An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Excerpts of History Books (shichao lei 史鈔類)

Jul 8, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Excerpts of History Books (shichao lei 史鈔類) is a subcategory in traditional Chinese bibliographies and part of the category of Historiography (shibu 史部). The literary type of historical excerpts (shichao lei 史鈔類) is said to have been based on Confucius’ editing of ancienct historiographic texts, of which he chose one hundred chapters that became the Classic Shangshu 尚書. The Shangshu might therefore be called the first excerpt of a corpus of 3,240 texts. The rest was lost, and only a few fragments might survive in alternative histories like Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳 or Yizhoushu 逸周書. The bibliographic chapter in the official dynastic history Songshi is the first catalogue that included a distinct category for such excerpts, but a closer look at earlier catalogues shows that the type of excerpts from histories was older: The bibliography in the Suishu, for instance, lists among the miscellaneous histories (zashi) the books Shiyao 史要 by Wei Sa 衛颯 (Han), which was an excerpt of the history Shiji 史記, and Zhang Wen’s 張溫 (Wei) Sanshi lüe 三史略, which seems to have been excerpts from the histories Shiji, Hanshu 漢書 and Houhanshu 後漢書. Ge Hong 葛洪 wrote the Hanshu chao 漢書鈔, Zhang Mian 張緬 (Liang) Jinshu chao 晉書鈔 and Houhan lüe 後漢略, and Ruan Xiaoxu 阮孝緒 is credited with the excerpt Zhengshi xiaofan 正史削繁, with a length of 94 juan, presenting the most important passages of the official dynastic histories written until that time. In the catalogue of the Songshi, four great excerpt texts are listed, namely Tongjian zonglei 通鑒總類 by Shen Shu 沈樞 (fl. 1163 – 1189), Shiqishi xiangjie 十七史詳節 by Lü Zuqian呂祖謙, , Shi-Han jingyu 史漢精語 and Yang Kan’s 楊侃 Liang-Han bowen 兩漢博聞. The spirit of these texts follows, according to the Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao, Han Yu’s 韓愈 postulation to reduce texts to the core of their statements, leaving out all debaucheries. Excerpts presenting the quintessence of important history books were to be distinguished from specialized studies like Ni Si’s 倪思 (1147 – 1220) Ban-Ma tongyi 班馬異同 (being a comparative study of expressions in the Shiji and Hanshu), Lou Ji’s 婁機 (1133 – 1212, courtesy name Yanfa 彦發) Ban-Ma zilei 班馬字類 (being a phonetic study of these two texts), or the anonymous Sanguozhi wenlei 三國志文類, which only assembled literary writings quoted in the Sanguizhi, and not historical facts. The Siku quanshu includes only 4 texts of the category of excerpts from history, the cunmu 40, of which nearly half are disputable whether they do not belong to the category of historical critique (shiping 史評). Before the creation of the shichao category, some of this type of text were integrated into the shiping category, for instance Yang Kan’s Liang-Han bowen in the Junzhai dushu zhi. Earlier bibliographies list more texts of this sort. The bibliographic chapter in the Songshi, which is the largest catalogue inside dynastic histories at all, lists 74 books of this type, the Qianqingtang shumu still 58. Chen Di’s 陳第 (1541 – 1617, courtesy name Jili 季立, style Yizhai 一齋) catalogue Shishantang cangshu mulu 世善堂藏書目錄 includes a special type of excerpt, namely excerpts from tongjian texts (jianxuan 鑑選, refers to Sima Guang’s 司馬光 universal history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑), including the Lidai tongjian zuanyao 歷代通鑑纂要 by Li Dongyang李東陽 (1447 – 1516, courtesy name Binzhi 賓之, style Xiyai 西涯, posthumous title Wenzhenggong 文正公), and Lidai tongjian xuanyao 歷代通鑑選要 that both later served as blueprintes for the official textbook Lidai tongjian jilan 歷代通鑑輯覽.

兩漢博聞 十二卷 Liang-Han bowen (Song) 楊侃 Yang Kan
通鑑總類 二十卷 Tongjian zonglei (Song) 沈樞 Shen Shu
十七史詳節 二百七十三卷 (存目) Shiqishi xiangjie (Song) 呂祖謙 Lü Zuqian
南史識小錄 八卷
北史識小錄 八卷
Nanshi shixiaolu
Beishi xiaolu
(Qing) 沈名蓀 Shen Mingsun, 朱昆田 Zhu Kuntian

* 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.