Siku Quanshu

Siku Quanshu
Siku Quanshu
Traditional Chinese 四庫全書
Simplified Chinese 四库全书
Literal meaning complete books of the four [imperial] repositories

The Siku Quanshu, variously translated as the Imperial Collection of Four, Emperor's Four Treasuries, Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature, or Complete Library of the Four Treasuries, is the largest collection of books in Chinese history and probably the most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world.[citation needed]



During the height of the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century CE, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned the Siku quanshu, to demonstrate that the Qing could surpass the Ming Dynasty's 1403 Yongle Encyclopedia, which was the world's largest encyclopedia at the time.

The editorial board included 361 scholars, with Ji Yun and Lu Xixiong (陸錫熊) as chief editors. They began compilation in 1773 and completed it in 1782. The editors collected and annotated over 10,000 manuscripts from the imperial collections and other libraries, destroyed some 3,000 titles, or works, that were considered to be anti-Manchu, and selected 3,461 titles, or works, for inclusion into the Siku quanshu. They were bound in 36,381 volumes () with more than 79,000 chapters (), comprising about 2.3 million pages, and approximately 800 million Chinese characters.

Scribes copied every word by hand, and according to Wilkinson (200:274), "The copyists (of whom there were 3,826) were not paid in cash but rewarded with official posts after they had transcribed a given number of words within a set time." Four copies for the emperor were placed in specially constructed libraries in the Forbidden City, Old Summer Palace, Shenyang, and Wenjin Chamber, Chengde. Three additional copies for the public were deposited in Siku quanshu libraries in Hangzhou, Zhenjiang, and Yangzhou. All seven libraries also received copies of the 1725 imperial encyclopedia Gujin tushu jicheng.

The Siku quanshu copies kept in Zhenjiang and Yangzhou were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion. In 1860 during the Second Opium War an Anglo-French expedition force burned most of the copy kept at the Old Summer Palace. The four remaining copies suffered some damage during World War II. Today, the four remaining copies are kept at the National Library of China in Beijing, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the Gansu Library in Lanzhou, and the Zhejiang Library in Hangzhou.

Timeline of the collection of books

  • In the first month of the 37th year of the Qianlong Emperor, people were requested by Imperial Decree to hand in their private book collections for use in the compilation of the Siku Quanshu. However, only a small number of people actually did so at this time, partly in fear of possible persecutions due to Literary Inquisition such as in the case of Treason by the Book.
  • In October of the same year, seeing that only a limited number of people actually handed in books, the Qianlong Emperor issued furthered Imperial Decrees stressing that (1) Books would be returned to their owners once the compilation was finished. (2) Book owners would not be persecuted even if their books contained Bad words. Less than three months after the issue of this decree four to five thousand different books were handed in.
  • Apart from reassuring the book owners that they would be free from persecution, the Qianlong Emperor also made promises and gave rewards to Chinese book owners, such as that he would perform personal calligraphy on their books. By this time 10,000 books had been handed in.[1]

Siku Jinshu

Siku Jinshu (Chinese: 四库禁书) is the catalogue of all the books that were rejected and banned by the order of Emperor Qianlong. The catalogue contained up to 2855 titles of books, which were then subsequently burned. The banned and destroyed 2855 titles were comparable to the 3461 titles of the catalogue of the Siku Quanshu.

According to some sources, a famous encyclopedia Tiangong Kaiwu (Chinese: 天工開物) was banned by the Qing court, resulting in its disappearance from China for 300 years, and was discovered later that some original copies were preserved intact in Japan.[2]

Many Siku series including the Siku Jinshu were published as books or CD.[3][4]


The Siku quanshu collection is divided into four (); "warehouse; storehouse; treasury; repository") parts, in reference to the imperial library divisions.

The books are divided into 44 categories or lèi (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ) and include the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, I Ching, Rites of Zhou, Classic of Rites, Classic of Poetry, Spring and Autumn Annals, Shuowen Jiezi, Records of the Grand Historian, Zizhi Tongjian, The Art of War, Guoyu, Stratagems of the Warring States, Compendium of Materia Medica, and other classics.

The Siku quanshu collection includes most major Chinese texts, from the ancient Zhou Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, covering all domains of academia.

See also


  1. ^ 吳武洲 (2008-10-30 ). "乾隆編"四庫全書"為引蛇出洞燒異說?". Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  2. ^ needham volume 4 part 2 172
  3. ^ 近年出版的《四库全书》与“四库”系列丛书
  4. ^ 中国(北京)保护知识产权网北京市高院著作权案例选登(八九六)
  • Guy, R. Kent, The Emperor's Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Ch'ien-lung Era. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1987 (Harvard East Asian Monographs 129), ISBN 0-674-25115-6.
  • Hong, William. "Preface to an Index to Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu tsung-mu and Wei-shou shu-mu", in: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 4 (1939): pp. 47–58.
  • Wilkinson, Endymion, Chinese History. A Manual, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 2000 (Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 52), ISBN 0674002474, pp. 273–277.
  • Yue, P.Y. Title Index to the Si ku chuan shu, Beiping (Standard Press) 1934.
  • Crossley, Pamela. A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, ISBN 0520215664 (or ISBN 9780520234246)
  • The Cambridge History of China by Fairbank on Literary inquisition

Additional sources

External links

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