Modern editions of Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字 use seal characters 小篆 only in the headwords. This is also the case with editions published a few hundred years ago. Was the whole original 121 edition of Shuowen written in seal characters, or was the main text written in the clerical script 隸書?

  • It is written in year 100. There is no ancient copy remains, unless archaeologist can recover a copy from ancient tombs in the future to verify the fact. The "current" copies are revision done in year 986. zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%AF%B4%E6%96%87%E8%A7%A3%E5%AD%97
    – mootmoot
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:23
  • Right, but perhaps there are some commentaries or other kinds of indirect evidence that can shed some light on this question.
    – 米好 '-'
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:42
  • 1
    According to the wiki : revision in year AC986 state the original is written in 隸書 (consistent to the era). The edition you given are revision of 1815, written in modern 楷书。
    – mootmoot
    Jan 4, 2017 at 17:06
  • sorry, it is a mistake, should be 小篆.
    – mootmoot
    Jan 5, 2017 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


Baidu Baike says "《说文解字》是首部按部首编排的汉语字典。原书作于汉和帝永元十二年(100年)到安帝建光元年(121年),现已失传,传至今日的大多是宋朝版本,或是清朝的段玉裁注释本。原文以小篆书写,逐字解释字体来源.全书共分540个部首.收字9353个.另有“重文”(即异体字)1163个.共10516字。《说文解字》是科学文字学和文献语言学的奠基之作,在中国语言学史上有极其重要的地位。"

But I can't guarantee it is true.

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