Item ID: 9633 Xing sheng lei pian 形聲類篇 [Categorized Chapters of Shape-and-Sound (Characters)]. Lüheng 丁履恒 DING.

A Study of Phonetic Compounds

Xing sheng lei pian 形聲類篇 [Categorized Chapters of Shape-and-Sound (Characters)].

One folding facsimile of a manuscript. 92 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. wrappers, orig. stitching. [Beijing]: [Guoli Beijing daxue chuban zu 國立北京大學出版組, 1936?]

This is a study of Chinese characters with phonetic components by a prominent scholar of the Qing period. The character type studied in the present work, so-called phonetic compounds or “shape-and-sound” characters, is one of six kinds of character types into which the Chinese script was traditionally subdivided. A canonical enumeration of the six types is found in the Postface to Xu Shen’s Shuo wen jie zi from 100 CE. In Göran Malmqvist’s translation, Xu Shen lists zhishi 指事, “indicators”; xiangxing 象形, “pictographs”; xingsheng 形聲, “shape and sound”; huiyi 會意, “combined meaning”; zhuanzhu 轉注, “interchanging notation”; and jiajie 假借, “loan characters.” Examples of phonetic compounds are characters such as jiang 江 and he 河, two words for “river,” in which the three dots to the left indicate “water,” and the remainder of the character gives a hint of its pronunciation. Since the characters were formed in antiquity, the Chinese language has changed radically, and characters that sounded similar thousands of years ago do not necessarily do so nowadays. For this reason, scholars have studied phonetic compounds in order to investigate what the ancient Chinese language sounded like. Our book is a work in this genre.

The author, Ding Lüheng (1770-1831), served as an instructor in county-level Confucian schools and subsequently as a local magistrate. Ding studied Confucian exegetics and philology with some of the leading scholars of the period, including Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 (1717-96) and Duan Yucai 段玉裁 (1735-1815) (Sun et al., Qingren cihua, 1096).

The flyleaf of our copy says “Guangxu 15” (1889), but the presence of affixed foldout facsimile manuscripts reveals this as a Republican-era book. We believe it is the edition conjectured in the entry for WorldCat 35210536 to have been published by Peking University in 1936. Moreover, the centerfold says Dating shanguan congshu 大亭山館叢書, or “Collectanea of the mountain residence of the grand pavilion,” in which the book was previously published.

Fine copy. Minor worming touching some characters.


Malmqvist, Göran. “Xu Shen’s Postface to the Shuo Wen Jie Zi.” In On Script and Writing in Ancient China. Edited by David Pankenier. Stockholm: Föreningen för Orientaliska Studier, 1974.

Sun Keqiang 孙克强 et al. Qingren cihua 清人词话. Vol. 2. Tianjin: Nankai daxue chubanshe, 2012.

Price: $500.00

Item ID: 9633

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