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CHINESE LEXICOGRAPHY PAST AND PRESENT* Xue Shiqi This paper provides a descriptive analysis of monolingual Chinese dictionaries, ancient and modern. In the first part of the essay, I trace the development of ancient Chinese dictionaries in four sections: Word Dictionaries (Yashu), Character Dictionaries (Zishu), Rhyme Dictionaries (Yunshu) and Dialect Dictionaries. Later, I describe such major Chinese dictionaries of the modern era as Ciyuan, Cihai and Xiandai Hanyu Cidian. The study concludes with a brief discussion of large-scale lexicographic works in progress, for instance Hanyu Da Cidian, Hanyu Da Zidian and Zhongguo Da Baike Quanshu. My hope is that this information will help provide a basis for dialogue between Chinese and foreign lexicographers and linguists. Lexicography in China has had a long and honored tradition. The first known lexicographic work, Shizhou, dates back to the ninth century, B.C., but unfortunately it has not survived. Lexicography blossomed during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) as part of a resurgence in literature and scholarship following its disruption during the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C-207 B.C.). Dictionaries such as Erya and Shuowen Jiezi were valuable references to understand pre-Qin classics. When these classics formed the basis of the Imperial examinations, the accepted path to officialdom and entry into the gentry class, the importance of dictionaries magnified. Later, as literary words flourished, especially poetry during the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) Dynasties, dictionaries such as Yupian, Qieyun and Guangyun became popular, if not indispensable. One can only conjecture as to the availability of these early dictionaries . All books, of course, had to be hand-copied, which severely limited distribution. Also, only a small proportion of the ?This paper is based on a lecture delivered at Georgetown University in April 1981, arranged through Jim Mathias, Executive Secretary of the Chinese-English Translation Assistance (CETA) Group, I am indebt to Norman Wild for ably translating the original paper into Englsih. Special mention must be made of the help by Thomas Creamer, who, apart from making valuable suggestions, is the co-author of the second part of this paper. 151 152Chinese Lexicography population was literate. With the invention of printing during the Song Dynasty and its refinement during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the availability of all types of written material increased greatly. Literacy also increased during the Ming Dynasty with the establishment of an extensive network of community and charitable schools and private academies. These developments spurred all forms of intellectual activity in China, of which lexicography was a small but important part. The Chinese term cishu (lexicographic works) encompasses word and character dictionaries, encyclopedias and various specialized glossaries. This study will deal only with the first category — word dictionaries (cidian) and character dictionaries (zidian). The origin of Chinese dictionaries can be traced to four representative works: Erya (Near Correct) which explains the meaning of words and anotates classical texts; Shuowen Jiezi (An Explanation and Analysis of Characters), which explains the form of characters; Qieyun (Rhyme Equivalents), which explains the sounds of characters for the purpose of rhymes; and finally, Fangyan (Dialects), which collects and explains localisms and popular terms. In general, all later dictionaries can be classified as one of these four types. Word Dictionaries (Yashu) The first major Chinese word dictionary—in fact, the first true Chinese dictionary of any type — is Erya. Although there is disagreement as to date of publication and authorship, scholars generally agree that it was written by Confucian scholars sometime between the Spring and Autumn period and early Han Dynasty (8th through 2nd centuries B.C.). It was compiled to explain terms in pre-Qin Dynasty classics, but its use and importance is by no means restricted as a tool to read ancient literature. It records many social and natural phenomena of the time, enabling us to better understand and study ancient society. More importantly, it is the first work to collect, arrange and define words in a systematic fashion, thus establishing a pattern and method for later dictionaries . For these reasons, Erya holds an honored place in the history of Chinese lexicography. The original Erya was a three-volume work in twenty chapters. The extant edition has nineteen chapters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 151-169
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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