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date: 23 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Literature can be seen from two perspectives, contrasting a textual heritage sanctioned by cultural arbiters with a fluid scene in which written culture mutates according to the dynamics of open society. In China, a tradition of imperially sponsored bibliography, library formation, and cataloguing set out to standardize the mass of inherited writing. As libraries moved through cycles of formation, destruction, and reconstruction, they struggled to accommodate new work within traditional frameworks. Classification was an intellectual adventure that developed through two parallel traditions, in seven and four main parts respectively. By the eighth century ce, the four-part system imposed became dominant. Vast amounts of literature lost to direct transmission survived in edited collections that inevitably compromised the integrity of vanished originals. Conversely, finds in tombs, caves, and excavations have recovered a rich harvest of ancient writings, many of them previously unknown. The results have brought those two rival perspectives into direct confrontation.

Keywords: libraries, transmission, catalogues, classification, lost books

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