An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zizhi tongjian houbian 資治通鑑後編

Sep 6, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Zizhi tongjian houbian 資治通鑑後編 "Later compilation to the Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government" is a continuation to Sima Guang's 司馬光 (1019–1086) history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑. The Houbian was written by the philosopher Xu Qianxue 徐乾學 (1631-1694), who, as a member of the Hanlin Academy, had to deal a lot with historiographical and administrative literature and participated in the compilation of the Mingshi 明史, the official dynastic history of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644), the imperial geography Da-Qing yitong zhi 大清一統志, and the government statutes Qing huidian 清會典. Xu took also part in the compilation of a commentary on the Confucian Classics, Tongzhitang jingjie 通志堂經解. His private collection of writings is called Danyuan ji 憺園集.

The 184-juan long Zizhi tongjian houbian is the product of a critical revision of numerous history projects that Xu Qianxue undertook together with his colleagues Wan Sitong 萬斯同 (1638-1702), Yan Ruoqu 閻若璩 (1636-1704) and Hu Wei 胡渭 (1633-1714). Their book imitates the pattern of Sima Guang's great history and involves text-critical remarks to the history of the Ming, as well as historiographical comments on certain passages written by earlier scholars. Xu's own remarks are indicated by the sentence chen Qianxue yue 臣乾學曰 "servant Qianxue says".

The book begins in 960, directly connecting to the Zizhi tongjian, and ends in 1367, the last year of the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The years of the last emperors of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279), Duanzong 宋端宗 (r. 1276 – 1277) and Zhao Bing 趙昺 (r. 1277-1279), are designated with reign mottos, which differs from the official history of the Song, the Songshi 宋史, where the reign mottos of the Yuan dynasty are used for this period of time.

The edition of the Houbian in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 is based on a draft version by Xu Qianxue, in which juan 11 is missing. The missing part could later be supplemented by an edition of Master Xia 夏氏 from Fuyang 富陽.

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, 892.
Wu Feng, ed. 吳楓 (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), 750.