My DPhil, under the supervision of Professor Dirk Meyer, aims to explore the theoretical aspects of the Siku Quanshu (四庫全書).
The Siku Quanshu is the largest 'encyclopaedic' compilation of texts in Chinese history and the one of the largest -- if not the largest -- collation of texts in world history. Sponsored by the Qianlong emperor during the late 18th century, the Siku Quanshu aimed to represent the breadth of Chinese knowledge while also capturing its most essential facets.
The way of organising and structuring knowledge in the Siku Quanshu is substantially different from the way knowledge is and has been organised in the Western tradition -- there are no direct analogs in traditional Chinese thought for concept-disciplines such as 'philosophy,' 'theology,' or 'literature.' Rather, the Siku Quanshu is based on the long-standing four-fold classification of knowledge that developed over 1400 years while simultaneously providing a refinement and reworking of taxonomical issues. As such, it represents the most complex, mature, and complete systematisation of Chinese knowledge before the introduction of Western organising methods and principles. Despite the overall predominance of Western taxonomical systems, the Siku Quanshu division is still used in universities and libraries across the world to organise pre-modern Chinese texts.
As an object of study, the Siku Quanshu has received the attention of scholars for over two hundred years but it has been only in the past quarter century that modern academic research, especially in East Asia, has placed its focus on the Siku Quanshu. The majority of contemporary scholarship focuses on historical issues behind the compilation of the Siku Quanshu -- it was, after all, a daunting task. My DPhil thesis aims to complement this field of scholarship by examining the structure of the Siku Quanshu from a theoretical perspective. In my project I am to tackle several questions such as what are the values that the division of knowledge in the Siku Quanshu embodies? what were the reasons that compelled the compilers of the Siku Quanshu to choose such a division? and what is it that we can learn about Chinese theory of knowledge at large?
If you would like to read a more detailed presentation of my DPhil proposal please click here.
Some volumes of the History part of the Siku Quanshu ...
... and some more.