The Siku quanshu 四庫全書
The single most important biliographical work is the selection of annotations to the massive Siku quanshu 四庫全書 (hereafter SK) an imperial collection completed by order of the Qianlong emperor. During the late 18th century, Qianlong ordered all books in the empire to be collected and sent to the capital. There, in 1782, under the auspices of Ji Yun 紀昀, the work was completed. The literary works for the SK were gathered from several sources: 1) works written by imperial edict from the time of Kangxi to Qianlong, 2) works kept in the imperial library and at court for the emperor's use, 3) works contributed by officials in various provinces, 4) works contributed by private collectors, and 5) works selected from the Ming encyclopedia, the Yongle dadian 永樂大典. Works selected for entry include: 1) works from prior generations that instructed on "proper moral behaviour," 2) commentaries, textual criticism, and those extant works of the Hundred Schools that were thought of "practical value," 3) collections of prose and poetry of famous scholars. Works that were excluded from entry in the SK included: 1) works on unofficial matters, such as how to write letters or pass the civil service examination, 2) works whose authors gained their fame through "flashy or meaningless" style rather than solid scholarship, 3) any anti-Manchu work--whether explicit or implicit, 4) work by authors of questionable moral behaviour, 5) any work in the Buddhist or Taoist canon that included religious incantations, and 6) poetry that was designed to be sung.
Qianlong's stated reason for compiling the work was 為天地立心為生民立卸為往聖繼絕學為萬世開太平--"to establish the mind on behalf of heaven and earth, to establish life for the people, to continue the cut-off scholarship of past sages, and to open the way to peace for eternity." This quote, found in the first of the seven editions of SK that were completed was the formal reason; others included a desire to preserve fine literary works, to compile a collection of Confucian materials that would rival the size and complexity of the Taoist and Buddhist canons, and to continue the work done in the Yongle dadian. We must consider, however, that this was, among other things, a way to employ Chinese scholars who still felt the sting of living under alien rule. We may also consider the fact that Qianlong wanted to repress writings critical of the Manchus, of his own birth, of court and clan struggles, and of his attempts to repress both Neo-Confucian and stale literary learning (as represented by his "repression of encyclopedia scholarship." He used the compilation as a way of pointing out the corruption and weakness of the Ming and thereby substantiate Qing rule. Finally, it is clear that it also satisfied a great deal of personal vanity. For a history of the SK, see:
Goodrich, Luther C. The Literary Inquisition of Ch'ien-Lung. Studies in Chinese and Related Civilizations, no. 1. Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1935
Guy, Kent. R. The Emperor's Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Ch'ien-lung Era. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 129. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. UCB Main AC149.S73 G891 1987
Ren Songru 任松如. Siku quanshu dawen 四庫全書答問. Shanghai: Shangwu, 1929.
The catalog that accompanies the SK, the Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書提要 (hereafter SKTY) contains descriptive notes on 3461 works copied into the SK; at the end of each of its sections, under the subheading "bibliography of extant works" 存目, it also includes notes on 6793 works not copied into the SK. This classified bibliography, the greatest and most inclusive annotated bibliography every compiled in China, has been reprinted many times (including at least 5 editions since 1985). However, the edition listed directly below is, I feel, the best currently available, since it assembles the SKTY and two other works together in punctuated, typeset form, and provides a four-corner index for each:
Wang Yunwu 王雲五, ed. Heyin Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao ji Siku weishou shumu Jinhui shumu 合印四庫全書總目提要及四庫未收書目禁燬書目. 4 Vols. Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1976, includes:
Ji Yun 紀昀, et. al. Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要.
For Ji Yun's biography, see Arthur Hummel, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing. 2 Vols. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Postal Service, 1942, Vol. 1, pp. 121-23.
Ruan Yuan 阮元. Siku weishou shumu 四庫未收書目.
For Ruan Yuan's biography, see Arthur Hummel, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing, Vol. 1, pp. 399-402.
Notes on 173 important works overlooked by the SK editors; it also includes an unfortunately unindexed list of four categories of books proscribed during the Qing.
Ying Lian 英廉, et. al. Jinhui shumu 禁燬書目.
Contains lists of completely banned (burned) books and selections cut from other works from texts submitted by various regional organizations for selection into the SK.
