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Alternative Histories (bieshi lei 別史類)

Jul 8, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

The historiographical type of alternative histories (bieshi lei 別史類) is a subcategory to the literary category of historiography (shibu 史部) in traditional bibliographies. This type of history books is seen as an inofficial but qualitatively excellent type of history. It did not reach the quality of the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史) but was still better than the "miscellaneous" histories (zashi 雜史).

Many of bieshi books were, in the literal sense, alternatives to the official dynastic histories. The term bieshi first appears in the Song period 宋 (960-1279) book catalogue Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題. The Qidan guo zhi 契丹國志 and Da-Jin guo zhi 大金國志, for example, can be seen as alternatives to the official books Liaoshi 遼史 and Jinshi 金史, the Mingshu 明書 as alternative to the official Mingshi 明史.

In the bibliographic chapter Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the history book Suishu 隋書 the alternative histories are found either side by side with the official dynastic histories (like Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記; for the early alternative histories,consult the articles of the official dynastic histories) or in the chronicles section (like Jinyang qiu 晉陽秋), the section of old histories (like Diwang shiji 帝王世紀 or Chu-Han chunqiu 楚漢春秋), or that of genealogies (like Shiben 世本). The Shiben is also in later bibliographies found among the genealogies.

In the bibliographic chapters of the two Tangshu (Jiutangshu 舊唐書, Xintangshu 新唐書) and early Song period bibliographies most of the alternative histories are found among the chronicles section, with the important exception of the Dongguan hanji that was always seen as a kind of supplement to the Houhanshu 後漢書 and is therefore found among the official dynastic histories.

The Songshi 宋史 bibliography sorts the Dongguan hanji into the bieshi subcategory, but the bibliographic chapter in the encyclopaedic history Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考 into that of the "miscellaneous" histories and the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) catalogue Guoshi jingji zhi 國史經籍志 again side by side with the official dynastic histories.

The term bieshi has not only the narrow meaning of a history book presenting an alternative of a dynastic history, like the Dongguan hanji, Xiao Chang's 蕭常 Xu houhanshu 續後漢書 (alternative to the Sanguozhi 三國志) or the books Songshiyi 宋史翼 (alternative to the Songshi), Yuanshi xinbian 元史新編, Yuanshu 元書 (alternatives to the Yuanshi 元史) and Mingshu (alternative to the Mingshi). Some "alternative histories" cover several dynasties, like Zheng Qiao's 鄭樵 Tongzhi 通志, or certain periods of the distant past not limited by dynastic periods, like Luo Mi's 羅泌 Lushi 路史, Guo Zhiqi's 郭之奇 Jigupian 稽古篇 or Li Kai's 李鍇 Shangshi 尚史.

Others only deal with parts of dynastic periods, like Chunqiu biedian 春秋別典 (Spring and Autumn period 戰國, 5th cent.-221 BCE, part of the Zhou period 周, 11th cent.-221 BCE) by Xue Yuji 薛虞畿, Dongdu shilüe 東都事略 (Northern Song 北宋, 960-1126) by Wang Cheng 王稱 or Nansongshu 南宋書 (Southern Song 南宋, 1127-1279) by Qian Shisheng 錢士升.

Some alternative histories even have political implications, like the two books with the title , one written by Xiao Chang and the other by Hao Jing 郝經. While the official history Sanguozhi saw the Cao-Wei dynasty 曹魏 (220-265) as the legitimate heir of the great Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) Xiao and Hao were of the opinion that the "lesser" Han dynasty in Shu 蜀漢 (221-263) was the rightful successor. Similarly, Chen Ting 陳霆, author of the Tangyu jizhuan 唐餘紀傳, held that the Southern Tang dynasty 南唐 (937-975) was the legitimate successor of the great Tang 唐 (618-907), and not the Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) in China's north.

The subcategory of alternative histories in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書 includes 20 books in total, and a further 36 books are described in the catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要 (section cunmu 存目).

