The Erya or Erh-ya is the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary or Chinese encyclopedia known. Bernhard Karlgren (1931: 49) concluded that "the major part of its glosses must reasonably date from" the 3rd century BC.
Chinese scholars interpret the first title character ěr (爾; "you, your; adverbial suffix") as a phonetic loan character for the homophonous ěr (邇; "near; close; approach"), and believe the second yǎ (雅; "proper; correct; refined; elegant") refers to words or language. According to W. South Coblin: "The interpretation of the title as something like 'approaching what is correct, proper, refined' is now widely accepted" (1993:94). It has been translated as "The Literary Expositor" or "The Ready Rectifier" (both by James Legge), "Progress Towards Correctness" (A. von Rosthorn), and "The Semantic Approximator" (Needham et al.).
The book's author is unknown. Although it is traditionally attributed to the Duke of Zhou, Confucius, or his disciples, scholarship suggests that someone compiled and edited diverse glosses from commentaries to pre-Qin texts, especially the Shijing. Joseph Needham et al. (1986: 191) place the Erya's compilation between the late 4th and early 2nd centuries BCE, with the possible existence of some core text material dating back to the 6th century BCE, and the continued additions to the text as late as the 1st century BCE.
The first attempts to date the different parts of the Erya separately began when the Tang scholar Lu Deming (556-627) suggested that the Duke of Zhou only compiled the Shigu chapter (1), while the rest of the text dated from later (Needham 1986: 190). The Japanese historian and sinologist Naitō Torajirō analyzed the Erya text and concluded it originated in the early Warring States period, with the Jixia Academy having a considerable hand in it from c. 325 BCE onwards, and the text was enlarged and stabilized during the Qin and Western Han dynasty. Naitō connects the Shigu chapter (1) with the first generations of the Confucian School (450-400 BCE), places the family relationships, astronomy, and meteorology chapters (4-8) in the time of Xun Ching 荀卿 (300-230 BCE) with additions as late as 90 BCE, allocates the geographical chapters (9-12) to the late Warring States, Qin, and beginning of Han (300-200 BCE), puts the natural history chapters (13-18) between 300 and 160 BCE, and ascribes the last chapter (19) on domestic animals to the time of Emperor Wen or Emperor Jing of Han (180 to 140 BCE).
The Erya was considered the authoritative lexicographic guide to Chinese classic texts during the Han Dynasty, and it was officially categorized as one of the Thirteen Confucian Classics during the Song Dynasty. Although the only ancient Erya commentary that has come down to us is the (c. 310) Erya zhu (爾雅注, "Erya Commentary") by Guo Pu (276–324), there were a number of others, including the (early 1st century) Erya Fanshi zhu (爾雅樊氏注, "Mr. Fan's Erya Commentary") by Liu Xin, and the (late 3rd century) Erya Yinyi (爾雅音義, "Sounds and Meanings of Erya") by Sun Yan, which popularized the fanqie system of pronunciation glosses (Needham 1986: 191).
Most of these texts about the Erya were still extant in the Tang dynasty (618-907) but had disappeared by the Song dynasty (960-1279), when there was a revival of interest in the Erya (Needham 1986: 192). The Northern Song dynasty scholar Xing Bing (邢昺) wrote the (c. 1000) Erya shu (爾雅疏, "Erya Subcommentary"), which quoted many descriptions from both ordinary literature and medicinal bencao (本草, "pharmacopoeia; herbal") texts. A century later, Lu Dian (陸佃) wrote the (1096) Piya ("Increased [Er]ya") and the (1099) Erya Xinyi (爾雅新義 "New Interpretations of the Erya") commentary. The Southern Song dynasty scholar Luo Yuan (羅願) subsequently wrote the (1174) Eryayi (爾雅翼, "Wings to the Erya") interpretation. During the Qing Dynasty, Shao Jinhan (邵晋涵, 1743–1796) published the Erya Zhengyi (爾雅正義, "Correct Meanings of the Erya") and the naturalist Hao Yixing (郝懿行) wrote the (1808-1822) Erya yishu (爾雅義疏, "Subcommentary on Meanings of the Erya").
