In this definition it follows the traditional Chinese classification, the four categories. This traditional system is not able to include all kinds of writings.

The word "literature" has two meanings. In a narrower sense it means belles-lettres, writings done with a purpose of entermainment, leisure, self-expression, and so on, like poems, novels, letters, or diaries. In a broader sense, like it is treated here, "literature" means everything that has been written, including philosophical writings, scientific treatises, political writings, geography, inscriptions on tomb stones, or documents of court politics.

Newspapers and journals, for example, find no place in it, because they were totally unknown in traditional China. Novels and romances are also dealt negligently with, as being an inferior stlye of writing. It is therefore necessary to provide several different "search tools" for my readers:

As far as possible I have tried to translate all the titles referred to in this encyclopedia. Some of these translations might be not accurate because one would first have to read the whole book before understanding what the title exactly means. I apologize for this imperfectness.

There is a not very small problem with the aggregation of syllables in the transcription of the book titles in the Pinyin transcription. For myself I have developed the following rules although in some points they are not very satisfactorily.

Some rules for the aggregation of syllables in book titles:

  • Only the first letter is written in capital style (Sanguo yanyi 三国演义)
  • Two-syllable titles are written in one word (Songshi 宋史)
  • Three-syllable titles are written in one word (Shuihuzhuan 水浒传)
  • Four-syllable titles are written in two words (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義)
  • Five-syllable titles are arranged in the mode 2-2-1 (Da-Tang xiyou ji 大唐西游记)
  • Names of studios are written in one word (Yueweicaotang biji 阅微草堂笔记)
  • All these rules are also applied to titles that can be grammatically analysed as phrases (Zibuyu 子不语 "[What] the Master did not say")
  • All these rules are also applied to titles that contain proper names which otherwise would be written in capital letters (like the "Han" in Houhanshu 后汉书)


  • Letters can be capitals when the first part of a title can be seen as a prefix (Yangzi Fayan 扬子法言 "The book Fayan by Master Yang")
  • Letters can be capitals if part of a proper name (Huangshi Gong sanlüe 黃石公三略 "The three strategies of Master Yellow Stone", Pingding Junggar fanglüe 平定准格尔方略 "The military annals of the conquest of Dzungaria")
  • Letters can be capitals if two proper names are combined or a dynasty is given an epithet; in these cases a hyphen is used (Wu-Yue chunqiu 吴越春秋 "Spring and Autumn of Wu and Yue", Da-Qing huidian 大清会典 "The statutes of the Great Qing")
  • In local gazetteers the name of the place is separated from the term "records of..." (Wujun zhi 吴郡志)