Yongle Dadian

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  • Compiled: 1407
  • Chinese/Japanese: 永楽大典 (yongle dadian / eiraku daiten)

The Yongle Dadian is a Chinese encyclopedia compiled in 1407, and the largest encyclopedia ever written.

It was commissioned by the Yongle Emperor in 1407, who commanded 2,000 literati to assemble it. The final product was divided into 22,877 chapters, and contained the complete canon of the Chinese Classics.

Only a few manuscript copies were ever produced, and most were unfortunately lost in a series of fires in the 19th century; only a few thousand pages are known to survive today, having been discovered in a secondhand bookshop early in the 20th century. These sections contain, among much else, the only surviving copies of a number of Song and Yuan Dynasty theatrical plays. Some believe, however, that a complete copy of the encyclopedia may have been buried with the Yongle Emperor.


  • Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire, New York: W.W. Norton & Company (2000), 377.
  • Herbert Plutschow. A Reader in Edo Period Travel. Kent: Global Oriental, 2006. p13.