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Title: Erya  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Yangzhou (ancient China), Thirteen Classics, Guangya, Chinese dictionaries, Piya
Collection: Chinese Classic Texts, Chinese Dictionaries, Confucian Texts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Erya exhibit at Chinese Dictionary Museum (Jincheng, Shanxi Province)
Traditional Chinese 爾雅
Simplified Chinese 尔雅

Erya (Erh-ya) is the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary or Chinese encyclopedia known. Bernhard Karlgren (1931: 49) concluded that "the major part of its glosses must reasonably date from" the 3rd century BC.

Chinese scholars interpret the first title character ěr (; "you, your; adverbial suffix") as a phonetic loan character for the homophonous ěr (; "near; close; approach"), and believe the second (; "proper; correct; refined; elegant") refers to words or language. According to W. South Coblin: "The interpretation of the title as something like 'approaching what is correct, proper, refined' is now widely accepted."[1] It has been translated as "The Literary Expositor," "The Ready Rectifier" (both by James Legge), and "Progress Towards Correctness" (A. von Rosthorn). "Approaching Elegance/Refinement," Alex Kolesnikov.

The book's author is unknown. Although it is traditionally attributed to the Duke of Zhou, Confucius, or his disciples, scholarship suggests that someone compiled and edited diverse glosses from commentaries to pre-Qin texts, especially the Shijing. The Erya was considered the authoritative lexicographic guide to Chinese classic texts during the Han Dynasty, and it was officially categorised as one of the Thirteen Confucian Classics during the Song Dynasty. The best-known textual annotations include the Western Jin Dynasty Erya zhu (爾雅注; "Erya Commentary") by Guo Pu (276–324), the Northern Song Dynasty Erya shu (爾雅疏; "Erya Subcommentary") by Xing Bing (邢昺; 931–1010), the Song Dynasty Eryayi (爾雅翼; "Wings to the Erya") by Luo Yuan (羅願; 1136–1184), and the Qing Dynasty Erya zhengyi (爾雅正義; "Correct Meanings of the Erya") by Shao Jinhan (邵晋涵; 1743–1796) and Erya yishu (爾雅義疏 "Subcommentary on Meanings of the Erya") by Hao Yixing (郝懿行; 1757–1825).

The Erya has been described as a grasses, trees, insects and reptiles, fish, birds, wild animals, and domestic animals – describe more than 590 kinds of flora and fauna. It is a notable document of natural history and historical biogeography.


Chapter Chinese Pinyin Translation Subject
1 釋詁 Shigu Explaining the Old [Words] verbs, adjectives, adverbs, grammatical particles
2 釋言 Shiyan Explaining Words verbs, adjectives, adverbs
3 釋訓 Shixun Explaining Instructions adjectives, adverbs, mostly with reduplication
4 釋親 Shiqin Explaining Relatives kinship, marriage
5 釋宮 Shigong Explaining Dwellings architecture, engineering
6 釋器 Shiqi Explaining
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