An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Mingshilu 明實錄

Sep 28, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Mingshilu 明實錄 "Veritable records of the Ming dynasty" is a collection of chronologically arranged records (edicts, protocols) from the Ming court. It covers the whole course of the Ming period 明 (1368-1644), from the reign of Ming Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1398), the dynastic founder, to Ming Xizong 明熹宗 (r. 1621-1627), the Tianqi Emperor 天啟, arranged strictly chronologically. The reign eras of Jianwen 建文 (1399-1403) and Jingtai 景泰 (1450-1456) were not allowed an own part, but are appended to the previous reigns. There are thus 13 reign periods covered in the 2,606-juan long book. The sources for the veritable records were mainly imperial edicts and decretes.

The compilation of "veritable records" (shilu 實錄) generally started after the death of an emperor, with the intention to provide a kind of official history of the reign resp. the late emperor. As the compilation was an official affair, it was supervised by a group of officials from the central government. When the draft was submitted to the throne the actual emperor wrote a preface (yu zhi xu 御製序). A list of all compilers from all departments of the central government was added, as well as an introduction explaining the guidelines which were observed during the compilation process (fanli 凡例). The manuscript was then destroyed and the official version kept in the library of the Imperical Secretariat (neifu 內府). From 1534 on the veritable records were transferred to the Capital Archives ( 皇內宸), with a copy being kept in the Wenyuange Hall 文淵閣 in the Imperial Palace, whose library served the government officials.

The exact data for each of the parts of the veritable records of the Ming are given in the table below.

Table 1. Parts of the Mingshilu 明實錄
太祖高皇帝實錄 二百五十七卷 Taizu Gao Huangdi shilu 1335/1368-1398 (Hongwu 洪武) (Ming) 董倫 Dong Lun; 李景隆 Li Jinglong, 解縉 Xie Jin; 姚廣孝 Yao Guangxiao, 夏原吉 Xia Yuanji, 胡廣 Hu Guang 1418
太宗文皇帝實錄 一百三十卷 Taizong Wen Huangdi shili 1399-1425 (Jianwen 建文, Yongle 永樂) (Ming) 楊士奇 Yang Shiqi 1430
仁宗昭皇帝實錄 十卷 Renzong Zhao Huangdi shilu 1403-1404 (Ming) 蹇義 Jian Yi 1430
宣宗章皇帝實錄 一百十五卷 Xuanzong Zhang Huangdi shilu 1425-1435 (Hongxi 洪熙, Xuande 宣德) (Ming) 楊士奇 Yang Shiqi 1438
英宗睿皇帝實錄 三百六十一卷 Yingzong Rui Huangdi shilu 1436-1464 (Zhengtong 正統, Jingtai 景泰, Tianshun 天順) (Ming) 楊士奇 Yang Shiqi 1467
憲宗純皇帝實錄 二百九十三卷 Xianzong Chun Huangdi shilu 1465-1487 (Chenghua 成化 ) (Ming) 劉吉 Liu Ji 1491
孝宗敬皇帝實錄 二百二十四卷 Xiaozong Jing Huangdi shilu 1488-1505 (Hongzhi 弘治) (Ming) 劉健 Liu Jian, 謝遷 Xie Qian; 焦芳 Jiao Fang 1509; 劉瑾 Liu Jin (crit.)
武宗毅皇帝實錄 一百九十七卷 Wuzong Yi Huangdi shilu 1506-1521 (Zhengde 正德) (Ming) 費宏 Fei Hong 1525
世宗肅皇帝實錄 五百六十六卷 Shizong Su Huangdi shilu 1522-1566 (Jiajing 嘉靖) (Ming) 徐階 Xu Jie, 張居正 Zhang Juzheng 1577
穆宗莊皇帝實錄 七十卷 Muzong Zhuang Huangdi shilu 1567-1572 (Longqing 隆慶) (Ming) 張居正 Zhang Juzheng 1574
神宗顯皇帝實錄 五百九十四卷 Shenzong Xian Huangdi shilu 1573-1619 (Wanli 萬曆) (Ming) 溫體仁 Wen Tiren 1630
光宗貞皇帝實錄 八卷 Guangzong Zhen Huangdi shilu 1620 (Taichang 泰昌) (Ming) 葉向高 Ye Xianggao 1623
熹宗悊皇帝實錄 八十七卷 Xizong Zhe Huangdi shilu 1621-1627 (Tianqi 天啟) (Ming) 溫體仁 Wen Tiren 1628
[Unofficial appendix]
[崇禎長編 六十八卷 Chongzhen changbian 1627-1632/1644 (Chongzhen 崇禎) (Ming) 王楫 Wang Ji et al.]

