An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Lidai tongjian jilan 歷代通鑑輯覽

Nov 21, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

(Yupi) Lidai tongjian jilan (御批)歷代通鑑輯覽 "Combined overview of Comprehensive Mirrors to Aid in Government through history, (annotated by the Emperor)", shortly called Tongjian jilan 通鑑輯覽, is a chronicle compiled on official order of the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆 (r. 1735-1796) and under the supervision of Fuheng 傅恆 (1720-1770) and with the participation of Yenggišan 尹繼善 (1695-1771), Liu Tongxun 劉統勳 (1698-1773), Arigun 阿里袞 (d. 1769), Liu Lun 劉綸 (1711-1773), Laiboo 來保 (1681-1764), Yu Minzhong 于敏中 and Šuhede 舒赫德 (1710-1777).

The book is based on the official version of Zhu Xi's 朱熹 (1130-1200) famous Tongjian gangmu 通鑑綱目 revised during the Kangxi reign 康熙 (1662-1722) and Li Dongyang's 李東陽 (1447-1516, courtesy name Binzhi 賓之, style Xiyai 號西涯, posthumous title Wenzhenggong 文正公) Lidai tongjian zuanyao 歷代通鑑纂要 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The content of these two texts was revised, newly arranged, and brought into a new shape to create a universal history written according to the principles defined in Zhu Xi's eminent book.

The Tongjian jilan is 116-juan long and covers the time from the mythological emperor Fu Xi 伏羲 to the end of the Ming dynasty, with a 4-juan long appendix narrating the history of the Southern Ming 南明. Following Zhu Xi's pattern, the text is divided into "general guidelines" (gang 綱), a kind of headlines or "buzz phrases", and "meshes" (mu 目) narrating the details of historical events. The "meshes" include critical material on ancient histories and were personally commented (yupi 御批) by the Qianlong Emperor. The compilation was finished and submitted to the throne in 1768.

Like the Tongjian gangmu, the Tongjian jilan provides examples of excellent and less well performing emperors, ministers and politicians, in order to serve as a mirror of government. The book was therefore a very important textbook for scholars until the end of the imperial period, together with an excerpt of Zhu Xi's book, the Gangjian yizhi lu 綱鑑易知錄.

The commentaries of the Qianlong Emperor were also published in a separate book called Pingjian chanyao 評鑑闡要, with a length of 12 juan. It is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu among the historical critiques (shiping 史評). The Tongjian jilan is likewise found in the Siku quanshu, and in the Siku quanshu huiyao 四庫全書薈要. A facsimile of the 1871 edition of the Tongjian jilan was published in 1990 by the Shanghai guji press 上海古籍出版社.

The Jiaqing Emperor 嘉慶 (r. 1796-1820) wrote a series of 75 laudatory poems on the Pingjian chanyao, called Gongdu Pingjian chanyao 恭讀評鑑闡要. The Republican scholar Wang Wenru 王文濡 (1867-1935, original name Chengzhi 承治, courtesy name Junqing 均卿, style Xuejie xianmin 學界閑民 and others) added a chapter to the book covering the Qing period and republished the text with the title Zengxiu buzheng zhengxu Lidai tongjian jilan 增修補正正續歷代通鑑輯覽, with a length of 140 juan.

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, 895.
Wu Feng, ed. 吳楓 (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), 764.