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Chinese Literature
Qianbainian yan 千百年眼

Qianbainian yan 千百年眼 "Eyes on thousands of years" is a collection of essays on historiography. The 12-juan long book was compiled by the Ming period master Zhang Sui 張燧, courtesy name Hezhong 和仲, from Xiaoxiang 瀟湘, Hunan. Not much is known about his life, and he died in the very late Ming period.
His book was finished in 1614 and seems to be the only one of his books that has survived. In consists of 511 articles in which the author gives insight into his impressions and thoughts after reading books on history. The author of the preface, Zou Yuanbiao 鄒元標 (1551-1624), praises the book as coming directly out of the heart, and the articles as written with great insight into the matters of old days. He points, for instance, at the contradiction that Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157 BCE) of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) ordered an austere policy for the imperial household, while he lavishly rewarded loyal ministers like Deng Tong 鄧通, and allowed him to produce his own money. Zhang Sui also contradicted the argument of Chao Cuo 晁錯 that the imperial princes (see Rebellion of the Seven Princes) would rebel in any case, whether their princedoms were abolished or not, and explains that a progressive diminishment of their territories would not have led to the uprising. He proves that the derogatory term "black heads" (qianshou 黔首) for the common populace was not an invention of the Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE), that the founder of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195 BCE), had venerated his mother, but not his father, and that the appeasement system of the Han towards the Xiongnu (heqin 和親 "peace by marriage") was nothing else than the purchase of peace by the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) who sent silk tributes to the Kitans and Jurchens.
During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) the Qianbainian yan was forbidden, while Zhang's book Jigutang lunggu 稽古堂論古, which is actually an extract of that book, is included in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書. It was therefore neglected by many historians, but its rediscovery in the late nineteenth century changed the image of late Ming historiography. It was printed two times, once in Yunjian by Master Gong (1899), and in 1903 in Shanghai. The Qianbainian yan is both a research book, and a theoretical book. In 1987 a modern edition was published by He Tianxin 賀天新. It is also found in the collectaneum Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀.


Sources: Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈, Hou Zhongyi 侯忠義 (ed. 1981), Zhongguo wenyan xiaoshuo shumu 中國文言小說書目 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), p. 332. ● Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (ed. 1996), Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 1983.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

February 19, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail