Individual Collection

The term refers to a collection of works by an individual author, in contrast to an anthology which amalgamates the works of many writers. In the Western Han Dynasty, Liu Xin(?-23) composed Seven Categories, one of the categories being “The Catalogue of Shi and Fu,” which collects the literary works of 66 writers including Qu Yuan(340?-278?BC), Tang Le, and Song Yu. Organized by author, “The Catalogue of Shi and Fu” was regarded as the beginning of individual collections. Many more individual collections were compiled in the Eastern Han Dynasty, as exemplified by the 886 collections of writers from the Han through Wei and Jin to the Southern and Northern Dynasties, recorded in The History of the Sui Dynasty. Nearly every author had his own collection. Collections devoted to poetry were usually entitled collection of poems while those concerned with prose or both poetry and prose were entitled collection of writings. An individual collection might be entitled after the author’s name, pen name, posthumous title, birth place, or residence. Containing all the major works of an author, an individual collection enables readers to learn about the author’s aspirations and therefore provides a valuable source for the study of his ideas and literary achievements for later generations.

What is known as bieji (别集) appeared in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Literary history since Qu Yuan witnessed an increasing number of creative writers with distinctive aspirations, preferences, literary features, and tastes. To examine the style, strength, as well as the spiritual world of a specific author, later generations put together all his works and called it ji (集) or collection.