Kangxi Dictionary, 3rd ed. (1827)
|Vietnamese alphabet||Khang Hi t? ?i?n|
The Kangxi Dictionary (Chinese: ?; pinyin: ) was the standard Chinese dictionary during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Kangxi Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty ordered its compilation in 1710. It used the earlier Zihui system of 214 radicals, today known as 214 Kangxi radicals, and was published in 1716. The dictionary is named after the Emperor's era name.
The dictionary contains more than 47,000 characters, though some 40% of them are graphic variants. In addition, there are rare or archaic characters, some of which are attested only once. Fewer than a quarter of the characters it contains are now in common use.
The original Kangxi Zidian editors included Zhang Yushu (, 1642-1711), Chen Tingjing (, 1639-1712), and a staff of thirty. They based it partly on two Ming Dynasty dictionaries: the 1615 Zihui ( "Character Collection") by Mei Yingzuo (), and the 1627 Zhengzitong ( "Correct Character Mastery") by Zhang Zilie ().
Since the imperial edict required that the Kangxi Dictionary be compiled within five years, a number of errors were inevitable. Although the emperor's preface to the dictionary said, "each and every definition is given in detail and every single pronunciation is provided",Victor H. Mair describes the first edition as "actually quite sloppy and full of mistakes". The scholar-official Wang Xihou (1713-1777) criticized the Kangxi Zidian in the preface of his dictionary Ziguan (, String of Characters). When the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1725-1796), Kangxi's grandson, was informed of this insult in 1777, Wang's entire family was sentenced to death by the nine familial exterminations, the most extreme form of capital punishment in imperial China. The Daoguang Emperor appointed Wang Yinzhi (1766-1834) and a review board to compile an officially sanctioned supplement to the Kangxi Zidian, and their 1831 Zidian kaozheng (? "Character Dictionary Textual Research") corrected 2,588 mistakes, mostly in quotations and citations.
The supplemented dictionary contains 47,035 character entries, plus 1,995 graphic variants, giving a total of 49,030 different characters. They are grouped under the 214 radicals and arranged by the number of additional strokes in the character. Although these 214 radicals were first used in the Zihui, due to the popularity of the Kangxi Dictionary they are known as Kangxi radicals and remain in modern usage as a method to categorize traditional Chinese characters.
The character entries give variants (if any), pronunciations in traditional fanqie spelling and in modern reading of a homophone, different meanings, and quotations from Chinese books and lexicons. The dictionary also contains rime tables with characters ordered under syllable rime classes, tones, and initial syllable onsets.
Even the Kangxi Dictionary title is lexicographically significant. After examining his dictionary, the emperor described it as a "canon of characters" (zidian ), which became the standard Chinese word for "dictionary", and used in the title of practically every dictionary published since the Kangxi.
The Kangxi Dictionary is available in many forms, from old Qing Dynasty editions in block printing, to reprints in traditional Chinese bookbinding, to modern revised editions with essays in Western-style hardcover, to the digitized Internet version.
In a groundbreaking lexicographical project based on the Kangxi dictionary, Walter Henry Medhurst, an early translator of the Bible into Chinese, compiled a bilingual dictionary (1842) "containing all the words in the Chinese imperial dictionary".