An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Mingshu 明書

Jul 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

There are two books called Mingshu 明書 "Book of the Ming dynasty", one compiled by the Ming-period (1368-1644) scholar Deng Yuanxi 鄧元錫 (1527/1528-1593), courtesy name Ruji 汝極, style Qiangu 潛谷, from Nancheng 南城, Jiangxi, and one by early Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Fu Weilin 傅維麟 (d. 1666), original name Fu Weizhen 傅維楨, courtesy name Zhanglei 掌雷, style Qianzhai 歉齋, from Lingshou 靈壽, Hebei.

Deng's book has a length of 45 juan as is divided into imperial annals (Didian 帝典, 10 juan), biographies of consorts (Houfei neifei 后妃內妃, 1 juan), and normal biographies (liezhuan 列傳, 34 juan). It covers the time until the reign of Emperor Shizong 明世宗 (r. 1521-1566). The group of civilian officials are divided into "official-counsellors" (chenmo 臣謨) and "famous officials" (mingchen 名臣), and that of military officials into "general-counsellors" (jiangmo 將謨) and "famous generals" (mingjiang 名將). Some of the normal biographies are grouped as persons of filial conduct (xiaoxing 孝行), sincere conduct (duxing 篤行) and rightous conduct (yixing 義行), as well as in two croups of Neo-Confucian scholars (daoxue 道學, xinxue 心學). The text of Deng Yuanxi is in many parts unreliable and full of errors.

Fu Weilian was Minister of Works (gongshu shangshu 工部尚書), but also cooperated in compilation projects of the Hongwen Court 弘文院 of the Hanlin Academy. He was a productive compiler. His book Mingshu is a non-official parallel to the official dynastic history of the Ming dynasty, the Mingshi 明史. Fu's Mingshu is 173-juan "scrolls" long and includes the biographies of persons involved in history between 1328 and 1644, the year of the fall of the Ming. It is written in a biographic-thematic style (jizhuanti 紀傳體).

The chapters are only loosely modeled after the official dynastic histories and comprise 19 chapters of imperial biographies (benji 本紀), biographies of hereditary houses (shijia 世家, 32 juan), biographies of empresses (gongweiji 宮闈紀, 2 juan), tables (biao 表, 12 juan), treatises (zhi 志, 22 juan), records (ji 記, 5 juan), normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳, 76 juan), and prefaces or comments (xu 敘, 2 juan).

Privately Fu Weilin had collected such a vast amount of primary sources that, for example, his descriptions of the statutes of the Wanli reign-period 萬曆 (1573-1620) or the local corvée tax are much more detailed than in the official dynastic history Mingshi. On the other hand, Fu was very cautious when dealing with the relationship between the Ming dynasty and the Manchus, under whose government he had found a good employment. The details of his tables also widely surpass that of the Mingshi tables. He is also criticised because the categories of biographies are too many.

Fu's Mingshu was printed in 1695 and can be found in the series Jifu congshu 畿輔叢書, Guoxue jiben congshu 國學基本叢書, and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

Li Guanglian 李廣廉 (1992). "Mingshu 明書", 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, 699.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), 489.
Zhang Yonglu 張永祿, ed. (1999). Ming-Qing Xi'an cidian 明清西安詞典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 832.