Si Ku Quan Shu (Complete Collection of Four Literary Branches) 1,501 volumes
Call No.: AC149 .S699 1983

Traditionally, Chinese intellectuals believed that proper governance of the people could be learned from the classics. Hence, the royalties of individual dynasties attached great importance to the collection, compilation and preservation of books to the extent that it became a rule to do so.  In the 38th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1773 AD), the emperor established a formal academy for the compilation of Si Ku Quan Shu.

Si Ku Quan Shu was compiled in ten years from 1773 to 1782. Over 360 scholars and experts were recruited for the compilation and editorial work and some 4,000 calligraphers for the transcription. It took another 8 years to produce 7 copies of transcripts.  The works included in Si Ku Quan Shu were classified according to the four divisions of Chinese literature recognized by the tradition, namely, Classics (jing), History (shi), Philosophy (zi), Belles-lettres (ji), and they are further divided into 44 categories. They represent the best of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization covering history, astronomy, geography, rules and regulations, politics, economics, society, science and technology, and philosophy.

Si Ku Quan Shu collected some 3,460 classical works. The original set had 800 million Chinese characters, with 79,000 traditionally string-bound volumes in 6,144 boxes.

They were housed in seven different locations: four in northern China and three in southern China. Only three copies have survived today, all housed in northern China. In 1983, the Commercial Press in Taiwan reprinted the whole set based on a copy housed in Wen Yuan Ge Library formerly located in the Imperial Palace in Beijing. The whole set has a shelving space 215 feet long, and weighs more than 2.5 tons. Only 50 copies were printed. It has also been digitized, and can be accessed online.

Wan Wei Bie Cang (Another Collection from Wan Wei) 120 volumes
宛委別藏 / (清) 阮元 輯
Call No.: AC149 .W2254 1981

After Si Ku Quan Shu was completed, many scholars tried to find more titles written before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) to supplement it. During the years of Daoguang (1821-1850), Ruan Yuan, a provincial governor in southern China, compiled a collection of rare titles not included in Si Ku Quan Shu, and submitted it to the emperor. Emperor Daoguang named it Wan Wei Bie Cang after Mt. Wan Wei, where the ancient emperor Yu found some very precious texts. He stored it in his private library with the intention to use it as a blueprint for Si Ku Quan Shu's supplement, but the plan never materialized, and the collection kept its name given by the emperor. Wan Wei Bie Cang and the Wen Yuan Ge edition of Si Ku Quan Shu were called the "two literary gems" of the imperial palace library.  Both collections were moved to Taiwan, when the Chinese Nationalists retreated to that island. The Commercial Press reprinted Wan Wei Bie Cang in 1981. There are fewer than 5 copies in the U.S. (even fewer than Si Ku Quan Shu), and no copy in the UC system.
Si Bu Cong Kan (Collectanea of Four Literary Branches) 150 volumes
Call No: 
AC149 .S528 1981

The search for rare texts did not stop with Wan Wei Bie CangSi Bu Cong Kan is another such endeavor, but a relatively recent one.  In 1919, Mr. Zhang Yuanji, an editor at Commercial Press, compiled Si Bu Cong Kan, based on the rare books collected at the library of Commercial Press as well as rare books from other well-known book collectors at the time.  Some of the texts dated back to the Song Dynasty.  The idea of the project was to make rare texts available to a broader audience.  It had three series and was very popular among literati.  After its publication, it was soon out of print.  Because of wars, it was not until 1981 when the company could reprint all the series plus more rare titles found later.  The copy in the Paul Chou's collection has 150 oversized volumes: 100 volumes as the main set and 50 volumes as supplement.  Like Si Ku Quan Shu, Si Bu Cong Kan also uses the four branch classification system.  For many researchers in Chinese Studies, this set has a scholarly value equal to Si Ku Quan Shu.

Ce Fu Yuan Gui (The Library of Big Turtle) 20 volumes

冊府元龜 / (宋)王欽若、楊億等撰
Call No.: AE2 .C38 1981
Completed in 1013 AD, this is the biggest collection of books compiled in the Song Dynasty. Ancient Chinese believed that turtle was prophetic. The goal of this collection was to serve as a reference tool for rulers so that they could govern the country better. All the titles included are either classics or history-related.

Er Shi Wu Shi (Histories of 25 Dynasties) 150 volumes

Call No.: DS735.A2 E7 1962

This fine collection of Er Shi Wu Shi was published in the Zhongguo Xue Shu Lei Bian (Chinese Scholarly Series) and edited by Yuan Jialuo. It is a complete account of histories of all Chinese dynasties.

Gu Jin Tu Shu Ji Cheng (Collection of Books from Past to Present) 79 volumes

古今圖書集成 / (清) 陳夢雷 編
Call No.: AE4 .K82 1977

Also translated as Chinese Encyclopedia, this is probably the biggest encyclopedia in the world.  The title of the "Biggest Encyclopedia" used to belong to Yong Le Da Dian (The Big Encyclopedia of Yong Le). Completed in 1408, Yong Le Da Dian had 22,877 volumes with 370 million characters, but it was destroyed in 1900.

Gu Jin Tu Shu Ji Cheng was compiled in 1728.  The original set had 10,000 traditionally string-bound volumes, 160 million characters. It covered all the subjects known to the Chinese at that time.

Bai Hua Zhongguo Gu Dian Xiao Shuo Da Xi (The Collectanea of Chinese Classical Fictions in Vernacular) 72 volumes

Call No.: Various

This is a collector's edition of Chinese classical fictions. Most of the titles included are popular, and are useful for classes in Chinese classic literature.

Other titles in the collection:

In addition to the large sets mentioned above, there are other notable titles in Paul Chou's Collection, including Da Qing Li Chao Shi Lu 大清歷朝實錄 (The Collectanea of Court Documents of Qing Dynasty) 94 volumes,  Shi Ji Xin Jiao Zhu Gao 史記新校注稿 (The New Annotated Historical Records) 12 volumes, and Mo Hai Jin Hu  墨海金壺 (a classic novel, 36 volumes). There is also a valuable collection in Chinese oracle scripts and calligraphy.

In total, the Paul Chou's collection is comprised of 2,500 volumes of books. If you have further questions regarding this collection, please email:
Last modified: 10/6/2010 10:22 AM by D. Morita

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