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  • Zheng Qiao (1104–1162), the ‘Jiaochou lüe’ (Treatise on Collation), and the Retrieval of Lost Books
  • Maddalena Barenghi

The official dynastic histories offer scant information on the life and career of Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 (1104–1162). The main source is the Jiaji yigao 夾漈遺稿 (Posthumous Collection of Mr. Jiaji’s Writings), a brief collection of poems and epistolary writings dating roughly between 1140 and 1158, the year he gained an official position. The missives contained within it are of some interest as proof of his personal involvement in the retrieval of lost books under the patronage of Gaozong 高宗 (r. 1127–1162) through the 1130s and 1140s. Moved by the idea that the efforts of the Song rulers in retrieving and keeping track of lost items had brought unfavorable outcomes, Zheng Qiao lists his achievements in the field of bibliography and offers his personal investigations.1 All [End Page 265] the works mentioned in the epistolary writings were lost soon after the Song period, and it was this early material that possibly provided the basis for the redaction of the treatises (lüe 略), the twenty topical sections that constitute the most original part of the Tongzhi 通志 (Comprehensive Record).2

Although transmitted to us as an integral part of the Tongzhi, the treatises were published separately in several editions at least until the Ming period 明 (1368–1644).3 Four monographs concern bibliographical topics: the Yiwen lüe 藝文略 (Treatise on Literature), the Tupu lüe 圖譜略 (Treatise on Maps and Tables), the Jinshi lüe 金石略 (Treatise on Stone and Bronze Inscriptions), and the Jiaochou lüe.4 Among them, the bibliographical catalogue, Yiwen lüe, is probably the most renowned and widely studied.5 Each monograph comes [End Page 266] with an introduction aimed at providing practical tips for bibliographical inquiries rather than a standardized general explanation.

This article focuses mainly on the Jiaochou lüe, a monograph that is possibly a condensed abridgment of the early, but now lost, Jiaochou bei lun 校讎備論 (Preparatory Discussion on Collation). It consists of a general discussion divided into topical sections, mostly composed of brief notes, on both the methods for the retrieval of lost items and the system of classification. It is plausible to think that the sections of the work originally served different purposes. By analyzing its contents, in what follows I wish to investigate the contribution of Zheng Qiao in the context of the reconstruction of the private and imperial collections promoted by the Song court in the 1140s. Following the Jin invasion, the remains of the imperial holdings were moved to the south, and in 1132 the imperial libraries were rebuilt in Lin’an 臨安 (Hangzhou). Through the 1130s and 1140s, Gaozong promoted campaigns for the retrieval of lost items and the revival of study traditions of the Northern Song period. Zheng Qiao was mostly concerned with the matter of redacting search lists appropriate for that purpose, particularly given the inadequacy of the Chongwen zongmu 崇文總目 (Bibliographic Catalogue [of the Library] in Honor of Literature). A revised version of the general catalogue redacted in the early 1040s was published and used by the court as a search list for the retrieval and acquisition of lost books. Contrary to the general assumptions, Zheng Qiao’s criticism of the deficiencies of the catalogue is linked to its function in the attempts to collect items rather than a disquisition on general principles of librarianship.

Despite the popularity of the treatises among the literati circles, at an official level the contribution of Zheng Qiao would remain almost neglected until the second half of the eighteenth century, when the Siku editors almost unanimously condemned his work as unscholarly. This attitude subsequently led to an almost complete disregard of his scholarship by the Qing scholars. The main and almost only source of criticism is the Jiaochou tongyi 校讎通義 (Comprehensive Meaning of Collation) of Zhang Xuecheng 章學誠 (1783–1801), a general treatise on bibliography included in his Wenshi tongyi jiaozhu 文史通義 (Comprehensive Meaning of Literature and History).6 [End Page 267]

Redaction and Scope of the Jiaochou lüe

Since the outset of the dynasty, the Song court committed itself to periodic reorganizations of the Imperial Library. On these occasions, general bibliographical catalogues were redacted with the...


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