An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

zhupi 硃批, vermillion notes

Jan 14, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

"Imperial edicts with vermillion (i.e. the emperor's) notes" (zhupi yuzhi 硃批諭旨, or zhuyu 硃諭 for short) and "confidential memorials with vermillion notes" (zhupi zouzhe 硃批奏折, also called yupi zouzhe 御批奏折) were documents in which the emperor marked with red or vermillion ink the text or annotated it. Marks were usually small circles written to the side of markable words or passages. Annotations might also include questions on the matter which had first to be answered by the officialdom before the document could be further processed.

There are several collections of "vermillion edicts", for instance Yongzheng zhupi yuzhi 雍正硃批諭旨, compiled under the supervision of Ortai (Ch. E'ertai 鄂爾泰, 1677-1745) and Zhang Tingyu 張廷玉 (1672-1755), and published in 1732 and revised in 1738. It consists of more than 8,000 memorials to the throne annotated by the emperor. The collection includes a preface written by the Yongzheng Emperor 雍正帝 (r. 1722-1735) of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911), the revised version also an afterword by the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆帝 (r. 1735-1796). While the original documents were written by hand, the test of the edited Zhupi yuzhi is printed with letters in kaiti style 楷體. The greatest part of documents was decided on by the Emperor himself. Sentences not publishable were crossed through. In case academicians literati (cichen 詞臣, usually academicians of the Grand Secretariat) suggested to alter the original text of a memorial, white slips were attached to the document on which the proposed text was written. If the emperor's notes were to be altered, the proposal was written on a yellow slip. On yet another type of paper, the document was copied with the altered text. Yet because this method was too complex, the editors began to copy original documents first before remarks were added concerning the altering of the original text. The collection is arranged according to persons. For most texts, the originals are still preserved in the First Historical Archives (Zhongguo Di Yi Lishi Dang'anguan 中國第一歷史檔案館).

Figure 1. Vermillion notes written by the Yongzheng Emperor 雍正帝
Bookprint edition of an annotated memorial by Banner commander-in-chief (dutong 都統) Fan Shiyi 范時繹, acting as seal-holding governor-general of Jiangnan and Jiangxi. From the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 edition of the Yongzheng zhupi yuzhi 雍正硃批諭旨 (Shizong Xian Huangdi zhupi yuzhi 世宗憲皇帝朱批諭旨). From Guji zihua fenxiang 古籍字畫分享.

Another collection of red vermillion remarks is Kangi chao Hanwen zhupi zouzhe huibian 康熙朝漢文硃批奏折匯編, published by the First Historical Archives in 1984-1985. It is arranged chronologically and includes more than 3,000 documents of memorials to the throne the originals of which are partially owned by the Archives in Beijing, while about two thirds are reproductions of the collection Gongzhongdang Kangxi chao zouzhe 宮中檔康熙朝奏折 that consists of documents owned by the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan 故宮博物院) in Taibei.

Figure 2. Vermillion notes written by the Kangxi Emperor 康熙帝 (r. 1661-1722)
Memorial of Li Xu 李煦, supervisor of the silk manufactory (zhizaofang 織造房) of Suzhou 蘓(=蘇)州. From Chen & Li 1995.
Chen Jiangyi 陳鏘儀, Li Shoujun 李守郡, eds. (1995). Qingdai huangdi yupi zhenji xuan 清代皇帝御批真跡選, Vol. 1, Kangxi Huangdi yupi zhenji 康熙皇帝御批真跡 (Beijing: Xiyuan chubanshe).
Liu Gengsheng 劉耿生 (1992). "Yongzheng zhupi yuzhi 雍正硃批諭旨", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Tushuguanxue qingbaoxue dang'anxue 圖書館學·情報學·檔案學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 539.
Zhu Jinfu 朱金甫 (1992). Kangxi chao Hanwen zhupi zouzhe huibian 康熙朝漢文硃批奏折匯編, in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Tushuguanxue qingbaoxue dang'anxue 圖書館學·情報學·檔案學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 226.
Luo Zhufeng 羅竹風, ed. (1990). Hanyu da cidian 漢語大詞典 (Beijing: Hanyu da cidian chubanshe), Vol. 3, 1021; Vol. 7, 1043.
Xue Hong 薛虹 et al., eds. (1998). Zhongguo huangshi gongting cidian 中國皇室宮廷辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 166.