What are these Chinese plates?
May 27, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

These plates with golden inscriptions (1 2 3 4) were bought in China in the 1950s or 60s. They're 13.4 cm tall, 9.5 cm wide and about 4 mm thick, two-sided; I can't tell which ones are page 3 and 4. They're illuminated from behind in these photos so you can read them more easily. What are they and what do they say?
posted by klue to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Your page 3 and 4 should probably be reversed.

I'm not up to a literal translation of this. (Notice how there are no punctuation anywhere in this article? It's quite a workout just to guess where each sentence begins.)

This is an article written by a pretty important Chinese emperor 乾隆 (from the Qing dynasty) for a collection of five classic works that dates before Confucius. They actually started out as six, but the one about music/arts got lost thanks to the very first Chinese Emperor, who waged a largely successful book burning/scholar burying campaign.

The five works 《易》、《书》、《诗》、《礼记》、《春秋》 are about divination, history, poems, etiquette, and rhetoric respectively. Because 乾隆 values these books so highly, he named his royal study/library after them. 五经萃室, roughly translated, is the Five Essential Classics Room. The gist of the article is about the importance of these five books and the need for a new annotated edition after the Yue version. (His edition is considered to be superior, and was widely pirated by the plebs.)

This article was inscribed to a screen in the study. It served as foreword of his custom imprint/edition of this collection of works.

The palace where the study is situated is fairly interesting. It's where one hapless emperor killed his daughter before fleeing from the rebels. As a library, it suffered a fire in 1797, and was rebuilt.
posted by of strange foe at 6:55 PM on May 27, 2007

* It also served as foreword *
posted by of strange foe at 6:57 PM on May 27, 2007

This page finally finished loading, and about 6/7th down, there's a picture of that screen, and the full text of the article, nicely punctuated:
[pic 2事虽大而无关于天理人心之正者,不可炫其有文而为之记。事虽小而有关于天理人心之正者,不可憪其无文而弗为之记。兹五经萃室之记盖有合于后之所云者,五经之有关于天理人心,夫人之所知也。而谓其事小者,徒以萃宋时岳珂所刻之五经,故曰小,然而六 /pic 2]百岁之间分之复合,散之仍聚,则其事亦不谓小。而况阐数大圣人之精徽,示天理,正人心,斯可憪其无文而弗为之记耶。岳珂所刻之五经奈何盖自乾隆甲子时荟萃宋元明三代旧板藏之昭仁殿,名曰天禄琳琅。其时即有岳氏所刻之春秋,未详其所由来,亦不过典别部春秋一例载之天禄琳琅之书而已。兹复得岳氏所刻易书诗礼记四种,而独阙春秋,因思天禄琳琅中或有其书。细检之则岳氏所刻之春秋故在其板之延袤分寸无不吻合,而每卷之后皆有木刻亚形相台。岳氏刻梓荆渓家塾,即大小篆文楷书不等。且每页之末傍刻篇识如易礼乾坤卦书之尧舜典之类。其用心精而纪类審,即宋板之最佳 [pic 3 者亦不多见也。至于收藏家则易、书、诗盖同,经七八家,而略有异。藏礼记者四家,藏春秋者三家,夫岳氏之书既分而合,幸合则不可使复分。但天禄琳琅之书久成,所录诸书皆以四库分类,架贮昭仁殿。其丙申以后所获之书别弃于御花园之养性斋,以待续入。兹撤出昭仁殿之春秋,以还岳氏五经之旧。仍即 /pic 3][pic 4 殿之后庑所谓慎俭德室者,分其一楹名之曰“五经萃室”。都置一几是旧者,固不出昭仁殿。而新者亦弗栏入旧书中,似此位置可谓得宜。吾因思之位置一切政务亦能如是胥得宜乎。所谓得宜者,亦有人于天理人心之正而不违五经之旨乎。刻书家多矣,若兹分而复合者盖少,遂命选善书者如影宋钞之例,/pic 4]通锓其五经正本以寿世而公来者,吾于是慨武穆之忠而喜其有文,孙承继家声也,又恨宋高宗之信奸相,忌复雠而自坏其长城也。又谓天之报施善人固不爽,而司马迁怨尤之语诚不足为信史也。乾隆癸卯新正月中翰御笔。

So your plates are in order, but the full text should have 6 plates plus the title.
posted by of strange foe at 7:35 PM on May 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks of strange foe. I also got this from nad the lurker:

The writing is Classical Chinese, and the text is called the "Record of the Storeroom of the Five Classics" (characters: 五经萃室记, pinyin: wu jing cui shi ji). It's from, I think, 1783, which is the Qing dynasty (not the plate, the text). I don't have a lot of time and my classical Chinese isn't so hot, but it starts something like "Although a matter is large, it has no relationship to the order of heaven; those who have righted their hearts cannot plumb its patterns. Although a matter is small, it has a relationship to the order of heaven; those who have righted their hearts cannot claim it to have no pattern and cannot fail to record it." It's quite a long text and I'd have to put in some time to get the whole gist, but it seems from a baidu search to show up mainly on high-quality antiques, usually inscribed in gold, often on furniture or bookshelves.
posted by klue at 6:26 AM on May 28, 2007

< yu zhi wu jing cuibr> Shi Ji>>is from Qing dynasty, The emperor Qianlong thinks that the five
classics from Southern Song Dynasty are very important. He ordered
ministers to find a room which name was Wu Jing Cui Shi (五经萃室) to keep
the five classics. The contents of the < 御制五经萃室记>> are story of five
classics and the origin of this room.
posted by mateuslee at 1:19 AM on May 30, 2007

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