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Xiaotian jinian 小腆紀年

May 17, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiaotian jinian 小腆紀年 "Chronicle of the lesser lords" is a chronicle written by the late Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Xu Nai 徐鼒 (1810-1862), courtesy name Yizhou 彝舟, style Yicai 亦才. He hailed form Liuhe 六合, Jiangsu, and was prefect (zhifu 知府) of Fujing 福寧.

The term xiaotian 小腆 is derived from the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書 and means "lesser lords", particularly those of inimical states, in this case, the Southern Ming 南明 (1644-1661). Xu also wrote the book Xiaotian jizhuan 小腆紀傳, a collection of Southern Ming biographies. Other works of him are Dushu zashi 讀書雜釋 and the collected writings Weihuizhai wenji 未灰齋文集.

The 20-juan long book was finished in 1861 and imitates Zhu Xi's 朱熹 (1130-1200) famous chronicle Tongjian gangmu 通鑒綱目. It describes the history of the princes of the Southern Ming and of the master of the island of Taiwan, Zheng Chenggong 鄭成功 (Coxinga, 1624-1662). The text is derived from more than 60 different unofficial sources on the period as well as local chronicles (gazetteers), poems, and other sources. Xu critically analyzed the sources he used, highlighted contradictions and eliminated errors – not without missing the one or other point. Therefore the book Xiaotian jinian is a reliable and detailed chronicle of the Southern Ming.

The occupation of Beijing by Li Zicheng 李自成 (1606-1645) occupies one fifth of the book. The chapter on Zheng Chenggong is of particular value. In many aspects, the chronicle provides additional information not found in other book on actors like Li Shixiong 李世熊 (1602-1686), Liu Shizhen 劉士楨, Liu Jikuang 劉季鑛 (d. 1649), Liu Yongxi 劉永錫, Ruan Jin 阮進 (d. 1651) or Ruan Jun 阮駿.

The book was first printed in 1861 and was published in modern, annotated form in 1957 by the Zhonghua Book Company 中華書局.

Sources:
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓 et al, ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe), 69.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 63.