3.1254 Chinese and its access (42)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 3 Apr 90 22:00:29 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1255. Tuesday, 3 Apr 1990.

Date: Tue, 3 Apr 90 09:50:04 EDT
From: pdk@iris.brown.edu (Paul D. Kahn)
Subject: Re: 3.1251 indexes and concordances for Asian languages? (27)

Chinese dictionaries are organized by stroke count within radical group. I do
not know how long this tradition has been in place. There are several
different traditions of radical organization, but the one that identifies
a little over 200 radicals (basic character particles from which more
complex characters are built) currently prevails. I would suspect that
the compilation of the Buddhist scriptures under the sponsorship of
the Tang dynasty in the 7th century may have been an occasion for the kind
of index/concordance we are familiar with in Europe. Contemporary with the
early Roman period (circa 200 B.C.) there was a standardization of the
written language by Chin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor and this may
have resulted in an early "dictionary" of sorts.

I am aware of two modern examples that may offer some clues. Stephen Owen,
of Harvard's East Asian Lang & Civilization Dept,
who write extensively on the poetry of the Tang period, cites the source of
each poem he translates and discusses in his The Great Age of Chinese Poetry:
The High T'ang (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981) by number,
using a Japanese edition of the Complete T'ang Poems
(Hiraoka Takeo et al., comps. Todai no shihen, Kyoto,1964-65)
which assigns a unique sequence number to each poem of the form "Todai no.
11433." This is not universal even among American scholars, as most of the
other sources I use cite volume/page numbers in one of several older Chinese
editions. Then there is the example of the late William Hung of the Harvard
Yenching Institute who compiled a complete concordance of the the works of Tu
+ Fu (Du Fu)
in the 1950s. I have not come across similar concordances for other classical
Chinese poets or texts, but I work almost entirely in English sources and so
am speaking out of great ignorance. I am most interested in hearing whatever
replies you receive on this question.