In China, a person who is so busy that he loses the feeling of space and time is said to be rushing between the south, east, west and north.
According to legend, these are the words that teacher said to Shen Shen when he was in school. Bi Shen spent most of his time in the library; he liked to read books. He said that books replace his father and mother. But he could not answer the teacher’s question what he would specifically do. As a result, Bi Shen was expelled from school for poor performance.
Interestingly, later Bi Shen went down in history of China as the inventor of typesetting movable font. Information about the life of Bi Shen (c. 1012-c. 1068 CE) is extremely scarce. Something can be learned about him from the ancient source of Meng si bi tan (Notes from Mansi) by Shen Ko.
History of Bi Chen
Almost 200 years later, the head of Jingde County (Anhui Province) Wang Zheng (1260-1330 AD) already in the Yuan era (1271-1368 AD) published the book “Nong Shu” (“The Book on Agriculture “). In the appendix to the book, the technology of manufacturing the typeface of Bean Shen was described. The invention of the typeface movable font used for publishing books occurred around the 1040s.
Why did the teacher say that about Bi Shen? Let’s try to figure it out.
The period of the Tang and Song dynasties (7-13 centuries) is considered the era of the brilliant heyday of Chinese civilization. At this time, schools and colleges opened not only in cities but also in villages. Many scientists organized schools in their suburban homes with a library and living quarters to receive students wandering in search of education.
Books were printed massively by xylography. The increased number of books required a rigorous cataloging and classification system.
In the Chinese library, books on sections were placed strictly in a certain order on the cardinal points. The classification system is called sy bu 四部 – cataloging in four sections. On the south side were canonical classic books. In the west – books on history, in the east – collected works of various writers and philosophers, in the north – all the rest.
It was about these throwings that his school teacher spoke with student B. Shen.