National TreasureShishuo xinshu, Segment of Volume 6

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  • 世説新書巻第六残巻
  • 1 scroll
  • Ink on paper
  • L26.9, total W196.0
  • Tang dynasty/7-8th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TB-1570

The New Book of Tales of the World (Ch. Shishuo xinshu; J. Sesetsu shinjo), is a collection of anecdotes about distinguished persons in China from the Later Han dynasty (25-220) until the Eastern Jin dynasty (317-419). It was compiled by Liu Yiqing (403-444) during the Song (420-479), one of the Southern dynasties of the Six Dynasties period (220-589), and later annotated by Liu Xiaobiao during the Liang dynasty (502-557) to consist finally of thirty-six anecdotes in three volumes.

The four chapters on this scroll-"Admonitions and Warnings" (Ch. Gui zhen), "Quick Perception" (Ch. Jie wu), "Precocious Intelligence" (Ch. Su hui), and "Virile Vigor" (Ch. Hao shang)-were cut apart and owned by different families. This section contains the "Virile Vigor" chapter. On each of the four sheets of joined paper, ruled lines have been drawn with ink to mark off twenty-fives lines of text per sheet. The style of calligraphy is graceful and elegant. Because the use of characters in the posthumous name of Emperor Gaozong (r. 644-683) has been avoided in the "Admonitions and Warnings" chapter, this scroll is thought to have been transcribed after the time of Gaozong. The title New Book of Tales of the World, Volume 6, written at the end of the scroll, indicates that the ten-volume manuscript described in records was extant and that it was initially called Shishuo xinshu rather than Shishuo xinyu (New Account of Tales of the World), the name by which it has been known since the Song dynasty (960-1279).

During the Heian period (794-1185), kana (Japanese phonetic syllabary) and marks were added in red ink to facilitate the reading of the classical Chinese text. The name of the learned Japanese priest Kôhô (1306-1362) is written in ink at the end of the scroll, an indication that the scroll was handed down within the Kanchi-in subtemple of Kyôôgokoku-ji (Tô-ji Temple) in Kyoto. The back of this scroll was used, probably at the end of the Heian period, for the transcription of an esoteric Buddhist manual entitled Kongôchô rengebushin nensô giki.