General Collection / Anthology
Zongji (总集) is a collection of various authors’ poems and proses (distinct from bieji〔别集〕, a collection of a particular author’s literary works). The earliest anthology we find nowadays is Verses from the Odes of Chu, compiled and edited by Wang Yi in the Han Dynasty. In terms of content, an anthology could be either comprehensive or limited in selection. Chronically, an anthology can be a general collection spanning written history, or a general collection from one dynasty. In terms of the genre of collected works, it can be divided into collections of a specific genre and collections of various genres. The most representative anthology is Selected Literary Works compiled and edited jointly by Crown Prince Xiao Tong and his literary advisors in the Liang Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties. Selected Literary Works consists of more than 700 outstanding literary pieces of various genres from pre-Qin through the early Liang. It does not include any work that belongs to the categories of jing (经 Confucian classics), shi (史 history), or zi (子 thoughts of ancient scholars and schools), but does include a small number of prefaces, commentaries, and eulogies from shi. Selected Literary Works reflects the literary trend of the time and exerted a far-reaching impact on the development of Chinese literature in the years to come.
An anthology was compiled because a large number of works of ci (辞) and fu (赋) were created, and different collections of various authors were widespread. They were put together under the title of Literary Trends and Schools by Zhi Yu of the Jin Dynasty. (The History of the Sui Dynasty)
The form of anthology originated from The Book of History and The Book of Songs. After Verses from the Odes of Chu and Literary Trends and Schools were compiled and edited by Wang Yi and Zhi Yu respectively, various anthologies began to appear, and became clear in themes and formats. (Ma Qichang: Preface to Selected Classic Works of the Tongcheng School)