An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Da-Ming huidian 大明會典

Jul 12, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Da-Ming huidian 大明會典, shortly called Ming huidian 明會典, is a collection of official statutes of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). It was submitted to the throne in 1497 and, after revision, officially issued and printed in 1509. The first version contained 180 juan, and after two supplements were added during the Jiajing 嘉靖 (1522-1566) and the Wanli 萬曆 (1573-1619) reign-periods, in 1597, it obtained its final seize of 228 juan.

In 1393 the founder of the Ming dynasty, Ming Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1396) ordered the compilation of a legislative encyclopaedia of the state, to be modeled after the Tang liudian 唐六典, the "The six canons of the Tang dynasty" 唐 (618-907). It was to contain an exact description of all state offices, the staff of each institution and the task all of them had. The legislative coded issued under Ming Taizu were so numerous that it appeared that many statutory books were containing a lot of redundancies so that the "Statues" were not finished under his reign.

Only a century later Emperor Xiaozong 明孝宗 (r. 1487-1505) ordered to actualize the draft (called Zhusi zhizhang 諸司職掌) and to compile the statutes with the title of Da-Ming huidian 大明會典. The compilation was observed by Xu Pu 徐溥 (1428-1499) and Liu Jian 劉健 and was finished in 1502. It was then revised under the guidance of Li Dongyang 李東陽 (1447-1516) and finally printed in 1509. One printing has survived which is normally referred to as the Zhengde huidian 正德會典 "The statutes from the Zhengde reign-period (1506-1521)".

The Ming huidian is divided into 24 themes (tiao 條). It includes the earliest sources on administrative regulations like the Zhusi zhizhang draft, but also the Huangming zuxun 皇明祖訓 (the dynastic "house law"), Dagao 大誥 (instructions for the state officials), Da-Ming ling 大明令 (the administrative code), Da-Ming jili 大明集禮 (collected rituals), Hongwu lizhi 洪武禮制 (rituals from the Hongwu reign-period), Liyi dingshi 禮儀定式 (rituals and court etiquette), Jigu dingzhi 稽古定制 ("fixed rules researching into antiquity"), Jiaomin bangwen 教民榜文 ("instructions to the people"), Junfa dinglü 軍法定律 (military law), Xianwang 憲網, Da-Ming lü 大明律 (the penal code), and the book Xiaocilu 孝慈錄 ("on filial piety and imperial clemency"). Other sources for the Huidian were the many precedent cases (shili 事例) dealt with until that time.

The government institutions of are arranged as subordinated to the Six Ministries (liubu 六部), except that of the ministries of Revenue and of Justice, the subordinated agencies of which are arranged according to the provinces they were entrusted with.

In 1576 the Wanli Emperor 萬曆 (Emperor Shenzong 明神宗, r. 1573-1619) ordered to carry out a revision of the Statutes which was supervised by Zhang Juzheng 張居正 (1525-1582) and finished in 1585. This version is called Wanli chongxiu huidian 萬曆重修會典.

The Ming huidian served as a model for the institutional code of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911), the Da-Qing huidian 大清會典.

The commonly used version of the "Statutes" is that of the series Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫 and the edition reprinted in 1976 in Taiwan. In 1989 the Shangwu Yinshuguan Press 商務印書館 published a modern edition.

Table 1. Contents of the Ming huidian 明會典
1 宗人府 The Court of the Imperial Clan
2-13 吏部 The Ministry of Personnel: 文選清吏司 the Bureau of Appointments, 驗封清吏司 the Bureau of Honours, 稽勳清吏司 the Bureau of Records, 考功清吏司 the Bureau of Evaluations, app. 南京吏部 the Ministry of Personnel in the Southern Capital
14-42 戶部 The Ministry of Revenue, app. 南京戶部 the Ministry of Revenue in the Southern Capital
43-117 禮部 The Ministry of Rites: 儀制清吏司 the Bureau of Ceremonies, 祠祭清吏司 the Bureau of Sacrifices, 主客清吏司 the Bureau of Receptions, 精膳清吏司 the Bureau of Provisions, app. 南京禮部 the Ministry of Rites in the Southern Capital; 行人司, the Messenger Office, app. 南京行人司 the Messenger Office in the Southern Capital
118-158 兵部 The Ministry of War: 武選清吏司 the Bureau of Military Appointments, 職方清吏司 the Bureau of Operations, 車駕清吏司 the Bureau of Equipment and Communications, 武庫清吏司 the Bureau of Provisions, app. 南京兵部 the Ministry of War in the Southern Capital
159-180 刑部 The Ministry of Justic, app. 南京刑部 Ministry of Justice in the Southern Capital
181-208 工部 The Ministry of Works: 營繕清吏司 the Bureau of Construction, 虞衡清吏司 the Bureau of Forestry and Crafts, 都水清吏司 the Bureau of Irrigation and Transportation, 屯田清吏司 the State Farms Bureau, app. 南京工部 the Ministry of Works in the Southern Capital
209-211 都察院 The Censorate
212 通政使司, 中書舍人 The Office of Transmission, drafters in the Imperial Secretariat
213 六科 The Six Offices of Scrutiny
214 大理寺 The Court of Judicial Review
215 太常寺 The Court of Imperial Sacrifices
216 詹事府, 順天府, 應天府 The Household Administration of the Heir Apparent, the metropolitan magistrates of Shuntian (Beijing) and Yingtian (Nanjing)
217 光祿寺 The Court of Imperial Entertainments
218 太僕寺 The Court of the Imperial Stud
219 鴻臚寺 The Court of State Ceremonial
220 國子監 The Directorate of Education
221 翰林院 The Hanlin Academy
222 尚寳寺 The Seals Office
223 欽天監 The Directorate of Astronomy
224 太醫院 The Imperial Academy of Medicine
225 上林苑監, 五城兵馬指揮司 The Directorate of Imperial Parks, the Warden's Office of the Five Wards
226 僧錄司, 道錄司, 神樂觀 The Central Buddhist Registry, the Central Daoist Registry, the Imperial Music Office
227 五軍都督府 The Five Chief Military Commissions
228 錦衣衛等二十二衛 The Imperial Bodyguard ("Brocade Guard") and local guards
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