In the history of Chinese lexicography, nearly all dictionaries were collated by graphic systems of character radicals, first introduced in the Shuowen Jiezi. However, a few notable exceptions, called yashu 雅書 "[Er]ya-type books", adopted collation by semantic categories such as Heaven and Earth. The Ming Dynasty scholar Lang Kuijin (郎奎金) categorized and published the Wuya (五雅 "Five [Er]yas"): Erya, (c. 150 BCE) Xiao Erya ("Little Erya"), (c. 200) Yiya ("Lost Erya" or the Shiming), (c. 230) Guangya ("Expanded Erya"), and (1125) Piya ("Increased Erya"). Chinese leishu encyclopedias, such as the (1408) Yongle Encyclopedia, were also semantically arranged. Needham (1986: 192) takes the Erya's derivative literature as the main line of descent for the encyclopedia in China.
The Erya has been described as a dictionary, glossary, synonymicon, thesaurus, and encyclopaedia. Karlgren (1931: 46) explains that the book "is not a dictionary in abstracto, it is a collection of direct glosses to concrete passages in ancient texts." The received text contains 2094 entries, covering about 4300 words, and a total of 13,113 characters. It is divided into nineteen sections, the first of which is subdivided into two parts. The title of each chapter combines shi ("explain; elucidate") with a term describing the words under definition. Seven chapters (4, 8, 9, 10, 12, 18, and 19) are organized into taxonomies. For instance, chapter 4 defines terms for: paternal clan (宗族), maternal relatives (母黨), wife's relatives (妻黨), and marriage (婚姻). The text is divided between the first three heterogeneous chapters defining abstract words and the last sixteen semantically-arranged chapters defining concrete words. The last seven – concerning grasses, trees, insects and reptiles, fish, birds, wild animals, and domestic animals – describe more than 590 kinds of flora and fauna. It is a notable document of natural history and historical biogeography.
|1||釋詁||Shigu||Explaining the Old [Words]||verbs, adjectives, adverbs, grammatical particles|
|2||釋言||Shiyan||Explaining Words||verbs, adjectives, adverbs|
|3||釋訓||Shixun||Explaining Instructions||adjectives, adverbs, mostly with reduplication|
|4||釋親||Shiqin||Explaining Relatives||kinship, marriage|
|5||釋宮||Shigong||Explaining Dwellings||architecture, engineering|
|6||釋器||Shiqi||Explaining Utensils||tools, weapons, clothing, and their uses|
|7||釋樂||Shiyue||Explaining Music||music, musical instruments, dancing|
|8||釋天||Shitian||Explaining Heaven||astronomy, astrology, meteorology, calendar|
|9||釋地||Shidi||Explaining Earth||geography, geology, some regional lore|
|10||釋丘||Shiqiu||Explaining Hills||topography, Fengshui terms|
|11||釋山||Shishan||Explaining Mountains||mountains, famous mountains|
|12||釋水||Shishui||Explaining Rivers||rivers, navigation, irrigation, boating|
|13||釋草||Shicao||Explaining Plants||grasses, herbs, grains, vegetables|
|14||釋木||Shimu||Explaining Trees||trees, shrubs, some botanical terms|
|15||釋蟲||Shichong||Explaining Insects||insects, spiders, reptiles, etc.|
|16||釋魚||Shiyu||Explaining Fishes||fish, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, etc.|
|17||釋鳥||Shiniao||Explaining Birds||wildfowl, ornithology|
|18||釋獸||Shishou||Explaining Beasts||wild animals, legendary animals|
|19||釋畜||Shichu||Explaining Domestic Animals||livestock, pets, poultry, some zoological terms|
Owing to its laconic lexicographical style, the Erya is the only Chinese classic that has not been fully translated into English. However, there are several unpublished PhD dissertations translating particular chapters.
Alice Erya Gerstenberg (2 August 1885 – 28 July 1972) was an American playwright, actress, and activist best known for her experimental, feminist drama and her involvement with the Little Theatre Movement in Chicago.Chinese dictionary
Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty, which is a significantly longer lexicographical history than any other language. There are hundreds of dictionaries for the Chinese language, and this article introduces some of the most important.Guangya
The (c. 230) Guangya (Chinese: 廣雅/广雅; pinyin: Guǎngyǎ; Wade–Giles: Kuang Ya; "Expanded [Er]ya") was an early 3rd-century CE Chinese dictionary, edited by Zhang Yi during the Three Kingdoms period. It was later called the Boya (博雅; Bóyǎ; Po-ya; "Broadened [Er]ya") owing to naming taboo on Yang Guang (楊廣), which was the birth name of Emperor Yang of Sui.
