An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Chaoye qianzai 朝野僉載

May 28, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Chaoye qianzai 朝野僉載 "Draft notes from the court and the country" is a "brush notes" style (biji 筆記) collection of stories written by the Tang period 唐 (618-907) writer Zhang Zhuo 張鷟 (658?-730?), courtesy name Zhang Wencheng 張文成, style Fuxiuzi 浮休子. He came from Shenzhou 深州 (modern Shenxian 深縣, Hebei) and has also authored the encylcopedia Longjin fengsui pan 龍筋鳳髓判. The Chaoye qianzai includes stories about the life at the court and the capital during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (r. 690-704). It criticizes the secrecy of many decisions that were not taken by the staff of court officials but in many cases by "cruel officials" (kuli 酷吏) in minor positions that enjoyed the favour of the Empress. Among the historical accounts, a lot of ghost stories and reports of supernatural events are to be found which reflects the popularity of this type of story during the first millennium CE. The Song period 宋 (960-1279) writer Hong Mai 洪邁 therefore criticised the Chaoye qianzai as a concoction of unimportant and profane romances. This criticism is unjustified when considering that Zhang Zhuo recorded a lot of first-hand information that was also used in the highly venerated universal history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒. It also includes information about less famous early Tang poets like Lu Zhaolin 盧照鄰, Yang Jiong 楊炯, Luo Binwang 駱賓王 or Qiao Zhizhi 喬知之 and the reception of their writings. The Chaoye qianzai is furthermore also an excellent source of popular Tang period rhymes and proverbs.
According to the bibliographic treatises in the Xintangshu 新唐書 and Songshi 宋史, the Chaoye qianzai had a length of 20 juan "scrolls" and a supplement of 3 juan. The original book is lost and could only be reconstructed from the 2 juan long fragment included in the reprint series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈 and the encyclopedia Taiping guangji 太平廣記. Fragments are also included in the collection Shuofu 說郛 and the reprint series Gujin shuohai 古今說海, Lidai xiaoshi 歷代小史, Xu baichuan xuehai 續百川學海》本, Wuchao xiaoshuo 五朝小說, Tangren shuohui 唐人說薈, Tangdai congshu 唐代叢書 and Shuoku 說庫. These surviving parts constitute a book with a length of 6 juan that is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and the Congshu jicheng 叢書集成. Fragments quoted in several of these sources have in some places a different wording. A further problem is that the surviving parts include stories from a time when Zhang Zhuo was already dead. These must have been added later.
A modern edition of the Chaoye qianzai, commented by Zhao Shouyan 趙守儼, was published in 1979 by the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 in a joint edition together with the book Sui-Tang jiahua 隋唐嘉話 in the series Tang-Song shiliao biji congkan 唐宋史料筆記叢刊.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2138.
Zhu Jincheng 朱金城 (1986). "Chaoye qianzai 朝野僉載", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 1, p. 68. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.