By B.N. Mullik
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Extra resources for Chinese Betrayal: My Years with Nehru
None of the Yili’s seventeen chapters is devoted to architecture. Rather, architectural notices are mingled among other details in discourses on ceremonies. These allusions enable scholars of later generations to trace the tradition of earlyperiod architecture. For instance, the chapter “Xiang yinjiu li” 鄉飲酒 禮 (The rites of the district symposium)5 includes the stipulation “Place washing utensils to the southeast of the eastern stair” (設洗于阼階東南),6 which indicates that important buildings at that time had two stairs at the front, an eastern one (zuo 阼) and a western one.
Thus, architectural terms were scattered across diﬀerent sections of such a dictionary, as seen in Xu Shen’s 許慎 (ca. 81 In contrast to such lexical works, the Erya 爾雅 (Approaching elegance; literary exposition) and the Shiming 釋名 (Explanations of terms) represent an entirely diﬀerent compilation format for a dictionary: both include one section that glosses architectural terminology. The Erya was compiled during the late Warring States period and completed during the early Western Han period. This work uses contemporary standard language to explain words in early-period books that, due to either the passage of time or the diﬀerences in local dialects, had become diﬃcult to understand.
The classical architectural terms glossed here, xu 序, xiang 鄉, yingmen 應門, shu 塾, tang 唐, and dian 坫, are essential for understanding the texts that we encountered above and underscored as examples of incidental inclusions of architecture in the pre-Qin classics. The explanations of these terms, together with many others, provide a richer source on the architecture of early-period China than does the pre-Qin literature itself; the richness lies both in the longer period extending to the early Han and in the additional references to architectural structures, elements, positions, and space.