An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huang-Qing kaiguo fanglüe 皇清開國方略

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Huang-Qing kaiguo fanglüe 皇清開國方略 "Military annals of the foundation of the August Qing" in 32 juan is a chronicle of the early Qing empire 清 (1644-1911) compiled on imperial order by Agūi 阿桂 (1717-1797), Liang Guozhi 梁國治 (1723-1786) and Hešen 和珅 (1750-1799) and published in 1786.

The content begins with the first military undertakings of the Jurchen khan Nurhaci 努爾哈赤 against the Ming empire 明 (1368-1644) in 1583 and ends with the throne accession of Prince Fulin 福臨, the Shunzhi Emperor 順治 (r. 1644 – 1661), in 1644. It is divided into two parts, the first covering the years of Nurhaci's unification of the Jurchen (Manchu) tribes until Mukden (Shenyang 瀋陽) was made the capital, the second covering the reign of Huang Taiji 皇太極 (r. 1626-1643), his proclamation of the Qing empire and the conquest of the whole northeast.

The end of the book includes some imperial instructions of the first Manchu and Qing emperors. The title of the first version was Kaiguo jilüe 開國紀略. This was the first book describing a military conquest as a theme, and it opened a tradition that the Qing dynasty followed by routine.

Virtually all great wars were later described in military annals (fanglüe 方略). Most of them used polished archival documents to descibe the events and are thus, similar to the veritable records, dense chronological source collections rather than narratives.

The Kaiguo jilüe was revised in 1773 and expanded to a length of 32 juan. At that time it was also given the title of Huang-Qing kaiguo fanglüe.

The revision and publication of this book was stimulated by the wish of the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆 (r. 1735-1796) to define an authoritative history of the foundation of Manchu empire, the reasons for its success, and an objective justification for the Manchu emperors — especially including the Qianlong emperor himself — to be rulers of China.

Many statements from the Kaiguo fanglüe cannot be proved from archival sources and are thus definitely not deduced from "objective" source material. The historiographical value of this book is therefore not as high as that of the "Veritable records of the Qing", Qingshilu 清實錄.

The revised version is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, while the original version is preserved in the Imperial Palace Museum in the shape of a manuscript.

It is quite surprising that while the military annals of the many campaigns of the Manchus are in the Siku quanshu found in the subcategory of "histories in their entirety" (jishi benmo 紀事本末), while the Kaiguo fanglüe is the only one of these texts that is regarded as a chronicle (biannian 編年).

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