An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xin Yuanshi 新元史

Mar 11, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Xin Yuanshi 新元史 "New history of the Yuan" is the second official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), after the Yuanshi 元史 that was published in the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644).

The Xin Yuanshi was written by Ke Shaomin 柯紹忞 (1850–1933, courtesy name Fengsun 鳳孫, style Liaoyuan 蓼園). Ke Shaomin was an academician and secretary at the Imperial Court during the last years of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911). He also participated in the compilation of the official dynastic history of the Qing, Qingshigao 清史稿. As a historiographer, he was always interested in the revision of the old history of the Yuan that suffered from prejudice against the Mongols and had been compiled in a very hasty and negligent way.

Ke Shaomin extracted fragments of the institutional history of the Yuan dynasty, Jingshi dadian 經世大典 and from the Ming period encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典. He was able to obtain the book Yuanshi yiwen zhengbu 元史譯文證補 by Hong Jun 洪鈞 (1839-1893) that contained non-Chinese material on the Yuan period, translated into Chinese. Ke made also use of the "Secret History" of the Mongols, the Yuanchao bishi 元朝祕史, the institutional history Yuan dianzhang 元典章 and the history Mengwu'er shiji 蒙兀兒史記, as well as literary and surviving documentary sources from the Yuan period, like collected writings of authors from that time, or inscriptions from tomb stones.

These sources immensely contributed to gain a better picture of the era of the Mongol rule in China. In 1920 the 257-juan long Xin Yuanshi was finished. A year later it was officially incorporated into the canon of the official dynastic histories, constituting the 25th of them.

The Xin Yuanshi consists of imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀) in 26 juan, tables (biao 表) in 7 juan, treatises (zhi 志) in 70 juan, and normal and collective biographies ( 列傳) in 154 juan.

The imperial annals of the emperors Taizu 元太祖 (Činggis Qaɣan, r. 1206–1227) and Taizong 元太宗 (Ögödei, r. 1229–1241) are much more detailed than in the original Yuanshi.

The tables provide overviews over the imperial house (27 Zongshi shibiao 宗室世表), the families of the Mongol nobility (28-29 Shizu biao 氏族表), holders of the honorary posts of the Three Dukes (30 Sangong biao 三公表), the post of Counsellor-in-chief in the central government (31 Zaixiang nianbiao 宰相年表), and the grand counsellors of the provincial branch secretariats (31-32 Xingsheng zaixiang nianbiao 行省宰相年表).

The treatises cover the themes calendar (34-40 Li zhi 曆志), astronomy (41-42 Tianwen zhi 天文志), the Five Agents (42-45 Wuxing zhi 五行志), administrative geography (46-51 Dili zhi 地理志), hydraulic works (52-54 Hequ zhi 河渠志), state offices (55-63 Baiguan zhi 百官志), selection and appointment of state officials (64-67 Xuanju zhi 選舉志), food and commodities (68-80 Shihuo zhi 食貨志), court rituals (81-90 Li zhi 禮志), court music (91-94 Yue zhi 樂志), state coaches and court robes (95-97 Yufu zhi 輿服志), military (98-101 Bing zhi 兵志), and penal law (102-103 Xingfa zhi 刑法志).

The collective biographies include imperial consorts (104 Houfei liezhuan 后妃列傳), the imperial house (105-114), benevolent officials (229 Xunli liezhuan 循吏列傳), persons of loyal conduct (230-233 Zhongyi liezhuan 忠義列傳), Confucian scholars (234-236 Rulin liezhuan 儒林列傳), writers (237-238 Wenyuan liezhuan 文苑列傳), persons of sincere character (239-240 Duxing liezhuan 篤行列傳), scholars living in seclusion (241 Yinyi liezhuan 隱逸列傳), diviners (242 Fangji liezhuan 方技列傳), Buddhist and Daoist masters (243 Shi-Lao liezhuan 釋老列傳), outstanding women (244-246 Lienü zhuan 列女傳), eunuchs (247 Huanzhe liezhuan 宦者列傳), "barbarians" (248), and foreign countries (249-257).

Ke Shaomin was also able to add numerous biographies not included in the first Yuanshi, for example, state officials from the very late Southern Song period like Zheng Sixiao 鄭思肖 (1241–1318), Xie Hao 謝翱 (1249–1295), Tang Yu 唐鈺 (also written 唐玨, c. 1300), Wang Yanwu 王炎午 (1252–1324), Gong Kai 龔開 (1221–1305) or Wang Yuanliang 汪元量 (1241–1317), as well as leaders of the rebel groups against the Mongols at the end of the Yuan period, like Han Lin'er 韓林兒 (d. 1366), Xu Shouhui 徐壽輝 (d. 1360), Zhang Shicheng 張士誠 (1321–1367), Cheng Youliang 陳友諒 (1320–1363), Ming Yuzhen 明玉珍 (1329–1366) or Fang Guozhen 方國珍 (1319–1374).

The treatises and tables were also highly enriched with new information not provided in the old Yuanshi. Inspite of the high credits that Ke Shaomin deserves for his revision of the Yuanshi, he has to be criticized that he followed the traditional style of historiography and did not indicate the exact sources for his statements. Part of the critical apparatus (kaozheng 考證) added to each chapter was not included in the printed version. Only after Ke Shaomin's death the Institute of Historiography of the Peking University (Beijing daxue lishi xuexi 北京大學歷史學系) published Ke's critical commentary or what was left of it. This is the 58-juan long book Xin Yuanshi kaozheng 新元史考證. It is included in the fifth series of the series Minguo congshu 民國叢書.

The Xin Yuanshi was printed by the Tuigengtang Press 退耕堂 in the 1920s, and in 1956 by the Yiwen yinshuguan 藝文印書館 in Taibei. In 1962 the Kaiming press 開明書局 in Taiwan published it in the frame of the 25 dynastic histories (without the Qingshigao). The most common version is that from 1988, published by the Zhongguo shudian 中國書店.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 934.