Since the original woodblock edition of SKTY was so massive, the editors also made an abridgement, which is an incredibly useful desktop reference. This abridgement gives a shorter version of notes in the SKTY, but treats only a third as many entries--1461. The following edition is the best, since it is punctuated and contains a four-corner index:
Ji Yun, et al. Siku tiyao jianming mulu 四庫提要簡明目錄. 2 Vols. Beijing: Gudian wenxue chubanshe, 1957, unauthorized photoreproduction, Taibei: Heluo tushu chubanshe, n.d.
The SKTY has spawned its own series of texts that supplement it, discuss it, give its history, etc. While many of these works provide supplementary annotations to the SKTY, some also check the reliability of its information against extant rare editions in major libraries in China or Japan. The most important of the works are:
Yu Jiaxi 余嘉錫, ed. Siku tiyao bianzheng 四庫提要辨證. 4 Vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980, rev. ed (orig. Beijing: Kexue chubanshe, 1958, 3 vols.).
This is a set of meticulous notes making corrections or additions to the SKTY. Although there is no index, it follows the order of SKTY. A valuable corrective to the original.
Hu Yuqin 胡玉縉, comp. and Wang Xinfu 王欣夫, ed. Siku quanshu zongmi tiyao buzheng 四庫全書總目提要補正. 2 Vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1964, rev. ed (orig. Beijing: Kexue chubanshe, 1958, 3 vols.).
Quotes portions of the SKTY notices on over 2300 works with additional, often voluminous annotations incorporating the findings of modern scholarship. Punctuated and with four-corner index.
Cui Fuzhang 崔富章, comp. Siku quanshu zongmi tiyao buzheng 四庫全書總目提要補正. Hangzhou: Hangzhou daxue chubanshe, 1990.
An excellent work that compares entries in SKTY with rare editions found in major libraries in China. Annotations to about 500 entries; this is really a valuable work for establishing editions. No index, but appears to follow format of SKTY.
One major work, begun under the auspices of the Commercial Press (Shangwu yinshuguan) in Shanghai, and completed in Taiwan under the editorship of Wang Yunwu, is the
Wang Yunwu 王雲五, ed. Xuxiu Siku quanshu tiyao 續修庫全書總目. 12 vols. Taipei: Dongfang wenhua shiye weiyuanhui, 1971.
This is an annotated bibliography of 10, 700 works. The notes are similar in style and content to those in the SKTY and are similarly grouped under the four traditional classifications of classics, history, philosophy, and belles-lettres. The compilers concentrated on works that 1) were public when SKQS was compiled but which were not included, 2) works completed after the SKQS, and 3) works that were included in the SKTY, but which have appeared in better and more complete editions since. The first category includes numerous Buddhist canons and commentaries, more than 600 Taoist works, novels and opera libretti, books classified as prohibited, and works of Ming authors held in low regard by the editors of the SKQS. The second category consists of works by those who were alive when SKQS was compiled (hence not included) and works from the post SKQS period until the Republican era.
Obviously, proscribed and banned works are an important part of SKQS lore. Book banning has a long history in China, the earliest and most notorious being Qin Shihuangdi's burning of all philosophical works in the Qin. Various ages have banned books because of their prurient, immoral, or politically incorrect content. Two works that are extremely important in determining which books were banned (and why) are:
An Pingqiu 安平秋, and Zhang Peiheng 章培恆 eds. Zhongguo jinshu daguan 中國禁書大觀. Shanghai: Shanghai wenhua chubanshe, 1990.
Contains a short history of book banning in China, and gives short histories of the banning of 220 important works. Also includes a dynasty-by-dynasty list of banned works, indexed by radical-stroke order.
Lei Mengchen 雷夢辰. Qingdai gesheng jinshu huikao 清代各省禁書彙考. Beijing: Shumu wenxian chubanshe, 1990.
More interesting to the historian, gives a province-by-province list of banned works in the Qing; includes original memorials that accompanied lists
Finally, not all books are known throughout their lives by the same name.
Du Xinfu 杜信孚. Tongshu yiming tongjian 同書異名通檢. Suzhou: Jiangsu renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1982, rev. ed. of Hong Kong: Taiping shuju, 1963.
The Jiangsu rev. ed. adds 1,700 more titles for a total of nearly 7,000 entries. Books with identical contents and different titles to 1980, arranged by stroke-order of first character in book. No annotations to speak of, book's value lies in giving variant titles. Hong Kong edition now clearly superseded.