An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Difan 帝範

Dec 30, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Difan 帝範 "Models for an Emperor" is a political treatise written by Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649) of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907). Taizong intended to provide a handbook on government to his sons to make ruling somewhat easier for them. The Difan is very short and includes 12 chapters. During the Song period 宋 (960-1279), a large part of it was lost, but a few centuries later, during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), the missing parts were rediscovered.

The content of the Difan is geared to the Confucian interpretation of government. A ruler had to be benevolent and to make use of able advisors. Nevertheless, the Difan also shows the practical spirit of legalism, when speaking of punishment and the peasantry as a base of the economic and financial base of the empire.

There were two commentaries on the Difan, one written by Jia Xing 賈行, and one by Wei Gongsu 韋公肅 which are both lost. The only extant commentary dates from the Yuan period, but the author is unknown. All modern editions are based on a version that has survived in Japan. The Difan is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Zhibuzuzhai congshu 知不足齋叢書 and Yueyatang congshu 粵雅堂叢書.

Table 1. Contents of the Difan 帝範
1 君體 Junti The person of the ruler
2 建親 Jianqin Supporting the parents
3 求賢 Qiuxian Searching for worthies
4 審官 Shenguan Investigating the officials
5 納諫 Najian Accepting remonstrance
6 去讒 Quchan Warding off slander
7 誡盈 Jieyin Refraining from overindulgence
8 崇儉 Chongjian Venerating austerity
9 賞罰 Shangfa Reward and punishment
10 務農 Wunong Employ agronomy
11 閱武 Yuewu Mustering the troops
12 崇文 Chongwen Venerating literature
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1548.