An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Beimeng suoyan 北夢瑣言

Nov 28, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Beimeng suoyan 北夢瑣言 "Trivial tales from north of Meng" is a collection of short stories from the Tang 唐 (618-907) and Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods written by Sun Guangxian 孫光憲 (900-968), courtesy name Sun Mengwen 孫孟文, style Baoguangzi 葆光子. He came from Guiping 貴平 in the prefecture of Lingzhou 陵州 (modern Renshou 仁壽, Sichuan) and hailed from a farmer's household that had enough fortune to allow Sun Guangxian to study and to collect books. Under the Later Tang dynasty 後唐 (923-936) he was appointed administrative assistant (panguan 判官) in Lingzhou 陵州 and became a supporter of Gao Jixing 高季興 (r. 921/928), ruler of the small state of Jingnan 荊南 (924-963). Sun urged the last ruler of Jingnan, Gao Jichong 高繼沖 (r. 962-963), to support the raising potentate of the north, Zhao Kuangyin 趙匡胤 (Emperor Taizu 宋太祖, r. 960-975, who eventually founded the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) and unified China. For this political support Sun Guangxian was rewarded with the post of regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Huangzhou 黃州. Except the Beimeng suoyan, Sun has also written the books Jingtai ji 荊臺集, Juzhai ji 橘齋集, Biyong ji 筆傭集, Guhu jiwan 鞏湖集玩, Canshu 蠶書 and Xu tongli 續通曆. Of all these texts only the Beimeng suoyan has survived. Meng 夢 was an old name of the city of Jiangling 江陵 in the modern province of Hubei, where the author wrote his book.
The source material Sun used for the compilation of his book was carefully collected after he had checked the historical accuracy. One source was, for instance, the Duyang zabian 杜陽雜編. For each quotations, the compiler has provided the name of the source, so that it is easy to check with the original text (if it has survived). The 327 stories of the Beimeng suoyan include reports about the court activities as well as the private life of officials and that of commoners. An important part of the private life of scholar-officials were their literary writings, especially poems, of which a great part is at least partially quoted in the Beimeng suoyan. Part of the stories also include supernatural phenomena, as neitherwordly punishments for evil deeds in life. Nevertheless the Beimeng suoyan is a valuable source for the intellectual history of the late Tang and >Five Dynasties period providing information that goes beyond the official dynastic histories.
The original book had a length of 30 juan "scrolls" of which only 20 are preserved. The Beimeng suoyan is included in the reprint series Baihai 稗海, Yayutang cangshu 雅雨堂藏書, Yunzizaikan congshu 雲自在龕叢書 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書. The last version includes 4 more juan of supernatural histories extracted from the Song period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopedia Taiping guangji 太平廣記. In 1960 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 published a modern edition.

Fu Shousun 富壽蓀 (1986). "Beimeng suoyan 北夢瑣言", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 1, p. 40. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2142. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.