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Mingshi 明史

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The Mingshi 明史 "History of the Ming" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). Over time it had become common for a newly established dynasty to compile an official history of the preceeding dynasty. The compilation of the Mingshi started in 1679 and it was only finished in 1739 when it was submitted to the throne by Zhang Tingyu 張廷玉. The first imperial order to compile the history of the Ming was issued in 1645, one year after the Manchus' conquest of Beijing but at such an early point of time it was not possible to collect material and sources sufficient for such a task. Only in 1679 a Compilation Office for the History of the Ming (Mingshiguan 明史館) was established. The compilation team was supervised by Xu Yuanwen 徐元文 and led by Ye Fang'ai 葉方藹, Zhang Yushu 張玉書, Tang Bin 湯斌 and Xu Qianxue 徐乾學. One of the most important contributors was Wan Sitong 萬斯同. In 1691 the draft version with a length of 416 juan "scrolls" was finished, the Mingshigao 明史稿. But because it was lacking completeness and suffered from inconsistencies it was not submitted to the throne at that date.
Three years later a team of scholars took over the refining: Zhang Yushu, Xiong Cilü 熊賜履, Chen Tingjing 陳廷敬, and Wang Hongxu 王鴻緒. Again, Wan Sitong and Qian Mingshi 錢名世 were asked to support the editors. In 1702 Wan Sitong died and Wang Hongxu personally trimmed and polished the text. The first part to be ready were the normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳) which were submitted to the throne in 1714. The treatises (zhi 志) and tables (biao 表) still had to be condensed, and together with the biographies were submitted in 320 chapters (juan) in 1723, as the so-called Hengyun shanren Mingshi gao 橫雲山人明史稿 "Draft to a history of the Ming dynasty by the Man from Mt. Horizontal Clouds [i. e. Wang Hongxu]". The draft comprised 320 juan: 9 juan of imperial biographies (benji 本紀), 77 juan of treatises, tables in 9 juan, and normal and collective biographies in 205 juan.
Basing on this version Zhang Tingyu and Zhu Shi 朱軾 developed a final version submitted to the throne in 1739. It was printed by the imperial print office in the Wuying Hall 武英殿 of the Imperial Palace under the title of Mingshi. The whole compilation process had taken 95 years for completion, which is the longest necessary for any official book.
The Mingshi consists of 332 juan of which 24 are imperial biographies, 75 treatises, 13 tables, and 220 normal and collective biographies.
The primary sources for the compilation were official documents like the veritable records of the Ming Mingshilu 明實錄, archival material, the so-called dibao 邸報 "Peking gazette", a local history of the imperial capital, the Da-Ming huidian 大明會典 "Statutes of the Great Ming", memorials to the throne, local gazeteers, biographies, but also unofficial material like privately written histories or literary sources.
In some points the Mingshi is different from the older dynastic histories: There are illustrations in the calendar treatise (25-27 Tianwenzhi 天文志); the treatise about literature (96-99 Yiwenzhi 藝文志) only lists books from the Ming period, not all books in the imperial library; there is a table particularly dedicated to the seven highest state offices (111-112 Qiqing nianbiao 七卿年表); there are collective biographies reporting the life of political factions at the court (306 Yandang liezhuan 閹黨列傳), of roaming bandits (309 Liuzei liezhuan 流賊列傳), of native chieftains (310-319 Tusi liezhuan 土司列傳). On the other side there are also some shortcoming from which the Mingshi suffers, as the brevity of many passages, especially concerning the relations with the Ming government and the early Manchu empire, and the missing of the history of the Southern Ming 南明 which has, of course, political reasons.
In order to redress those shortcomings some scholars have written additions to the Mingshi, like Liu Tingxie 劉廷燮 (Jianwen xun guo zhi jiyue biao 建文遜國之際月表, a monthly table of the Jianwen reign), Huang Dahua 黃大華 (Ming zaifu kaolüe 明宰輔考略, a treatise on the counsellors-in-chief; Ming qiqing kaolüe 明七卿考略, a treatise on the highest state offices), Wu Yingxie 吳 廷燮 (Ming dufu nianbiao 明督撫年表, a table of the provincial governors) or Fu Yili 傅以禮 (Can Ming zaifu nianbiao 殘明宰輔年表, Can Ming datong li 慚明大統曆). All of these additions are included in the collection Ershiwu shi bubian 二十五史補編 "Supplementary texts to the 25 official dynastic histories". A textual critique to the Mingshi was arranged by Yu Minzhong 于敏中 and Qian Ru 錢汝 just after the book had been submitted to the throne but was never printed along with the main text. It was only in the late 19th century whem Wang Songwei 王頌蔚 rearranged the remnants of this textual critique and compiled the Mingshi kaozheng junyi 明史考證攟逸, in 42 juan, which is included in the collectaneum Jiayetang congshu 嘉業堂叢書.

Sources: Wang Qiju 王其榘 (1992), "Mingshi 明史", 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. 2, pp. 697 f. ● Wang Qiju 王其榘 (1992), "Mingshigao 明史稿", in idem, Vol. 2, p. 698.

July 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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