An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集

Sep 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集 "Separate collection of Deep Mountain Studio" is a book on historical events of the Ming period. It was written in the style of a "brush-notes essay" (biji 筆記) by Wang Shizhen 王世貞 (1562-1590). It was finished in 1590 and called "separate collection" in order to discern it from the "main collection" (zhengji 正集) which included literary writings and poetry.

The events described in the 100-juan long book were so detailed that it was seen as unofficial "veritable records" (shilu 實錄) of the time. Yet in fact the book is only partially written in the style of a chronicle. The first 5 juan (Huang-Ming shisheng shu 皇明盛世述) describe the early century of the Ming dynasty, the next part (Huang-Ming yidian shu 皇明異典述, 10 juan) focuses on the history of laws and statutes. The third one (Huang-Ming qishi shu 皇明奇事述, 4 juan) presents extraordinary reports from unofficial sources (baishi 稗史). The fourth part (Shicheng kaowu 史乘考誤, 11 juan) includes a critical text on historiography. The following 31 juan include tables presenting the history of the Ming nobility as well as the occupants of the highest state offices.

The next large part, "investigations" (Kao 考) of 36 juan, deal with special matters of administration, like military campaigns conducted by emperors in person (qinzheng 親征), imperial inspection tours (xunxing 巡幸), the appanages of princes (qinwang luci 親王祿賜), salaries of officials in the prefectures (gefu lumi 各府祿米) and those of members of the imperial family (zhu wang gongzhu suihong 諸王公主歲供), the way of military orders (mingjiang 命將), posthumous titles (yifa 謚法), rewards (shanglai 賞賚 and shangong 賞功), the state examinations (keshi 科試), imperial edicts (zhaoling 詔令), the military system (bingzhi 兵制), the arrangement of markets and the horse trade (shichang 市馬), and so on. The last fascicles are genealogical trees of the imperial family.

The descriptions in this book are so detailed that it can serve as a supplement to official histories and collections of statutes. This is particularly true for the Jianwen reign 建文 (1399-1402) whose history was thoroughly rewritten by the official bureau of historiography because Emperor Chengzu 明成祖 (r. 1402-1424) wanted to legitimate his usurpation of the throne of his nephew. The official Jianwen annals are therefore less than trustworthy. The chapters Shisheng shu and Qishi shu are included more for entertainment than as decent historiographical sources.

Wang's text deeply influenced the critical historiography of the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911). It was printed in 1590 and during the late Qing period by the Guangya Book Company 廣雅書局. In 1985 the Zhonghua shuju 中華書局 published a modern, annotated edition.

Table 1. Contents of the Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集
General history (shu 述)
1.-5. 皇明盛世述 Huang-Ming shisheng shu Event history
6.-15. 皇明異典述 Huang-Ming yidian shu History of law and administration
16.-19. 皇明奇事述 Huang-Ming qishi shu Unofficial history
Historical critique
20.-31. 史乘考誤 Shicheng kaowu Historical critique
Tables (biao 表)
32. 同姓諸王表 Tongxing zhuwang biao Princes of the larger imperial family name
33. 親王[表] Qinwang biao Princes of blood
34.-36. 郡王[表] Junwang biao Commandery princes
37. 公侯伯表 Gong-hou-bo biao Dukes, marquesses, and earls
37. 永樂以後功臣公侯伯表 Yongle yihou gongchen gong-hou-bo biao Ennobled officials from the Yongle reign-period on
39. 恩澤公侯伯表 Enze gong-hou-bo biao Officials ennobled by imperial grace
40. 追封王公侯伯表 Zhuifeng wang-gong-hou-bo biao Posthumously ennobled officials
41. 公孤表 Gonggu biao The Three Dukes
42.-43. 東宮三師表 Donggong sanshi biao The Three Preceptors of the Eastern Palace
44. 贈公孤宮臣表 Zeng gonggu gongchen biao Persons awarded one of the titles of the Three Dukes
45. 内閣輔臣年表 Neige fuchen nianbiao Heads of the Grand Secretariat
46. 翰林諸學士表 Hanlin zhu xueshi biao Academicians of the Hanlin Academy
47. 六部尚書表 Liubu shangshu biao Heads of the Six Ministries in Beijing and Nanjing
52.-53. 都察院左右都御史表 Duchayuan zuo-you duyushi biao Heads of the Censorate in Beijing and Nanjing
54.-62. 卿貳表 Qingni biao Vice Ministers
63. 國子祭酒年表 Guozi jijiu nianbiao Heads of the Directorate of Education
64. 總督都御史年表 Zongdu dushiyu nianbiao Governors-general and provincial censors
Treatises (kao 考)
65. 親征考 Qinzheng kao Emperors on campaign
66. 巡幸考 Xunxing kao Imperial inspection tours
67. 親王禄賜考 Qinwang luci kao Investiture of princes of blood
68.-69. 命將考 Mingjiang kao Appointment of generals
70.-75. 諡法考 Yifa kao Posthumous titles
76.-77. 賞賚考 Shanglai kao Imperial presents
78.-80. 賞功考 Shanggong kao Imperial rewards to meritorius officials
81.-84. 科試考 Keshi kao Examination system
85.-88. 詔令雜考 Zhaoling zakao Various matters of imperial edicts
89. 兵制考 Bingzhi kao Military
90. 中官考 Zhongguan kao The central government
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