Zhang Yi wrote the Guangya as a supplement to the centuries older Erya dictionary. He used the same 19 chapter divisions into lexical categories, and numerous Guangya entries are abstract words under the first three chapters Shigu (釋詁 "Explaining Old Words"), Shiyan (釋言 "Explaining Words"), and Shixun (釋訓 "Explaining Instructions"). Based upon entries in the Guangya biological chapters, Joseph Needham et al. (1986: 192) say most are original and different, showing little overlap with Erya entries, so that Zhang Yi almost doubled the 334 plants and trees in the classic dictionary.
The Qing Dynasty philologist Wang Niansun spent a decade studying this dictionary, and his Guangya shuzheng (廣雅疏證 "Guangya Annotations and Proofs") is still considered the authoritative edition, in which he demonstrated the important philological principle of "looking for the ancient meaning by considering the ancient sound ... not constrained by the structure of the character" (就古音以求古義......不限形體). His preface notes the Guangya has 2343 entries and a total of 18,150 characters (the received text has 17,326), including corrections and emendations, which is about 5000 more than the received Erya. The linguist Zhou Fagao edited an index (1977) to the Guangya.Ji Province
Ji Province, also known by its Chinese name Jizhou, was one of the Nine Provinces of ancient China. It is referenced in Chinese historical texts such as the Tribute of Yu, Erya and Rites of Zhou. It consisted of lands north of the Yellow River, including the modern province Hebei, and the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin.Jingzhou (ancient China)
Jingzhou or Jing Province was one of the Nine Provinces of ancient China referenced in Chinese historical texts such as the Tribute of Yu, Erya and Rites of Zhou. It became an administrative division during the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 BCE) in the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–9 CE).Kaicheng Stone Classics
The Kaicheng Stone Classics (開成石經) or Tang Stone Classics are a group of twelve early Chinese classic works carved on the orders of Emperor Wenzong of the Tang dynasty in 833–837 (Kaicheng era) as a reference document for scholars. The works recorded are:
Book of Changes or I Ching (易經 Yìjīng)
Book of Documents (書經 Shūjīng)
Book of Songs (詩經 Shījīng)
Rites of Zhou (周禮 Zhōulǐ, originally part of the Book of Rites)
Ceremonies and Rites (儀禮 Yílǐ, originally part of the Book of Rites)
Book of Rites (禮記 Lǐjì)
The Commentary of Zuo (左傳 Zuǒzhuàn) on the Spring and Autumn Annals
The Commentary of Gongyang (公羊傳 Gōngyáng Zhuàn) on the Spring and Autumn Annals
The Commentary of Guliang (穀梁傳 Gǔliáng Zhuàn) on the Spring and Autumn Annals
The Analects (論語 Lúnyǔ)
Classic of Filial Piety (孝經 Xiàojīng)
Erya (爾雅 Ěryǎ)The classics, with more than 650,000 characters engraved double-sided on 114 stone tablets, are preserved in the Stele Forest Museum in Xi'an, China. Widely regarded as the world's heaviest books, these tablets are also among the most complete copies of these key documents of Chinese culture to ever have existed.Piya
The Piya (Chinese: 埤雅; pinyin: Píyǎ; Wade–Giles: P'i-ya; "Increased [Er]ya") was a Chinese dictionary compiled by Song Dynasty scholar Lu Dian (陸佃/陆佃, 1042-1102). He wrote this Erya supplement along with his Erya Xinyi (爾雅新義 "New Exegesis of the Erya") commentary. Although the Piya preface written by his son Lu Zai (陸宰/陆宰) is dated 1125, the dictionary was written earlier; Liu (1963:87) estimates around the Yuanfeng era (元豐, 1078–1085), and Joseph Needham (1986: 192) says around 1096.
