An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

zhihui 指揮, (military) order

Jan 9, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

(Military) orders (zhihui 指揮) were seen a type of official document between the Tang 唐 (618-907) and the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). It was abolished by the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644), but the term zhihui was still used in the military field with the meaning of "command".

During the Song period 宋 (960-1279), the word zhihui was also used as a type of judicial document similar to the type of case-related precedent (duanli 斷例) of a settled lawsuit. While the latter was used in the context of jurisprudence, the word zhihui was related to (temporary or provisional) decisions of the court or central-government institutions like the Imperial Secretariat (zhongshusheng 尚書省), and was thus a common reference for decrees (zhao 詔), imperial commands (chi 敕), orders (mingling 命令) or imperial manifestos (zhishi 指示). Zhihui thus had the same status like imperial edicts and decrees. Historiographers often refer to the extensive use of "orders" by Counsellor-in-chief Qin Kuai 秦檜 (1091-1155). The emperors Xiaozong 宋孝宗 (1162-1189) and Ningzong 宋寧宗 (r. 1194-1224) also ruled with the help of "orders". Even if they had provisional character, zhihui "orders" had the same status as imperial commands, statutes, regulations and ordinances (chi ling ge shi 敕令格式) and served as precedents and thus influenced political decisions in the long run.

The word zhihui was between the 10th and the 13th century also used for a military unit, identical to the unit ying 營 (garrison, battalion) with a theoretical strength of 500 men. The expression was used on the local level and also for imperial guard units. Battalions stood under the command of a zhihuishi 指揮使 (abbreviated to zhihui 指揮), whose bureau was called zhihuishi si 指揮使司.

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