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New Electronic Resource!
Classical Chinese Collection Now Available Online

The Libraries’ subscription to the Siku Quanshu database provides scholars with online access to two thousand years of classical Chinese literature, history, philosophy, and science. Traditionally referred to as the Complete Collection of the Four Treasures, the compilation is based on the traditional classification of Chinese works in classics, history, philosophy, and belles-lettres.

The Siku collection has an intriguing history. In 1773 Emperor Qianlong ordered a group of scholars to compile all significant Chinese texts on all subjects known to scholars at that time (except those that were censored, but that’s a longer story). As the largest series ever compiled in China, it contains 3,693 titles in 36,000 volumes. Considering the duration of many 20th-century scholarly projects, it is impressive to note that the project was completed in only nineteen years.

The Siku collection is widely considered the most important source for classical Chinese studies, and the online database has quickly become a high-use resource. Prof. Michael Fuller of the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department observes that “The online searchable Siku Quanshu is an invaluable research tool that has vastly enlarged our access to the textual legacy of pre-modern China. We can now explore the development of terms, images, and concepts over a two-thousand year period, and the source texts for our searches greatly exceed what earlier scholars could have hoped to examine.”

Produced by the Chinese University Press in Hong Kong, the online version of the Siku collection includes a full array of search capabilities, as well as the ability to annotate and manipulate particular sections of text. At present the Siku is available only at two designated workstations on Level One of Langson Library that are equipped with special software; the required password is available at the Reference desk upon request. We anticipate that in spring 2005 the database will be upgraded to a web-based service available via your desktop, and that passwords will no longer be required for UC users.

For more information, please contact Asian Studies Librarian Bill Wong (wswong@uci.edu or x48147).

 

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