An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Mingtongji 明通紀

Feb 28, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Huang-Ming tongji 皇明通紀 or Mingtongji 明通紀 was a chronicle of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) written in the style of Sima Guang's 司馬光 (1019–1086) Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The compiler of the 14-juan long Ming chronicle was Chen Jian 陳建 (1497-1567), courtesy name Tingzhao 廷肇, style Qinglan 清瀾, from Dongwan 東莞, Guangdong, who occupied low-level posts in the local administration. He was famous for his critique towards the philosophy of Wang Yangming 王陽明 that "brought into disorder the Way and cheated the people" (luan dao wu ren 亂道誤人).

The chronicle, being the first continuous history of the Ming dynasty from its origins, begins in 1351 with the rebellion of Liu Futong 劉福通 (1321-1363), Li Er 李二 (d. 1352) and Xu Shouhui 徐壽輝 (c. 1310-1360) against the Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368), and ends in the year 1572. Chen's main sources were official and private histories of the time whose statements he compared critically and balanced them out. In addition, he also inserted personal statements on historical actors and their decisions. His main aim was to demonstrate that the glorious age of the Ming had been in its early time, the Hongwu 洪武 (1368-1398) and Yongle 永樂 (1403-1424) reigns.

The book was prohibited from the beginning, and only one print from the Jiajing reign 嘉靖 (1522-1566) is surviving. Yet the history of the transmission of this book is extremely complex. Only the most important changes in the editorial history can be listed here. The original title of the book was Huang-Ming tongji, 42-juan long, and published in 1555. Still during Chen Jian's lifetime the first 8 juan of the book were published separately with the title Huangchao qiyun lu 皇朝啟運錄.

This measure had to do with the narration of the Jianwen reign 建文 (1399-1402) and the usurpation of the throne by Emperor Chengzu 明成祖 (r. 1402-1424). The whole book was rearranged in 14 juan by Bu Shichang 卜世昌 (dates unkown) and published with the title Huang-Ming tongji qianbian 皇明通紀前編, while Bu himself and Bu Dayou 卜大有 (jinshi degree 1547) compiled a 3-juan long supplement covering the Jiajing reign called Huang-Ming xuji 皇明續紀, published c. 1605.

Bu Shichang and Tu Long 屠隆 (1543-1605) published in the same year an enlarged edition of the book called Huang-Ming tongji shuyi 皇明通紀述遺, 12-juan long, covering the whole period until 1572. Yue Yuansheng 岳元聲 (1557-1682) made a revision called Huang-Ming zizhi tongji 皇明資治通紀 with a length of 30 juan and published before 1620. The first 24 juan were original text by Chen Jian (called Huang-Ming lichao zizhi tongji qianbian 皇明歷朝資治通紀前編), the 6 last (Houbian 後編) were compiled by Yue.

A further group of revisions was executed by Shen Guoyuan 沈國元 and published in a 40-juan long version with the title Huang-Ming tongji congxin lu 皇明從信錄, of which the first 27 juan were a revised version of Chen Jian's original. Shen also compiled a supplement to this book, the lengthy account of 35 juan on the Taichang 泰昌 (1620) and Tianqi 天啟 (1621-1627) reigns called Liangchao congxin lu 兩朝從信錄. These two books were published between 1628 and 1644.

The book Huang-Ming shiliuchao guanghui ji 皇明十六朝廣彙記, compiled by Wang Xiang 王襄 (dates unknown), Chen Longke 陳龍可 (jinshi degree 1622) and Qiu You 丘酉 (dates unknown) and published in 1623, included 11 revised juan of Chen Jian's book.

Later on Chen Longke compiled a book of his own, called Huang-Ming tongji jilu 皇明通紀輯錄, 27-juan long, and making use of an amount of Chen Jian's material of 15 juan. These fascicles includes commentaries by Qiu Jun 丘濬 (1421-1495). A third compilation by Chen Longke was called Huang-Ming shilu 皇明實錄. Chen Longke's books reach until 1627 and were published before 1644.

Sun Kuang 孫礦 (jinshi degree 1574) and Ma Jinyun 馬晉允 (dates unknown) compiled a revised, shortened and supplemented verion called Huang-Ming tongji jiyao 皇明通紀輯要, 24-juan long and published in 1639.

Much more elaborated concerning contemporary history was Jiang Xuqi's 江旭奇 (dates unknown) edition called Huang-Ming tongji jiyao 皇明通紀集要. It is 60-juan long and retained the ancient text of Chen Jian in 27 juan, but the rest covers the time until the 1627.

In 1636, a much different set of supplements was published by Gao Rushi 高汝栻 (mid-17th cent.) and Wu Zhen 吳楨 (dates unknown). In this version Chen Jian's original has 28 juan, and is followed by the 6-juan long Huang-Ming fazhuan lu Jia-Long ji 皇明法傳錄嘉隆記, and the 16-juan long Huang-Ming xuji sanchao fazhuan lu 皇明續紀三朝法傳錄. The whole book of 50 juan has the title Huang-Ming tongji fazhuan quanlu 皇明通紀法傳全錄.

In 1638 Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636) published his own history Huang-Ming tongji, of which the Qianbian 前編 consisted of Chen Jian's book, and the 18-juan long supplement Xubian 續編 was Dong's compilation. A truncated, 8-juan long version of Chen Jian's book was published as Huang-Ming dianyao 皇明典要, another edition, compiled by Li Chunpei 李春培 (dates unknown) and Wang Dingzong 王鼎宗 (dates unknown) was called Huang-Ming jiyao 皇明紀要. The date of publication of these two texts is not clear.

The book Hung-Ming tongji zhijie 皇明通紀直解 is a 14-juan long commentary written by Zhang Jiahe 張嘉和 (dates unknown). It was printed during the Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644) and again in the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911) in Suzhou 蘇州, but with the title Ming fazhuan lu tongji zhijie 明法傳錄通紀直解. There is also a 16-juan edition, also from the Qing period, in which 2 fascicles constitute an appendix.

Feng Wu 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), 644.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 900.
Wang Canchi 王燦熾, ed. (1985). Beijing shidi fengwu shulu 北京史地風物書錄 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe), 37.
Zhuang Xingliang 莊興亮 (2013). "Mingdai shijia Chen Jian de xueshu shengping ji qi 'Huang-Ming tongji' yanjiu shuping 明代史家陳建的學術生平及其皇明通紀研究述評", Shixue shi yanjiu 史學史研究, 152 (4): 27-38.