Yongle Canon - The Largest Encyclopedia in Ancient China
Yongle Canon, a great encyclopedia, was compiled in the Ming Dynasty. It contains 22877 volumes of articles and 60 volumes of table of contents all in 11095 books, with a total number of about 370 million words. The Canon contains over 8000 ancient books and records from the pre-Qin Dynasty to the early Ming Dynasty in China. It’s the largest encyclopedia in ancient China, which was finished over 300 years earlier than the famous Encyclopedia of Britain.
Originally named Collection of Classical Literature (Wenxian Dacheng), the Yongle Canon was compiled in the first year of Emperor Yongle’s reign in the Ming Dynasty (1403), and was finished in 1408. It embodies about 8000 important ancient classics and covers almost all topics. The works contained are faithfully compiled according to the original texts in whole, in piece or paragraph, which further enhances the documentary value of the data preserved.
The compilation of Yongle Canon is highly scientific, which ensures convenient searches when using it.
With great length and extensive contents, the Yongle Canon is also neat in handwriting. All characters in it are written in regular script by brush pen, supplemented by numerous exquisite illustrations, in which the mountains and rivers are line drawings that are realistic in configuration. The book is hardcover wrapped with gunny cloth, elegant and dignified. It is recognized by experts and scholars home and abroad as a rare treasure in the world history.
Yongle Canon is a precious cultural heritage of the Chinese nation, and has great documentary value because of its preservation of most of the classics before the Song and Yuan Dynasties. It has made great contributions to the development of traditional Chinese academic learning.