An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zuoshi shimo 左氏始末

Apr 16, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

Zuoshi shimo 左氏始末, full title Tang Jingchuan xiansheng bianzuan Zuoshi shimo 唐荊川先生編纂左氏始末, is a history book written by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Tang Shunzhi 唐順之 (1507-1560), courtesy name Yingde 應德 or Yixiu 義修, style Master Jingchuan 荆川先生. He hailed from Wujin 武進 near Changzhou 常州, Jiangsu, and earned laurels in fights against the Wo pirates 倭 in 1529. He was appointed Right Assistant Censor-in-Chief (youjian duyushi 右僉都御史), and governor (xunfu 巡撫) of Fengyang 鳳陽. He compiled, among others, the books Wubian 武編, Jingchuan baibian 荆川稗編, and several mathematical treatises like Gougu cewang lun 勾股測望論, Gougu rong fangyuan lun 勾股容方圓論, Gushi lun 孤矢論, Fengfa lun 分法論, and Liufen lun 六分論. His collected writings are called Jingchuan xiansheng wenji 荆川先生文集.

Tang Shunzhi had received an excellent education and was an expert in the Confucian Classic Chunqiu-Zuozhuan 春秋左傳. Having studied the history of the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) in detail, using further sources like the books Shiji 史記 or Guoyu 國語, he decided to transform the events described in the Classic into a 12-juan long history in the style of "events in their entirety" (jishi benmo 紀事本末). In this way, the complexity of events and the background of individual persons and their activities were easier to understand. Tang adopted the concept of the original chronicle to praise good behaviour and blame individuals for erroneous decisions or inappropriate conduct.

Even if his arrangement is very helful to gain a better overview over the activity and historic meaning of individual persons and events, the book has some shorcomings, for instance, the missing of important figures like Guan Zhong 管仲.

The first print was published in 1562 by Tang himself. In 1614, the book was reprinted by Xu Jian 徐鑒 of Jianjiang 劍江 who added some commentaries on the text.

Table 1. Contents of the Zuoshi shimo 左氏始末
1. 后、宗、宦、倖、奸 Consorts, princes, eunuchs, minions, intriguers
2.-3. 弑, 逐 Regicide, explusion of sovereigns
4. 亂、盜 Rebellions, disturbances
5.-9. Fights for hegemony
10. 戰、戎 Wars and battles
11. 名臣 Important dignitaries
12. 禮樂、方技 Rituals and music; skills
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin chubanshe), Vol. 1, 907.