Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chou Yung-nien

CHOU Yung-nien 周永年 (T. 書昌(倉), H. 林汲山人), 1730–1791, Aug., scholar and bibliophile, was a native of Li-ch'êng, Shantung. From youth on his favorite pursuit was the collecting of books, and when he was a student in the Lo-yūan Academy 濼源書院 at Tsinan he already possessed a library of several thousand chüan. To the catalogue of this library of his younger days, entitled 水西書屋書目 Shui-hsi shu-wu shu-mu, the director of the Lo-yüan Academy, Shên Ch'i-yüan 沈起元 (T. 子大, H. 敬亭, 1685–1763, chin-shih of 1721), wrote a postscript dated 1754. Chou Yung-nien became a chü-jên in 1770 and a chin-shih in 1771. When the bureau for the compilation of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu was established in 1773 (see under Chi Yün) Chou Yung-nien, Shao Chin-han, Yü Chi, Tai Chên [qq. v.] and Yang Ch'ang-lin (see under Tai Chên) were invited to become assistant compilers. Chou, Shao, and Yü were appointed, by special decree, members of the Hanlin Academy as of the year 1772. In connection with his work on the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu Chou Yung-nien is reported to have read nine thousand volumes of the Yung-lo ta-tien (see under Chu Yün), abstracting there from more than ten literary collections of Sung and Yüan authors. He attempted simultaneously to take advantage of his access to ancient archives to compile a bibliographical work under the title 四部考, Ssŭ-pu k'ao. He engaged as many as ten copyists to execute it, among them Kuei Fu 桂馥 (T. 未谷, 冬卉, 1736–1805, chin-shih of 1790), his chief assistant; but as the government later prohibited the borrowing of books, the project failed to materialize.

During this period Chou Yung-nien accumulated a private library comprising nearly 100,000 chüan. This library he named Chi-shu Y'üan 藉書園 or "Lending Library", in conformity with his belief that a collection of books should be put to the widest possible use. The catalogue of this library, entitled Chi-shu yüan shu-mu (書目), has an introductory essay which has for its title 儒藏說 Ju-tsang-shuo, "A Plea for Confucian Libraries". In this essay Chou argues that, like the temple collections of Taoist (Tao-tsang) and of Buddhist literature (Shih-tsang), Confucianists should build up Ju-tsang to preserve their books and serve their students. In connection therewith he advocated the establishment of public libraries having as one of their duties the exchange of catalogues—thus anticipating in a sense the Union Catalogue of our day. He suggested also that lands be set aside for the support of libraries, and that such structures should be constructed of stone and in other ways made fire-proof. The Ju-tsang shuo was later printed in the Sung-lin ts'ung-shu (see under Hsü Sung). It is worthy of note that the celebrated historian, Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng [q. v.], wrote a preface to the above-mentioned Chi-shu yüan shu-mu.

In 1779 Chou Yung-nien officiated as chief examiner in the Kweichow provincial examination. His friend, Li Wên-tsao 李文藻 (T. 素伯, 茞畹, H. 南澗, 1730–1778, chin-shih of 1760), a bibliophile, author of one of the earliest accounts of bookstores in the street called Liu-li-ch'ang, Peking (琉璃廠書肆記 Liu-li ch'ang shu-ssŭ chi, 1769), borrowed many manuscripts and rare works from Chou's library and printed a number of them in Kwangtung. After Li's death Chou Yung-nien utilized the blocks of twelve of these works and reprinted them in 1789 as the 貸園叢書初編 Tai-yüan ts'ung-shu ch'u-pien. In the summer of 1791 Chou Yung-nien died, age sixty-two (sui).

Chou Yung-nien also compiled a short collection of quotations from ancient sages and scholars concerning methods of study which he entitled 先正讀書訣 Hsien-chêng tu-shu chüeh. This collection was reprinted in the Ling-chien ko ts'ung-shu (see under Ho Ch'iu-t'ao), together with a biography of Chou written by Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng. In his younger days Chou Yung-nien participated in the compilation of two local histories of Shantung: one of his native district, entitled 歷城縣志 Li-ch'êng hsien chih, completed in 1771; and another of Tung-ch'ang fu, 東昌府志 Tung-ch'ang fu chih, completed in 1777. A copy of the former is in the Library of Congress.

[1/487/27a; 3/130/30a; 20/3/xx (portrait); Hsü (續) Li-ch'êng hsien chih (1924) 4/9a; Yeh Ch'ang-ch'ih (see under P'an Tsu-yin), Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih 5/33a; Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng [q. v.], Chang-shih i-shu, 3/3a, 9/11a].

Tu Lien-chê