An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wan Sitong 萬斯同

Jun 28, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Wan Sitong 萬斯同 (1638-1702), courtesy name Jiye 季野, style Shiyuan xiansheng 石園先生, was an early Qing period 清 (1644-1911) Confucian scholar and historian. He hailed from Yinxian 鄞縣 (near modern Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiang) and was a younger brother of the scholar Wan Sida 萬斯大 (1633-1683). Wan Sitong was known for his intelligence and it is told that he was able to read Yang Xiong's 揚雄 (53 BCE-18 CE) Fayan 法言 at the age of 8 sui. He was very interested in the history of the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) and decided to become a historian.

Wan became a disciple of Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610-1695), who instructed him in the Confucian Classics. In 1678, Wan was selected a candidate for the examination of erudite literatus (boxue hongci ke 博學鴻詞科), but he refused to take part.

As a historian, Wan Sitong was influenced by his teacher Huang Zongxi and planned to write a history of the Ming dynasty. In 1678, when the historiography institute (shiguan 史館) was reopened, Wan travelled to Beijing and asked to be included in the staff organised to compile the official dynastic history of the Ming, the Mingshi 明史, yet he was not considered as a candidate for the compilation team. Instead, he asked to be allowed to contribute work even if he would not be mentioned as a member of the compilation team. He so became a proofreading editor, which was in the end a quite important position that allowed him to rectify quite a few errors and shortcomings. Wan Sitong worked nineteen years in this position that allowed him collecting a lot of historiographical sources so that he was also able to compile his own history of the Ming, the 500-juan long Mingshigao 明史稿.

He was praised as a worthy successor of the ancient historians Sima Qian 司馬遷 (145-c.86 BCE), author of the Shiji 史記, and Ban Gu 班固 (32-92 CE), author of the dynastic history Hanshu 漢書. Wan Sitong died in Beijing, and his manuscripts and books were scattered all over the country. Wang Hongxu 王鴻緒 (1645-1723) was able to obtain the Mingshigao and made this text available to Zhang Tingyu 張廷玉 (1672-1755), chief editor of the Mingshi. It can thus be said that Wan Sitong's manuscript Mingshigao provided the blueprint for the final version of the Mingshi.

Wan Sitong also wrote a history of Confucianism, the 16-juan long Rulin zongpai 儒林宗派, as well as the books Shijing kao 石經考, Lidai zaifu huikao 歷代宰輔匯考, Song Jizhong yilu 宋季忠義錄, Liuling yishi 六陵遺事, Gengshenjun yishi 庚申君遺事, Qunshu yibian 群書疑辨, Kunlun heyuan kao 昆侖河源考 and Hequ kao 河渠考.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 218.