An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Songshi jishi benmo 宋史紀事本末

Apr 29, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Songshi jishi benmo 宋史紀事本末 "Historical events of the Song period in their entirety" is a history of the Song period 宋 (960-1279) written in the style of "historic events in their entirety" (jishi benmo 紀事本末). The 109-juan long book was written by the late Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) historian Chen Bangzhan 陳邦瞻 (d. 1623). Chen has also written a similar history to the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), Yuanshi jishi benmo 元史紀事本末. His collected works are Lianhua shanfang ji 蓮花山房集.

The Ming period was a time when historians began rewriting of the history of the Song period, trying to describe both her weaknesses (like the faible central government, the excessive theoretical discussions at the court, the abuse of power by some high ministers, or the failure of realizing many plans), as well as her strengths, like the complete juridical settlement of all governmental affairs, the fixed rules for private housekeeping, or the acknowledged importance of man and the individual in politics. A first attempt to write a history of the Song in the jishi benmo-style had been made by Feng Qi 馮琦 (1559-1603) and Shen Yue 沈越 (jinshi degree 1532), but their book was never finished. In 1604, Liu Yuewu 劉曰捂 and Xu Shen 徐申 (jinshi 1577) asked Chen Bangzhan if he would be willing to continue this task. He immediately agreed and finished the book one year later. He had arranged the text in 109 chapters, 89 of them dealing with the Song empire, the rest with the "barbarian" empires of Liao 遼 (907-1125) and Jin 金 (1115-1234) and with the Mongols.

The reason for his including the beginning of the Yuan period was the fact that the Southern Song capital Lin'an 臨安 (modern Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang) had never been destroyed by the Mongol armies, and the Song dynasty therefore "lived on". He imitated older books of the particular "entirety" style, like the Tongjian jishi benmo 通鑑紀事本末, and provided his readers with chapters covering coherent themes of Song history that could be read independently from the other chapters of the book.

Apart from the official dynastic history of the Song, the Songshi 宋史, Chen Bangzhen made use of numerous other annals and histories, like Xue Yingqi's 薛應旂 (1500-1574) Song-Yuan zizhi tongjian 宋元資治通鑒. Chen Bangzhen also provided his own critical statements to the events and affairs he describes.

The book was first printed in 1605, in 28 juan. At the very end of the Ming period, the historian Zhang Pu 張溥 (1602-1641) added critical comments to the Songshi jishi benmo and rearranged the book into different chapters, resulting in a version of 109 juan. The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 includes the version in 28 juan. The Siku quanshu versions of the Wenjin Hall 文津閣 and the Wenshuo Hall 文溯閣 have 38 chapters. There is another print produced by Zhang Wensheng 張聞升 from 1679, as well as one from 1874 (Jiangxi Shuju 江西書局), and one from 1887 (Guangya Shuju 廣雅書局). The Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 edition from 1977 is based on the Jiangxi edition but used the edition from 1605 for text-critical comparison.

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