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Songshi 宋史

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The Songshi 宋史 "History of the Song dynasty" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279). It consists of 496 juan "scrolls" of which 47 are imperial biographies (benji 本紀), 162 juan treatises (zhi 志), 32 juan tables (biao 表), and 255 juan normal, hereditary and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳). It is the largest one of the 24 dynastic histories which were compiled in imperial times. The compilation was undertaken by a professional team.
In 1343 emperor Shun 元順帝 (r. 1333-1368) of the Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368) decreed the compilation of the three dynastic histories of the Liao 遼 (907-1125), the Jin 金 (1115-1234) and the Song dynasties. It took the compilation team, led by Prince Toghto (Chinese: Tuotuo 脫脫) no more than two years to finish the Songshi. The team leaders of the compilation team were Temür Daš (Chinese: Tiemur Dashi 帖睦爾達世), He Weiyi 賀惟一, Zhang Qiyan 張起岩, Ouyang Xuan 歐陽玄, Li Haowen 李好文, Wang Yi 王沂 and Yang Zongduan 楊宗端, who commanded a team of 23 persons, the largest part of which were Chinese, not Mongols.
The source material from the Song period was extremely rich, especially the official histories like the veritable records (shilu 實錄) and the imperial diaries (qijuzhu 起居注) of the Song emperors. After the conquest of the Southern Song capital the Yuan administration brought more than 5,000 volumes of contemporary history to the new capital Dadu 大都 (modern Beijing). For this reason the Songshi is a real treasure for the history of the whole Song period. While there are many other histories covering certain parts of the Song period the Songshi deals with it as a whole. It furthermore contains valuable information about the institutional history, as reflected in the large size of the treatise part in the Songshi. The Songshi is the only one of the dynastic histories containing a collective biography about Neo-Confucians (427-430 Daoxue liezhuan 道學列傳).
That the Songshi had been compiled in an extremely short time has of course negative results. The draft was not reviewed and polished, and therefore it contains many contradictions and errors and there are qualitative differences from chapter to chapter. Many paragraphs have been shortened in a very crude way in order to save space. Although the primary sources from the Southern Song dynasty were far richer than those for the Northern Song period, the compilation team did not exploit this rich source and instead laid stress on the first part of the Song period. This is especially true for the last decades of the Song, when the military activities against the Mongols took place. Accounts of these are often heavily abridged and favour the Mongol cause. The Song general Wang Jian 王堅, for instance, was not granted an own biography. The attribution of moral characteristics is sometimes not justified. The reformer Lü Huiliu 呂惠柳, for example, is treated as a treacherous minister (jianchen 姦臣), while the notorious Shi Miyuan 史彌遠 is not declared as a such.
The earliest printing of the Songshi was done in 1346 in Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang, the former capital of the Southern Song empire; a kind of blue print was made during the Wanli reign 萬曆 (1573-1619) in Bejing; the imperial Wuying Hall 武英殿 printing was done in 1739, and a last premodern one in 1875 by the Zhejiang shuju press 浙江書局. In 1934 the Shanghai yinshu guan press 上海印書館 published the Bona edition 百衲, which has a quite good quality and compared several older printings. In 1977 the Zhonghua shuju press published a modern punctated version with a textcritical annotation. Yet this edition is still full of printing errors.

Source: Wang Cengyu 王曾瑜 (1992), "Songshi 宋史", 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, pp. 1020 f.

July 10, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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