Kangxi zidian 康熙字典 “The Dictionary of the Kangxi Reign”

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The Kangxi zidian 康熙字典 “Dictionary of the Kangxi reign (1662-1722)” is the largest character dictionary of traditional China. It was compiled on imperial order by Zhang Yushu 张玉书 and Chen Yanjing 陈延敬 and was finished in 1716. These Qing period 清 (1644-1911) compilers made use of older dictionaries, expecially the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) dictionariesZihui 字汇 by Mei Yingzuo 梅膺祚 and Zhengzitong 正字通 by Zhang Zilie 张自烈. It consists of 12 “collections” (ji 集) of which each is divided into three parts. It makes use of the 214 radicals system established in theZhengzitong. Each character is attributed to a radical. The radicals are arranged according to the number of brush strokes. Below the radical levels characters are arranged according to the stroke number left after subtracting the radical. The Kangxi zidian contains 47,035 characters and was the largest dictionary before the compilation of the Zhonghua da zidian 中华大字典 in 1915. This large number comes into being because all character variants from ancient times on are recorded. For each one the locus classicus is quoted. A long introductory part explains the use of the traditional rhymes (Zimu qieyun yaofa 字母切韵要法). There is also an index for characters whose radical is not easy to determine (Jianzi 检字) and a chapter comparing characters that are very similar to each other and not easy to discern (Biansi 辨似). For each character the pronunciation according to the fanqie system 反切 is given first, as it is explained in older dictionaries, like the Guangyun 广韵, Jiyun 集韵 or Gujin yunhui 古今韵会, and then the direct pronunciation (zhiyin 直音) via a homophonous character. The pronunciation paragraph is followed by an explanatory part in which quotations from all kinds of literature is given to explain the different meanings of the character, in first place often from the oldest character dictionary of China, the Shuowen jiezi 说文解字, followed by theConfucian classics, historiographic writings, and on to belles-lettres. This part is often followed by a section rendering alternativ readings, alternative meanings, and alternative writings of the character. The quality of the entries is very high compared to older dictionaries, as the Kangxi zidian is very critical to a lot of quotations. There were, nevertheless, errors in the quotations, for which reason Wang Yinzhi 王引之 compiled a text-critial appendix to the dictionary, the Zidian kaozheng 字典考证, in 12 chapters (juan “scrolls”). It contains 2,588 paragraphs of corrected mistakes. Another critical appendix to the Kangxi zidian has been written by the Japanese scholar Watanabe Atsushi 渡部温, the Kangxi zidian kaoyi zhengwu 康熙字典考异正误, which contains 11,700 entries.

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