An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xintangshu 新唐書

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xintangshu 新唐書 "New book of the Tang" is the second offical dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907). Correctly said it is an alternative history (bieshi 別史), but belongs nevertheless to the corpus of the dynastic histories. It was written by a team under the supervision of the scholars Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-1072) and Song Qi 宋祁 (998–1061).

The Xintangshu is 225-juan long, of which 10 are imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀, including one for Empress Wu Zetian 武則天, ch. 4), 50 juan treatises (zhi 志), 15 juan tables (biao 表), and 150 juan normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳).

It took 17 years to compile the book and it was submitted to the throne in 1060 by Zeng Gongliang 曾公亮 (998–1078, courtesy name Mingzhong 明仲, style Lezheng 樂正). The argument of the compilers to write a new history of the Tang was that the Xintangshu contained "more facts described with less words". Although the biographies of 331 persons more are included, the compilers of the Xintangshu on the other hand omitted the biographies of 61 persons included in the Jiujangshu 舊唐書, the first dynastic history of the Tang (sometimes abbreviated to jiushu 舊書 "the old book"). It is true that Ouyang's book added substantial information about the last decades of the Tang period not found in the Jiutangshu, but on the other hand Ouyang shortened some paragraphs so drastically that facts were simplified or even became distorted.

The largest part of the book was compiled by Song Qi, while Ouyang Xiu took over the final polishing and compiled only a minor part of the imperial annals and the treatises. The treatises on astonomy (31-33 Tianwen zhi 天文志), calendar (25-30 Li zhi 曆志), and the Five Processes (34-36 Wuxing zhi 五行志) were compiled by Liu Xisou 劉羲叟 (1015–1060, courtesy name Zhonggeng 仲更) and Mei Yaochen 梅堯臣 (1002–1060, courtesy name Shengyu 聖俞).

The other treatises cover the themes rituals and music (11-22 Liyue zhi 禮樂志), ceremonies (23 Yiwei zhi 儀衛志), state coaches and court robes (24 Chefu zhu 車服志), administrative geography (37-43 Dili zhi 地理志), selection and appointment of state officials (44-45 Xuanju zhi 選舉志), state offices (46-49 Baiguan zhi 百官志), military (50 Bing zhi 兵志), food and commodities (51-55 Shihuo zhi 食貨志), penal law (56 Xingfa zhi 刑法志), and a bibliographic chapter on the books in the imperial library (57-60 Yiwen zhi 藝文志).

The collective biographies include such for the imperial consorts (76-77 Houfei liezhuan 后妃列傳, with a second chapter on Empress Wu Zetian), the imperial house (78-82 Zongshi liezhuan 宗室列傳), imperial princesses (83 Zhudi gongzhu liezhuan 諸帝公主列傳), foreign rulers bearing the title of protector-general (110 Zhuyi fanjiang liezhuan 諸夷蕃將列傳), members of the imperial house concurrently serving as counsellors (131 Zongshi zaixiang liezhuan 宗室宰相列傳), persons of loyal conduct (191-193 Zhongyi liezhuan 忠義列傳), persons of moral superiority (194 Zhuoxing 卓行列傳), persons of filial and brotherly conduct (195 Xiaoyou liezhuan 孝友列傳), scholars living in seclusion (196 Yinyi liezhuan 隱逸列傳), benevolent officials (197 Xunli liezhuan 循吏列傳), Confucian scholars (198-200 Ruxue liezhuan 儒學列傳), writers (201-203 Wenyi liezhuan 文藝列傳), magicians and diviners (204 Fangji liezhuan 方技列傳), outstanding women (205 Lienü zhuan 列女傳), relatives of imperial consorts (206 Waiqi liezhuan 外戚列傳), eunuchs (207-208 Huanzhe liezhuan 宦者列傳), cruel officials (209 Kuli liezhuan 酷吏列傳), military commissioners (210-214 Fanzhen liezhuan 藩鎮列傳), "barbarians" (Turks: 215 Tujue liezhuan 突厥列傳, Tibetans: 216 Tubo liezhuan 吐蕃列傳, Uyghurs: 217 Huihu liezhuan 回鶻列傳, Shatuo Turks: 218 Shatuo liezhuan 沙陀列傳, northern barbarians: 219 Beidi liezhuan 北狄列傳, eastern barbarians: 220 Dongyi liezhuan 東夷列傳, the Western Territories: 221 Xiyu liezhuan 西域列傳, southern barbarians: 222 Nanman liezhuan 南蠻列傳), treacherous ministers (223 Jianchen liezhuan 姦臣列傳, like Xu Jingzong 許敬宗 or Li Yifu 李義府), disloyal officials (224 Panchen liezhuan 叛臣列傳, like Pugu Huai'en 僕固懷恩), and rebellious subjects (225 Nichen liezhuan 逆臣列傳, like An Lushan 安祿山 and Huang Chao 黃巢).

The primary sources for the Xintangshu were official documents, but also miscellaneous history writings, stone inscriptions, essays and narratives. It is escpecially the treatises that are much more detailed in the new history than in the old one, like the treatise on food and commerce and that on administrative geography, which present much more detailed information than the Jiutangshu had done.

There is also more information provided on relations to foreign countries, which were taken from Jia Dan's 賈耽 report Huanghua sida ji 皇華四達記 "Report about the [countries] in the four cardinal directions of August China". The treatise on the books stored in the imperial library (Yiwen zhi) lists more texts than that in the bibliographic chapter of the Jiutangshu.

The Xintangshu is the first dynastic history after the Shiji 史記 and the Hanshu 漢書 that contains tables. Yet while the tables in the latter two books are mainly lists of events and of feudal domains, the Xintangshu tables contain information about the imperial house (70 Zongshi shixi biao 宗室世系表), the provincial defense commands (64-69 Fangzhen biao 方鎮表) and Counsellors-in-chief (61-63 Zaixiang biao 宰相表) as well as the latter's genealogies (71-75 Zaixiang shixi biao 宰相世系表). Although the last table seems to be of great value for the study of the Tang period aristocracy, Chinese scholars of later times found out that there are many errors in the tables, which had apparently been copied from the family registers (pudie 譜牒) without emendation.

Both books, the Jiutangshu as well as the Xintangshu (together called liang Tangshu 兩唐書), have their advantages and shortcomings, and it is therefore necessary to consult both.

The earliest printing of the Xintangshu was carried out during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). Eight juan are preserved of such a print. Of another Song period print, in 16 columns per page, 124 juan survive. Two juan of a Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279) print in 10 columns have also survived. The Bona edition 百衲本 of the Hanfen Studio 涵芬樓 is based on these three printings. In imperial times the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian 武英殿) print from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) was most widespread, while the modern version is that of the Zhonghua Book Company 中華書局 from 1975.

Zhang Zexian 張澤咸 (1992). "Xintangshu 新唐書", 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. 3, 1324.