Thursday, October 13, 2005

Yongle Dadian : Encylopedia Maxima

This fragment of esoteric characters belongs to what was arguably the greatest literary undertaking in the history of the world. At the beginning of the 15th century, Ming dynasty Emperor Yongle had the literati comb Chinese intellectual history for worthy material to include in a compilation of their cultural heritage.

After some revisions and extensions to the original mandate, 2000 scholars ultimately produced more than 11,000 volumes of the Encyclopedia Maxima or Complete Record of Literature.

Cornell University have a modest exhibit that outlines the history of production and eventual destruction of (all but a few hundred volumes) the few copies that have ever existed of this massive work. It's an interesting story on a number of levels.

1 comment :

David said...

Foreign institutions holding the Yongle Dadian should return those copies to the China. Especially when those copies were looted from the Imperial Library. Keeping them hidden in Foreign Libraries is like keeping the Gutenberg bible or the original Shakespeare manuscripts in Asian Museums.

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