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Rare Books

Dynastic Regulations for Sagacious Rule of the Great Yüan
Yüan dynasty (1279-1368)
23.5 x 15 cm (print: 20 x 13 cm)

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Anonymous, Yüan dynasty (1279-1368)
Yüan dynasty imprint

Documents concerning the system of Yüan dynasty rule, with the exception of those mentioned in the official Yüan history and this book, have all been lost. This Yüan imprint is not only the earliest surviving example of this text, it is also an important source for the study of Yüan government. However, with no prefatory inscriptions or end colophons, the editor(s) and date of printing remain unknown. The contents represent a collection of archives from the central government to the localities, with a terminal date of 1320. Hence, it is assumed that this text was completed sometime shortly thereafter. Judging from the style of the characters in the imprint, it appears to be an imprint from Chien-yang. From the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), this text was not reprinted. Although only the Yüan imprint survived, it was not recorded in private collections.

The “Wen-yüan-ko shu-mu (Catalogue of the Wen-yuan Pavilion)” of the Ming refers to an incomplete version of Yüan regulations in ten volumes, but whether it refers to an imprint or a transcribed edition is unknown. Nonetheless, the text was lost by the late 16th or early 17th century. Transcribed editions sometimes appear among private book collections, such as two referred to as having 15 chüan (chapters), far fewer than the 60 of this imprint. In 1908, Tung K’ang had an imprint made in Peking after a transcribed edition in the Ting family collection of Hangchow. The imprint, however, was marred by numerous errors. Consequently, in 1931, Ch'en Yüan compiled a list of corrections for the Tung edition based on the original Yüan imprint. Ch'en found more than 12,000 mistakes in the Tung imprint, showing just how important this sole surviving copy is, not just as a rare book, but also as a source of accurate historical information.
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