The Four Great Books of Song

May 1, 2018

In 986 A.D., the Song Dynasty Emperor Taizong ordered an encyclopedia to be written. The goal was to collect all known knowledge of the time and preserve it in print.

This ancient encyclopedia is known as the Four Great Books of Song (宋四大书), which was compiled by Li Fang and other scholars.

The last of the four encyclopedias, the Cefu Yuangui was finished during the 11th century. There were one thousand scrolls with 2,200 biographical entries.

This ancient example of the literary world printed more than one thousand years ago was commissioned by Vice Primer Zhou Bida. He had a group of scholars proofread the original copy of the encyclopedia before block printing it.

Surviving copies are kept in China’s national library but over the years bookworms fed on the paper, scarring the originals.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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