Hu Guang (胡廣), Xing li da quan shu (性理大全書), 1556

Compiler: begun by Hu Guang   (Chinese, 1369-1418)

Title: Great Compendium on Human Nature and Principle (性理大全書)

Date: 1556; original 1450

Medium: Woodblock printed book, ink on paper

Publisher:  Jianning Fu xue

Rare Book & Manuscript Library – Rare Book Collection

Call Number: Folio B127.N4 X56 1556

The Great Compendium on Human Nature and Principle  (性理大全書) is an anthology of Song dynasty works on Neo-Confucianism. It is the third entry in a trilogy of works that summarized all the material needed for the civil examinations under the reign of emperor Yong Le. It took as its model Master Zhu’s Categorized Conversations, and takes Zhu Xi’s writings as its focus. It is a very expansive and detailed compilation that serves an encyclopedic function and was promulgated by the emperor and scholars as a core element of contemporary scholarship. Thus, it was widely studied by scholars of Neo-Confucianism, and many were well versed in its contents

This book has no single author. It was commissioned by the imperial court and compiled under the guidance of Ming dynasty Grand Secretary Hu Guang (胡廣). Palace editions with modifications were printed in 1455, 1597, and  1673, but this edition was apparently published by the Jianning Fu publishing group in 1556.

Other Copies

At the time this was posted other copies of this edition were not found in comprehensive online catalogs; further research may result in finding additional imprints.


Selected Reading


  • Thomas A. Wilson, Genealogy of the Way: The Construction and Uses of the Confucian Tradition in Late Imperial China (Stanford University Press, 1995), 46, 93, 103, 160-168, 203-206.
  • Benjamin A. Elman, A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (University of California Press, 2000), 110-133
  • Timothy R. Clifford, In the Eye of the Spectator: Ancient-Style Prose Anthologies in Ming-Dynasty China (Ph.D dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2017)


Posted by Keegan Trainor

April 10, 2018


Updated by Julie Nelson Davis

June 11, 2018