Lu Dian arranged the Piya into 8 semantically based chapters that closely correspond with the last Erya chapters 13-19. The only exceptions are Chapter 5 ("Explaining Horses") that is contained in Erya 19 ("Explaining Domestic Animals") and Chapter 8 ("Explaining Heaven") that anomalously corresponds with the first part of the Erya.
The preface explains Lu's motives for defining flora and fauna terminology. Since Song officials changed the basis for the Imperial examination from mastering poetry to jingyi (經義/经义 "expounding on a classical quotation"), literati no longer studied the lyrical names for plants and animals.Shenglei
The (c. 230 CE) Shenglei 聲類, compiled by the Cao Wei dynasty lexicographer Li Deng 李登, was the first Chinese rime dictionary. Earlier dictionaries were organized either by semantic fields (e.g., c. 3rd-century BCE Erya) or by character radicals (e.g., 121 CE Shuowen Jiezi). The last copies of the Shenglei were lost around the 13th century, and it is known only from earlier descriptions and quotations, which say it was in 10 volumes and contained 11,520 Chinese character entries, categorized by linguistic tone in terms of the wǔshēng 五聲 "Five Tones (of the pentatonic scale)" from Chinese musicology and wǔxíng 五行 "Five Phases/Elements" theory.Shiming
The Shiming (traditional Chinese: 釋名; simplified Chinese: 释名; literally: 'Explanation of Names'), also known as the Yìyǎ (逸雅; I-ya; Lost Erya), is a Chinese dictionary that employed phonological glosses, and "is believed to date from c. 200 [CE]" (Miller 1980: 424).
This dictionary is linguistically invaluable, because it records the pronunciation of an Eastern Han Chinese dialect. Sinologists have used its data to approximate the dates of phonological changes, such as the loss of consonant clusters which took place between Old Chinese and Middle Chinese.Shinsen Jikyō
The Shinsen jikyō (新撰字鏡, "Newly Compiled Mirror of Characters") is the first Japanese dictionary containing native kun'yomi "Japanese readings" of Chinese characters. The title is also written 新選字鏡 with the graphic variant sen (選 "choose; select; elect") for sen (撰 "compile; compose; edit").
The Heian Period Buddhist monk Shōjū (昌住) completed the Shinsen jikyō during the Shōtai era (898-901 CE). The preface explains that his motivation for compiling a Japanese dictionary was the inconvenience of looking up Chinese characters in the Tang Dynasty dictionary by Xuan Ying (玄應), the Yiqiejing yinyi ("Pronunciation and Meaning in the Tripitaka"). The preface credits two other Chinese dictionaries: the (ca. 543 CE) Yupian, which enters 12,158 characters under a system of 542 radicals (bùshǒu 部首), and the (601 CE) Qieyun rime dictionary, which enters 16,917 characters categorized by tones and syllable rimes. Don C. Bailey says:
In general, the Shinsen jikyō resembles the [Yupian], but Shōjū specifically states in the preface that he acquired a copy of this work only in 892 after he had completed his first draft, and that he thereafter used it as supplementary material. Whether or not the format of the [Yupian] was imitated, a dictionary or dictionaries of the same type must have served as a model. (1960:4)
Shōjū's model balances two traditional methods of collating Chinese dictionaries: semantic organization like the Erya and logographic radicals like the Shuowen Jiezi. He introduces a novel Japanese system of 160 radicals (bu 部) that exhibit semantic organization. For example, the first seven are Heaven (天), Sun (日), Moon (月), Meat (肉, a graphic variant of 月), Rain (雨), Air (气), and Wind (風). The Shinsen jikyō not only reduced the number of radical headings, but also logically arranged them by meanings. Compare the earlier Japanese dictionary Tenrei Banshō Meigi that uses 534 radicals adapted from the original 540 in the Shuowen Jiezi.
