Timothy Wai Keung CHAN

Literary Gathering; painted by Han Huang during the Tang dynasty. Ink and color on silk, 8 Century.

Compiled in 1705–06, the Quan Tangshi is the most complete collection of poetry of the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) and Five Dynasties period (907–960 CE). It contains the works of more than two thousand writers.

The Quan Tangshi (???, Complete Tang Poems) is the most complete collection of Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) and Five Dynasties period (907–960 CE) verse. It consists of nine hundred fascicles (the divisions of a book published in parts), with 48,900 works by more than 2,200 writers.

Emperor Kangxi (reigned 1661–1722) of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) ordered the compilation of the Quan Tangshi. Peng Dingqiu was appointed editor-in-chief, and Cao Yin (1658–1712) was in charge of organizing and publishing the project, which began in the spring of 1705 and was completed in the autumn of 1706. The relative completeness of the Quan Tangshi was the result of its incorporation of the efforts of a long lineage of previous collectors. Its basic framework was drawn from a compilation by Ji Zhenyi (b. 1630) under the same title; this, in turn, was based on a collection by Qian Qianyi (1582–1664), who himself had drawn heavily from Wu Guan’s (c. 1571) Tangshi ji (Records of Tang Poetry), itself an expanded version of Ji Yougong’s (flourished 1121–1161) Tangshi jishi (Events of Tang Poetry). Furthermore, the Quan Tangshi absorbed all 1,033 fascicles of poems in Hu Zhenheng’s (1569–1644/45) Tangyin tongqian (Comprehensive Booktags of Tang Sounds).

The works collected in the Quan Tangshi are divided according to a fourfold periodization of Tang poetry into early, high, mid, and late periods, a schema first suggested by Yan Yu (c. 1230) in his Canglang shihua (Canglang Remarks on Poetry), which, although problematic, has long been followed in anthologies and in scholarship on the subject. Writers are arranged according to year of birth or, if that is unknown, the year in which they passed the jinshi (scholar) examination. Short biographical sketches appear at the head of each writer’s collected poems.

The Quan Tangshi has been criticized for certain shortcomings. For example, it is far from complete. Tang poems discovered in the Dunhuang caves in modern Gansu Province at the turn of the twentieth century were, of course, unknown to its editors; certain poems and fragments quoted in other sources were overlooked as well. Another recurrent problem arises from the abundance of incorrect or overlapping attributions, and other works are out of sequence. Finally, no source references are given.

In the pursuit of a truly complete collection of Tang poetry, studies on commentary, supplements, collation, and other critical issues concerning the Quan Tangshi have been published. These works will eventually contribute to the updated version of the Quan Tangshi now being compiled.

Further Reading

Chen Shangjun. (1992). Quan Tangshi bubian [Supplements to the Complete Tang poems]. Beijing: Zhonghua.

Kroll, P. W. (1986). Ch’uan T’ang-shih. In W. H. Nienhauser (Ed.), The Indiana companion to traditional Chinese literature (pp. 364–365). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Spence, J. (1966). Ts’ao Yin and the K’ang-his emperor: Bondservant and master. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Yu Dagang. (1937). Ji Tangyin tongqian. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, 7(3), 355–384.

Source: Chan, Timothy Wai Keung. (2009). Quan Tangshi. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1859–1860. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Quan Tangshi (Quán Tángsh? ???)|Quán Tángsh? ??? (Quan Tangshi)

Download the PDF of this article