逸周書 十卷 Yizhoushu (Zhou) NN; (Jin) 孔晁 Kong Chao (comm.)
世本 五卷 (續修) Shiben (Zhou) Anon.
帝王世紀 十卷 (續修) Diwang shiji (Jin) 皇甫謐 Huangfu Mi
楚漢春秋 * Chu-Han chunqiu (Han) 陸賈 Lu Jia
東觀漢記 二十四卷 Dongguan hanji (Han) 劉珍 Liu Zhen (et al.)
魏略 * Weilüe (Wei) 魚豢 Yu Huan
漢晉春秋 * Han-Jin chunqiu (Jin) 習鑿齒 Xi Zaochi
晉陽秋 * Jinyang qiu (Jin) 孫盛 Sun Sheng
建康實錄 二十卷 Jiankang shilu (Tang) 許嵩 Xu Song
晉春秋 * Jin chunqiu (Tang) 杜延業 Du Yanye
隆平集 二十卷 Longpingji (Song) 曾鞏 Zeng Gong
古史 六十卷 Gushi (Song) 蘇轍 Su Che
通志 二百卷 Tongzhi (Song) 鄭樵 Zheng Qiao
東都事略 一百三十卷 Dongdu shilüe (Song) 王稱 Wang Cheng
路史 四十七卷 Lushi (Song) 羅泌 Luo Qin
(欽定重訂)契丹國志 二十八卷 (Qinding chongding) Qidan guo zhi (Song) 葉隆禮 Ye Longli
(欽定重訂)大金國志 四十一卷 (Qinding chongding) Da-Jin guo zhi (Song) 宇文懋昭 Yuwen Maozhao
古今紀要 十九卷 Gujin jiyao (Song) 黃震 Huang Zheng
蕭氏續後漢書 四十四卷 Xiaoshi Xu houhanshu (Song) 蕭常 Xiao Chang
郝氏續後漢書 八十七卷 Haoshi Xu houhanshu (Yuan) 郝經 Hao Jing; 苟宗道 Gou Zongdao (comm.)
春秋别典 十五卷 Chunqiu biedian (Yuan) 薛虞畿 Xue Yuji
蜀漢本末 三卷 (存目) Shu-Han benmo (Yuan) 趙居信 Zhao Juxin
元朝秘史 (蒙古秘史) 十卷 (續修) Yuanchao bishi (Menggu mishi) (Yuan) NN
天漢玉牒 一卷 (存目) Tianhan yudie (Ming) NN
宋史新編 二百卷 (存目) Songshi xinbian (Ming) 柯維騏 Ke Weiqi
荒史 六卷 (存目) Huangshi (Ming) 陳士元 Chen Shiyuan
藏書 六十八卷 (存目)
續藏書 二十七卷 (存目)
Cangshu
Xu cangshu
(Ming) 李贄 Lu Zhi
函史 一百二卷 (存目) Hanshi (Ming) 鄧元錫 Deng Yuanxi
明書 四十五卷 (存目) Mingshu (Ming) 鄧元錫 Deng Yuanxi
邃古記 八卷 (存目) Suiguji (Ming) 朱謀㙔 Zhu Mouhan
季漢書 五十六卷 (存目) Jihanshu (Ming) 謝陛 Xie Bi
晉史刪 四十卷 (存目) Jinshishan (Ming) 茅國縉 Mao Guojin
南宋書 六十卷 (存目) Nansongshu (Ming) 錢士升 Qian Shicheng
晉書別本 一百三十卷 (存目) Jinshu bieben (Ming) 蔣之翹 Jiang Zhiqiao
唐紀 一卷 (存目) Tangji (Ming) 孫慤 Sun Que
稽古篇 五十五卷 (存目) Jigupian (Ming) 郭之奇 Guo Zhiqi
罪惟錄 九十卷 (續修) Zuiweilu (Ming) 金幼孜 Jin Youzi
明書 一百七十一卷 (存目) Mingshu (Qing) 傅維麟 Fu Weilin
西魏書 二十四卷 (續修) Xiweishu (Qing) 謝啓昆 Xie Qikun
元史類編 四十二卷 (續修) Yuanshi leibian (Qing) 邵遠平 Shao Yuanping
(欽定)歷代紀事年表 一百卷 (Qinding) Lidai jishi nianbiao (Qing)
(欽定)續通志 六百四十卷 (Qinding) Xu tongzhi (Qing)
(欽定)皇朝通志 (Qinding) Huangchao tongzhi (Qing)
東南紀事 十二卷 (續修) Dongnan jishi (Qing) 邵廷釆 Shao Tingcai
西南紀事 十二卷 (續修) Xinan jishi (Qing) 邵廷釆 Shao Tingcai
南疆繹史 五十六卷 (續修) Jiangnan yishi (Qing) 溫令貽 Wen Lingyi
小腆紀傳 六十五卷 (續修) Xiaodian jizhuan (Qing) 徐鼒 Xu Nai
九國志 十二卷 (續修) Jiuguozhi (Song) 路振 Lu Zhen
南漢紀 五卷 (續修) Nanhanshu (Song) 吳蘭修 Wu Lanxiu
南漢書 十八卷 (續修) Nanhanshu (Song) 梁廷楠 Liang Tingnan
西夏書 一卷 (續修) Xixia shushi (Qing) 周春 Zhou Chun
西夏書事 二十四卷 (續修) Xixia shushi (Qing) 吳廣成 Wu Guangcheng
尚史 一百七卷 Shangshi (Qing) 李鍇 Li Kai
元書 * Yuanshu (Qing) 曾廉 Zeng Lian
季漢五志 十二卷 (存目) Jihan wuzhi (Qing) 王復禮 Wang Fuli
晉記 六十八卷 (存目) Jinji (Qing) 郭倫 Guo Lun
元史新編 九十五卷 (續修) Yuanshi xinbian (Qing) 魏源 Wei Yuan
宋史翼 四十卷 (續修) Songshiyi (Qing) 陸心源 Lu Xinyuan
* not included in the collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書, the catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目題要, nor the Xuxiu siku quanshu 續修四庫全書.