The received edition Shinsen jikyō dictionary contains 21,300 character entries in 12 fascicles (kan 卷). Each head entry gives the Chinese character, Chinese pronunciations (with either a homonym or fanqie spelling), definitions, and Japanese equivalents (Wakun 和訓). This dictionary notes over 3,700 Japanese pronunciations (Okimori 1996:156), and cites early texts, for instance, the circa 822 CE Buddhist Nihon Ryōiki (日本霊異記 "Accounts of Miracles in Japan"). The Shinsen jikyō is the first Japanese dictionary to include kokuji "national characters" invented in Japan (see Commons 1996). The modern Mojikyo computer font software includes character data from the ancient Shinsen Jikyō and Jikyōshū.Shuowen Jiezi
Shuowen Jiezi (Chinese: 說文解字; literally: 'Explaining Graphs and Analyzing Characters') was an early-2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. Although not the first comprehensive Chinese character dictionary (the Erya predates it), it was the first to analyze the structure of the characters and to give the rationale behind them, as well as the first to use the principle of organization by sections with shared components, called radicals (bùshǒu 部首, lit. "section headers").Sounding stone
A sounding stone or qing (磬) (rarely 鸣石 or 响石) is an ancient Chinese musical instrument, usually L-shaped. The set of qing is called bianqing. The shape of such stones was often quoted as description for the reverent ritual pose.Important information on qing nomenclature is contained in the Erya dictionary: the large sounding stone was called xiāo 毊, and a solo performance on qing, jiǎn 寋. However, the mentioned names do not have much currency in the classical literature.
Qing is mentioned in the Analects as one of the instruments played by Confucius.
In the Han dynasty treatises on music, its sound is referred to as "reminding to the monarch about his officers who died while protecting the borders".Thirteen Classics
The Thirteen Classics (traditional Chinese: 十三經; simplified Chinese: 十三经; pinyin: Shísān Jīng) is a term for the group of thirteen classics of Confucian tradition that became the basis for the Imperial Examinations during the Song dynasty and have shaped much of East Asian culture and thought.
It includes all of the Four Books and Five Classics but organizes them differently and includes the Classic of Filial Piety and Erya. They are, in approximate order of composition:
Classic of Changes or I Ching (易經 Yìjīng)
Book of Documents (書經 Shūjīng)
Classic of Poetry (詩經 Shījīng)
The Three Ritual Classics (三禮 Sānlǐ)
Rites of Zhou (周禮 Zhōulǐ)
Ceremonies and Rites (儀禮 Yílǐ)
Book of Rites (禮記 Lǐjì)
The Three Commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals
The Commentary of Zuo (左傳 Zuǒzhuàn)
The Commentary of Gongyang (公羊傳 Gōngyáng Zhuàn)
The Commentary of Guliang (穀梁傳 Gǔliáng Zhuàn)
The Analects (論語 Lúnyǔ)
Classic of Filial Piety (孝經 Xiàojīng)
Erya (爾雅 Ěryǎ), a dictionary and encyclopedia
Mencius (孟子 Mèngzǐ)Wamyō Ruijushō
The Wamyō ruijushō or Wamyō ruijūshō (倭名類聚抄, "Japanese names [for things], classified and annotated") is a 938 CE Japanese dictionary of Chinese characters. The Heian period scholar Minamoto no Shitagō (源順, 911–983 CE) began compilation in 934, at the request of Emperor Daigo's daughter. This Wamyō ruijushō title is abbreviated as Wamyōshō, and has graphic variants of 和名類聚抄 with wa 和 "harmony; Japan" for wa 倭 "dwarf; Japan" and 倭名類聚鈔 with shō 鈔 "copy; summarize" for shō 抄 "copy; annotate".
The Wamyō ruijushō is the oldest extant Japanese dictionary organized into semantic headings, analogous to a Western language thesaurus. This ancient lexicographical collation system was developed in Chinese dictionaries like the Erya, Xiao Erya, and Shiming. The Wamyōshō categorizes kanji vocabulary, primarily nouns, into main headings (bu 部) divided into subheadings (rui 類). For instance, the tenchi (天地 "heaven and earth") heading includes eight semantic divisions like seishuku (星宿 "stars and constellations"), un'u (雲雨 "clouds and rain"), and fūsetsu (風雪 "wind and snow").
Each dictionary entry gives the Chinese character, sources cited, Chinese pronunciations (with either a homonym or fanqie spelling), definitions, and corresponding Japanese readings (in the ancient Man'yōgana system using kanji to represent Japanese pronunciation). It cites over 290 sources, both Chinese (for example, the Shuowen Jiezi) and Japanese (the Man'yōshū).
