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Liaoshi 遼史

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The Liaoshi 遼史 is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Liao dynasty (907-1125), founded by the Khitan 契丹 khan Abaoji 阿保機. It was compiled by a team under the supervision of Togtoghan (Chinese: Tuotuo 脫脫) and is divided into 116 juan "scrolls" of which 30 are imperial biographies (benji 本紀), 45 normal or collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳), 31 treatises (zhi 志), and 8 tables (biao 表). The book covers history of the Khitan previous to the founding of the dynasty, the dynastic period itself, as well as the history of the Khitans after their migration to the west (the so-called Western Liao 西遼, or "Black Khitans", Turkic: Karakhitan). An appendix deals with Khitan language terms within the dynastic bureaucracy (116 國語解 Guo yu jie).
The primary sources for the compilation of the Liaoshi were in first instance the dynasty's own records, like the imperial diary (qijuzhu 起居注) of the rulers, the daily records (rili 日曆 "daily progress") or records about the most important non-routine memorials and edicts, the so-called "veritable records" (shilu 實錄), but also whole historical outlines (guoshi 國史 "state or dynastic history").
The first types of a semi-official history of the Liao dynasty were compiled under the successor dynasty of the Jin 金 (1115-1234) , the Liaoshi edited by Yelü Gu 耶律固 and Xiao Yongqi 蕭永祺. This book was finished in 1148 but never published and is therefore lost. The second precursor of the Liaoshi was compiled by Yelü Lü 耶律履, Dang Buaiying 黨懷英 and finished by Chen Daren 陳大任 but was also lost at a very early date. When the Mongolian emperor Qubilai Qan (Yuan Shizu 元世祖, r. 1260-1294) ordered compiling the official dynastic histories of the Liao and Jin in 1264 there was only scarce material left to undergo this task. This might be one of the reasons why the compilation was postponed until 1343. The compilation of the history of the Liao was overseen by "Lianhaishan Haiya" 廉惠山海牙, Wang Yi 王沂, Xu Bin 徐昺, and Chen Yiceng 陳繹曾. As main sources served the veritable records as compiled by Yelü Yan 耶律儼, and Chen Daren's older Liaoshi. Further information about the Liao dynasty was extracted from the Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑, the Qidan guo zhi 契丹國志, an older history of the state of the Khitan written during the Song period 宋 (960-1279), and the various chapters on the Khitan people from older dynastic histories. The result of this compilation work is therefore relatively unsatisfactory, as compared to the other dynastic histories. It has been criticised for redundancy in some places, for terseness in others, besides from the many errors and inconsistencies occuring through all chapters, especially in dealing with the names of persons which were often rendered with different Chinese characters in different chapters. Furthermore, the three histories compiled at the same time, namely the Liaoshi, Jinshi 金史, and Songshi 宋史, have not been mutually checked for inconsistencies. Further information can be extracted by non-official histories, like Wang Cheng's 王稱 Dongdu shilüe 東都事略, or excavated stone stelae.
Nevertheless the Liaoshi is of extremely high value just because it is one of the few sources about the Khitan dynasty at all, besides the Qidan guo zhi 契丹國志. This is especially true for the treatises dealing with the Khitan military and administration structure.
The first printing of the Liaoshi was done a few years after its completion, together with the Jinshi. The oldest surviving print from the Yuan period is preserved in the Bona 百衲 edition of the dynastic histories, but it is unfortunately full with typing errors. The Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 edition from 1976 has tried to eradicate these errors. Text-critical editions have been made by Li E 厲鄂 (Liaoshi shiyi 遼史拾遺) and Yang Fuji 楊復吉 (Liaoshi shiyi bu 遼史拾遺補).

Source: Chen Shu 陳述 (1992), "Liaoshi 遼史", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 595 f.

July 12, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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