Two parts were not officially incorporated into the Mingshilu: The first are the veritable records for the father of Emperor Shizong 明世宗 (the Jiajing Emperor 嘉靖, r. 1522-1566), compiled under the supervision of Fei Hong 費宏 (1468-1535). The emperor's father had not been an emperor himself (although being granted posthumously an imperial title) and thus the book Ruizong shilu 睿宗實錄 "Veritable records of Emperor Ruizong" could not be considered part of the canon. The other are the veritable records of the Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644), Yizong Chongzhen shilu 毅宗崇禎實錄 "Veritable records of Yizong, the Chongzhen Emperor" in 17 juan, which were only compiled at the beginning of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911).

Fig 1. Example from the Mingshilu 明實錄
Page from Da-Ming Taizu Gao Huangdi shilu 大明太祖高皇帝實錄, juan 10, fol. 1a. Circles indicate new entries. Before the word "Emperor" (shang 上下), a space is left to express respect. In printed versions, the text then usually changes to the next column.

The first version of the Taizu Gao Huangdi shilu 太祖高皇帝實錄, the annals of the dynastic founder, Emperor Taizu, compiled under the supervision of Dong Lun 董倫 (1324-1403), was revised two times under the Yongle Emperor 永樂 (r. 1402-1424) because Dong's version included memorials citicising Emperor Taizu for his cruelties as well as memorials remonstrating against the Yongle emperor's usurpation of the throne. The revision abbreviated this part of the shilu canon considerably.

Juan 1-9 of the veritable records Taizong Wen Huangdi shilu 太宗文皇帝實錄 deal with the four years of the Jianwen reign 建文 (1399-1402), which was later typed an usurpation. Officially the reign motto was therefore not adopted and the years Jianwen 1-4 run under the lable of Hongwu 32-35 instead.

The 10-juan short Renzong Zhao Huangdi shilu 仁宗昭皇帝實錄 covers only the months Yongle 22/8 to Hongxi 洪熙 1/5.

The Yingzong Rui Huangdi shilu 英宗睿皇帝實錄 covers three reign periods, namely the two of Emperor Yingzong 明英宗 (r. 1435-1449), Zhengtong 正統 (1436-1449) and Tianshun 天順 (1457-1464), and that of his brother, Emperor Daizong 明代宗 (r. 1449-1456), who took over regency after Yingzong had been captured by the Mongols. The years of the Jingtai 景泰 (1450-1456) which are now bearing the title Jingtai shilu 景泰實錄originally were headed by the title Feidi Cheng Li Wang fulu 廢帝郕戾王附錄 "Supplemented records from [the reign of] the Overthrown Emperor, Princely King Li of Cheng" (juan 183-273). This was the title of Emperor Daizong after the return of his brother from the Mongolian captivity.

The last part of the canon, Xizong Zhe Huangdi shilu 熹宗悊皇帝實錄, in incomplete. The years 1624 and 1627 were destroyed by Feng Quan 馮全, who wanted to erase critical statements about himself in documents dealing with the affair around the eunuch Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢.

The "traffic" of documents became so intense during the Ming period that during the early 16th century information was forwarded on hand-copied files (chuanchaoben 傳抄本). In this hand-written form the Mingshilu was preserved, and it was never printed officially.

The first modern reproduction of these hand-written copy was made in 1941 by Liang Hongzhi 梁鴻志, who had reprinted the copy stored in the archives of the Guoxue Library 國學圖書館 in Nanjing, in 500 volumes. Far more widespread is the Taiwanese reproduction from 1962 that is based on the copy originally kept in the Beiping Library 北平圖書館 in Beijing. This is the so-called Hongge edition 紅格本, in 183 volumes in total. This edition is furthermore enriched by a textual critique (jiaokanji 校勘記) in 29 volumes, and by the supplements of the Chongzhen shilu, the Chongzhen changbian 崇禎長編 "Extended records of the Chongzhen reign", and the family instructions of the Ming dynasty, Huang-Ming baoxun 皇明寶訓.

Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《教育大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part 8, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 349.
Wang Songling 王松齡, ed. (1991). Shiyong Zhongguo lishi zhishi cidian 實用中國歷史知識辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 724.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 493.
Zhongguo baike da cidain bianweihui 《中國百科大辭典》編委會, ed. (1990). Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 630.