An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Nanqishu 南齊書

Jul 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Nanqishu 南齊書 "Book of the Southern Qi" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Southern Qi dynasty 南齊 (479-502), one of the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420-589) that ruled over the southern part of China between the 5th and the 6th centuries CE.

As usual, the history of the dynasty of Qi was compiled following an official edict at the beginning of the successor dynasty, the Liang 梁 (502-557). The sole author was Xiao Zixian 蕭子顯 (489–537, courtesy name Jingyang 景陽), son of one of the princely kings of Qi. Xiao, although a descendant of the toppled dynasty, served in high positions under the Liang. He was interested in history and wrote a history of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25-220 CE) that is unfortunately lost. At least a few fragments of his Jinshi cao 晉史草 "Draft to a history of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420)" have survived.

Of the originally 60 juan of the Nanqishu, only 59 are preserved (the original introduction, Xulu 序錄, is missing), and there are some small parts missing in other chapters. The book consists of imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀, 8 juan), treatises (zhi 志, 11 juan), and normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳, 40 juan).

The original title of the book was Qishu 齊書 "Book of the Qi" or Qishi 齊史 "History of the Qi". Only during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) the prefix nan - "southern" was added in order to distinguish it from the official history of the (Northern) Qi dynasty 北齊 (550-577), one of the Northern Dynasties 北朝 (386~581), that ruled somewhat later.

Xiao's sources were older histories of the dynasty, like Liu Zhi's 劉陟 Qiji 齊紀 "Annals of the Qi" (10-juan long) and Shen Yue's 沈約 book with the same title (20-juan long), but also primary sources like the imperial diaries (qijuzhu 起居注). Liu She's book is sometimes also called Qishu. As further histories on the Southern Qi dynasty the following (lost) texts can be found: Qi chunqiu 齊春秋 (30 juan) by Wu Jun 吳均, Qidian 齊典 (5 juan) by Wang Yi 王逸, another, 10-juan long Qidian by an anonymous author and Wu Jing's 吳兢 (670–749) Qishi 齊史 (10 juan). There was furthermore a short chronicle by Bao Hengqing 鮑衡卿 called Shengyi longfei ji 乘輿龍飛記 "Mounting the chariot and flying like a dragon".

In the treatise of administrative geography (14-15 Zhoujun zhi 州郡志) Xiao Zixian adds valuable information about local customs. In imitation of the previous official dynastic history, that of the (Liu-)Song dynasty 劉宋 (420-479), he created a collective biography of imperial favourites (56 Xingchen liezhuan 倖臣列傳). His chapter about the "barbarians of Wei" (57 Weilu zhuan 魏虜傳), the Northern Wei dynasty 北魏 (386-534), is likewise of historical value because it regards this Northern dynasty from the view of the south.

The other treatises comprise the themes state rituals (9-10 Li zhi 禮志), court music (11 Yue zhi 樂志), astronomy (12-13 Tianwen zhi 天文志), administrative geography (14-15 Zhoujun zhi 州郡志), state offices (16 Baiguan zhi 百官志), state coaches and court robes (17 Yufu zhi 輿服志), omens and portents (18 Xiangrui zhi 祥瑞志), and the Five Agents (19 Wuxing zhi 五行志).

The collective biographies include those for imperial consorts (20 Huanghou liezhuan 皇后列傳), the imperial house (21, 22, 35, 40, 45 宗室列傳, 50), writers (52 Wenxue liezhuan 文學列傳), benevolent officials (53 Liangzheng liezhuan 良政列傳), eminent scholars living in seclusion (54 Gaoyi liezhuan 高逸列傳), persons of filial conduct (55 Xiaoyi liezhuan 孝義列傳), minions (56 Xingchen liezhuan), the "barbarians" from Wei (57), and other "barbarians" (58-59).

Zhou Yiliang 周一良 (1992). "Nanqishu 南齊書", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijiing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 727.