An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記

Jul 8, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記 is an alternative history of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE), written in a biographic-thematic style (jizhuanti 紀傳體). The name is derived from the palace hall where the historiographic bureau was located.

The origin of the Dongguan hanji can be traced back to an official biography for Emperor Guangwu 光武帝 (r. 25-57), founder of the Later Han dynasty, that was compiled by a team of historiographers under the guidance of Ban Gu 班固 who also compiled the Hanshu 漢書, the official dynastic history of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 AD).

The Dongguan hanji was permanently expanded through the decades and achieved a volume of 114 juan "scrolls" during the reign of Emperor Huan 漢桓帝 (r. 146-167). During the reign of Emperor Ling 漢靈帝 (r. 167-188) the collection was enlarged by "several dozen scrolls" more. The imperial bibliography Jingjizhi 經籍志 of the Suishu 隋書 speaks of a 143 juan long version, but that of the Songshi 宋史 only of 8 juan (!). The recent version of the Dongguan hanji is thus a reconstruced version of only 24 juan that was compiled during the 18th century. Even in this version many chapters are very defective, so that most biographies, tables and treatises are incomplete.

The Dongguan hanji comprises imperial biographies (diji 帝紀), tables (biao 表) of the state offices, treatises or monographies (zhi 志) about geography, astronomy and music, rites, ritual music, offerings, carts and clothing, finally normal biographies (liezhuan 列傳) of empresses and their kinsmen (waiqi 外戚), the imperial house (zongshi 宗室), meritorious officials (gongchen 功臣), eminent women (lienü 列女) and finally the barbarians (waiyi 外裔). The last chapters of the transmitted version are biographies of mighty potentates that made their own "dynasties" (zaiji 載記).

With this structure the Dongguan hanji fulfilled all requirements of a dynastic history and was in fact the official history of the Eastern Han period until Fan Ye 范曄 published his Houhanshu 後漢書 in 445.

Contents of the Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記
1-3 帝紀 Diji Imperial annals-biographies
4 年表 Nianbiao Chronological tables
百官 Baiguan Central government officials
諸王 Zhuwang Imperial princes (missing)
王子侯 Wangzi hou Imperial marquesses (missing)
功臣 Gongchen Meritorious ministers (missing)
恩澤侯 Enze hou Persons made marquess because of merits (missing)
5 Zhi Treatises
地理 Dili Local administration
律曆 Lüli Measures and calendar
Li Rituals
Yue Ritual music
郊祀 Jiaosi suburban offerings
車服 Chefu Chariots and robes
6-23 列傳 Liezhuan Individual and collective biographies
6 外戚 Waiqi Empresses and their relatives
7 宗室 Zongshi The imperial house
18 彙傳 Huizhuan Collective biographies
19 Biographies of persons not in chronological order
20 四裔 Siyi Barbarians of the four cardinal directions: Xiongnu Nan Shanyu 匈奴南單于, Zuodu Yi 莋都夷, Xirong 西羌, Xiyu 西域 (Western Territories)
21 載記 Zaiji Biographies of regional hegemons: Wang Chang 王常, Liu Penzi 劉盆子, Fan Chong 樊崇, Lü Mu 呂母, Wei Ao 隗囂, Wang Yuan 王元, Gongsun Shu 公孫述, Yan Cen 延岑, Tian Rong 田戎
22 散句 Sanju Fragments
23-24 Appendix
Bielenstein, Hans, Michael Loewe (1993). "Tung kuan Han chi", in Michael Loewe, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China/Institute of East Asian Studies), 471-472.
Feng Fang 馮方 (1996). "Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 316.
Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, ed. (1990). Jianming wenshi zhishi cidian 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 612.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 926.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhonggu guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 206.
Wu Shuping 吳樹平 (1992), "Dongguan hanji 東觀漢記", 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, 177-178.