The Phonology of Chinese & Foreign Scripts

Yun xue li yan ju yao 韻學蠡言舉要 [Essentials from Older Discourses on Phonological Learning].

Woodcut illus. & tables. 119 folding leaves. 8vo., orig. wrappers (a little frayed). [China]: [Jiyuan xuan 寄緣軒?], 1900.

A collection of phonological texts, all written by Ding Xian (1843-1919). The book contains descriptions of the Latin alphabet, Japanese kana, and a set of Chinese characters representing what it claims is “the todo bičig of Russia” 鄂羅斯托忒字, an apparent mix-up of the name for the Oirat script of the western Mongols with that of their Cyrillic-writing northern neighbor. There is also an explanation of the method of relaying syllables by code, either by tapping the table or writing numerals in red and black ink (see Söderblom Saarela, “’Shooting Characters’”).

There are discrepancies between the table of contents and the actual contents of the book. The table of contents advertises a juan 3 titled “Qiezi jiejing shuo” 切字捷徑說 [“Explanation of Shortcuts to Spelling Syllables”]. A red stamp beneath this title says “blocks missing” (ban shi 板失). Indeed, no chapter with this title is found in the book. The table of contents lists in juan 2 “Xie sheng pu” 諧聲譜 [“Charts for Harmonizing Sounds”]. While the book does contain charts, there is no chart actually titled this way. The major items included are “Ding shi sheng jian” 丁氏聲鑑 [“Mr. Ding’s Mirror of Sounds”] (Preface, dated 1864), including phonological charts and shorter pieces with their titles on the folio center strips; “Yinyun zhimi” 音韻指迷 [“Solving the Puzzles of Phonology”], advertised as juan 4 in the table of contents but not thus marked on the center strip; “Shuangsheng shixuan” 雙聲詩選 [“Selection of Alliterative Poems”], marked as juan 5; as well as “Yunxue congshu tiba” 韻學叢書題跋 [“Epigraphs and Colophons to a Series of Books on Phonological Learning”], which is not advertised in the table of contents.

The phonological charts in “Mr. Ding’s Mirror of Sounds” are preceded by a cartouche saying that the woodblocks (of the charts only?) are kept at Ding’s studio, Jiyuan xuan 寄緣軒.

A very good copy. WorldCat 52345151 is listed as being in three volumes, whereas our book is in one, and unlike ours contains the “Charts for Harmonizing Sounds.”


Söderblom Saarela, Mårten. “’Shooting Characters’: A Phonological Game and Its Uses in Late Imperial China.“ Journal of the American Oriental Society 138.2 (2018): 327-59.

Price: $750.00

Item ID: 9794

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