The Wamyō ruijushō, survives in both a 10-volume edition (十巻本) and a 20-volume edition (二十巻本). The larger one was published in 1617 with a commentary by Nawa Dōen (那波道円, 1595–1648) and was used in the Edo period until the 1883 publication of the 10-volume edition annotated by Kariya Ekisai (狩谷棭齋, 1775–1835), also known as the Senchū Wamyō ruijushō (箋注倭名類聚抄 "Annotated commentary to the Wamyō ruijushō"). The 10-volume edition has 24 main headings divided into a total of 128 subheadings, while the 20-volume version has 32 and 249, respectively. The table below illustrates how words are semantically categorized in the 10-volume edition.
The broadly inclusive Wamyō ruijushō dictionary was an antecedent for Japanese encyclopedias. In the present day, it provides linguists and historians with an invaluable record of the Japanese language over 1000 years ago. For more details, see Bailey (1960:4–6, 18–19) in English and Okimori (1996:287–288) in Japanese.Wuyou Temple
Wuyou Temple (simplified Chinese: 乌尤寺; traditional Chinese: 烏尤寺; pinyin: Wūyóu Sì) is a Buddhist temple located on the top of Mount Wuyou, in Shizhong District of Leshan, Sichuan, China.Xiao Erya
The Xiao Erya (simplified Chinese: 小尔雅; traditional Chinese: 小爾雅; pinyin: Xiǎo Ěryǎ; Wade–Giles: Hsiao Erh-ya; "Little [Er]ya") was an early Chinese dictionary that supplements the Erya. It was supposedly compiled in the early Han Dynasty by Kong Fu (Chinese: 孔鮒 264?-208 BCE), a descendent of Confucius. However, the received Xiao Erya text was included in a Confucianist collection of debates, the Kongcongzi (Chinese: 孔叢子; K'ung-ts'ung-tzu; "The Kong Family Master's Anthology"), which contains fabrications that its first editor Wang Su (Chinese: 王肅, 195-256 CE) added to win his arguments with Zheng Xuan (Chinese: 鄭玄, 127-200CE). The Qing Dynasty scholar Hu Chenggong (Chinese: 胡承珙, 1776–1832), who wrote the Xiao Erya yizheng (Chinese: 小爾雅義證 "Exegesis and Proof for the Xiao Erya"), accepted Kong Fu as the author. Liu (2005) concludes the Xiao Erya reliably dates from the Western Han Dynasty and suggests its compiler was from the southern state of Chu.
The Xiao Erya has 374 entries, far less than the Erya with 2091. It simplifies the Erya's 19 semantically-based chapter divisions into 13, and entitles them with guang (廣 "expanding") instead of shi (釋 "explaining").
In comparison with the Erya chapter arrangement, Xiao Erya sections 1-3 (defining abstract words) are identical. Despite the different title with yi ("righteousness") instead of qin ("relatives"), both Section 4 and Chapter 4 ("Explaining Relatives") define kinship terms. Sections 6 and 7 divide Chapter 6 ("Explaining Utensils"). Xiao Erya Section 8 combines Chapters 13 ("Explaining Plants") and 14 ("Explaining Trees"); 9 mirrors 17; and Section 10 combines 18 ("Explaining Beasts") and 19 ("Explaining Domestic Animals"). Xiao Erya sections 5 (funeral terms) and 11-13 (units of measurement) are not included in the Erya.Xun (instrument)
The xun (simplified Chinese: 埙; traditional Chinese: 塤; pinyin: xūn; Cantonese= hyun1) is a globular, vessel flute from China. It is one of the oldest musical instruments in China and has been in use for approximately seven thousand years. The xun was initially made of baked clay or bone, and later of clay or ceramic. It is the only surviving example of an earth (also called "clay") instrument from the traditional "eight-tone" (bayin) classifications of musical instruments (based on whether the instrument is made from metal, stone, silk, bamboo, gourd, earth, hide, or wood).Yang Province
Yangzhou, Yangchow or Yang Province was one of the Nine Provinces of ancient China mentioned in historical texts such as the Tribute of Yu, Erya and Rites of Zhou.
|Middle Chinese||nyé ngǽ|
|Baxter–Sagart (2014)||*n[e][r]ʔ N-ɢˤraʔ|
|San Bai Qian|
|Chinese military classics|