type be­came a heavy stroke in the his­tory of China’s move­able-type print­ing. In the course of its print­ing, Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban cheng­shi was of mile­stone sig­nif­i­cance. More­over, the the­ory in this book pushed for­ward China’s an­cient move­able-type print­ing tech­nique to a new high. After the print­ing and pub­li­ca­tion of Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu, many rare books were cir­cu­lated among the aca­demic cir­cles. The only ex­tant copies were pre­served and handed down to later gen­er­a­tions and be­came the orig­i­nal copies of the books that fol­lowed.

For over 200 years since the print­ing and pub­li­ca­tion of Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu, it has suf­fered many mishaps. Be­sides, China was torn by war from the end of the Qing Dy­nasty to the early Re­pub­lic of China pe­riod (1912–1949). Con­se­quently, most books were lost. To­day, com­plete edi­tions of the book se­ries are rarely seen. Books col­lected by pub­lic and pri­vate con­nois­seurs are mostly odds and ends.

Luck­ily, in 2012, The Im­pe­rial Palace Press (for­merly known as The For­bid­den City Pub­lish­ing House), tak­ing Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu (in the col­lec­tion of the Palace Mu­seum) as the mas­ter copy and based on six kinds of books which were col­lected in Fu­dan Univer­sity Li­brary and Tian­jin Li­brary and which weren’t avail­able in the Palace Mu­seum, re­stored the style and fea­tures of the palace ver­sion books dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Qian­long by pho­to­print­ing in ac­cor­dance with their orig­i­nal size and di­vid­ing them into 236 cases to­talling 1,413 vol­umes. Only 300 sets of this se­ries of the lat­est printed books were made avail­able, with col­lec­tion cer­tifi­cates tai­lor-made for each. The books were thread-bound and printed with Chi­nese art pa­per. They were sub-pack­aged with orig­i­nal cases and vol­umes. More­over, rose­wood-made book­cases were cus­tom-made, fea­tur­ing ex­quis­ite en­grav­ing in a royal court style.

A Page from Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban con­g­shu (“gath­ered trea­sure edi­tion book se­ries of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our com­piled at im­pe­rial or­der”)

Qind­ing Wuy­ing­dian juzhen­ban cheng­shi (“print­ing man­ual for gath­ered trea­sure edi­tion of Hall of Mar­tial Val­our at im­pe­rial or­der”)

The Hall of Mar­tial Val­our within the For­bid­den City in Bei­jing

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