An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Da-Tang chuangye qijuzhu 大唐創業起居注

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Da-Tang chuangye qijuzhu 大唐創業起居注 "Imperial diary of the foundation of the Great Tang", also called Tang chuangye qijuzhu 唐創業起居注 or briefly Chuangye qijuzhu 創業起居注, is a kind of chronicle of the foundation of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907).

The type of imperial diary (qijuzhu 起居注) seems to have emerged during the later Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), but the earliest surviving fragments of such an imperial diary—and the only surviving pre-Qing 清 (1644-1911) examples—stem from the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). This is Liu Daohui's 劉道薈 (dates not clear) Jin qijuzhu 晉起居注, a reconstruction of which can be found in the series Hanxuetang congshu 漢學堂叢書.

The imperial diary of the foundation of the Tang dynasty has a length of 3 juan. It was written by Wen Daya 溫大雅 (572–629, courtesy name Yanhong 彥弘), gives an account of almost one year of the martial activities of Li Yuan 李淵 (posthumous title Tang Gaozu 唐高祖, r. 618–626) from the start of his uprising against the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618) until his proclamation of the Tang dynasty.

The Da-Tang chuangye qijuzhu gives an interesting insight into the motivation, activities and roles of Li Yuan and his sons Li Jiancheng 李建成 (589–626) and Li Shimin 李世民 (later known as Emperor Taizong 唐太宗, r. 626–649). Some statements contradict the better known official dynastic histories Jiutangshu 舊唐書 and Xintangshu 新唐書 or the universal history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑.

According to the Imperial Diary it was not Li Yuan's son Li Shimin who incited his father to rebel against the Sui, but the motivation to make an end to the Sui came from Li Yuan himself. Li Yuan is described as a warrior and strategist of great ability, while the better known histories of the Tang describe him as incompetent and thus try to give a reason for Li Shimin's having forced his father to abdicate. The military successes of Li Jiancheng as reported in the Imperial Diary are in the official dynastic histories either ascribed to his brother Li Shimin or even omitted in total.

The Imperial diary of the foundation of Tang is thus a clear example of how history was rewritten in favour of Li Shimin, who actually killed his own brother and deposed his father. The truth can be read in the qijuzhu that had intentionally been ignored by later historians.

The text of the Imperial Diary can be found in the series Bice huihan 祕冊彙函, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Jindai bishu 津逮祕書, Ouxiang lingshi 藕香零拾, Shanyou congshu 山右叢書, Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei shantang edition), Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書 and Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原.

Table 1. Chapters of the Da-Tang chuangye qijuzhu 大唐創業起居注
1. 起義旗至發引凡四十八日 From the origins of the rebellion to the beginning of the conquest campaign (48 days)
2. 起自太原至京城凡一百二十六日 From the conquest of Taiyuan to the foundation of the capital [Chang'an 長安] (126 days)
3. 起攝政至即真日凡一百八十三日 From the assumption of government to the veritable take-over of the throne (183 days)
Zhang Zexian 張澤咸 (1992). "Da-Tang chuangye qijuzhu 大唐創業起居注", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 146.