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Chinese Literature
Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 "Remnant Affairs of the Xuanhe Reign"


The Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事 "Remnant affairs of the Xuanhe reign (1119-1125)", is a romance of historiographical content written in the huaben style 話本 that was compiled by an anonymous person during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The book is divided into a first and a second collection (Qianji 前集, Houji 後集). Another version is called Da-Song Xuanhe yishi 大宋宣和遺事 and is divided into four collection that bear the names of the first four characters of the Confucian Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" (Yuanji 元集, Hengji 亨集, Liji 利集 and Zhenji 貞集). Both versions were probably revised during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), which can be seen in the story of the prognostication of the fate of the Song dynasty: the first capital being Bian 汴 (modern Kaifeng 開封, Henan), the second Hangzhou 杭州 (modern Hangzhou, Zhejiang, the third Min(zhou) 閩州 (Fuzhou 福州, Fujian), and the last Guang(zhou) 廣州 (Guangzhou, Guangdong, i.e. Canton).
The text is written in an annalistic style and provides an account of the history of the Northern Song dynasty 北宋 (960-1126), especially from the times of Wang Anshi's 王安石 administrative reforms on until the foundation of the exile capital Lin'an 臨安 (Hangzhou) by Emperor Gaozong 宋高宗 (r. 1127-1162), the first ruler of the Southern Song dynasty 南宋 (1127-1279). The book begins with a short description of the way of virtuous and bad rulers from ancient times. Among the latter type of rulers is also Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 (r. 1100-1125), whose irresponsible and licentious style of governing led to the conquest of northern China by the Jurchen armies of the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234) during the Jingkang reign 靖康 (1126). The text does not focus on one single event or theme and is a narrative transformation of annalistic historiography. The language of the Xuanhe yishi is an uneven mixture of late prose-style Classical Chinese (wenyan 文言) and contemporary vernacular language (baihua 白話). It is especially the stories of the rebel leader Song Jiang 宋江 and that of Emperor Huizong's concubine Li Shishi 李師師 that are written in everyday language because these themes originate in popular tales and not in written history. A lot of passages can be traces back to written sources like Huang Ji's 黃冀 Nanjin jiwen 南燼紀聞 (Nanjin jiwen lu 南燼紀聞錄) or Xin Qiji's 辛棄疾 Qiefenlu 竊憤錄 and Xu qiefen lu 續竊憤錄, or texts with more official characters like the Xu Song biannian zizhi tongjian 續宋編年資治通鑒, Jiuchao biannian beiyao 九朝編年備要, Qiantang yishi 錢塘遺事, Jianyan zhongxing ji 建炎中興記 or Huangchao dashi ji jiangyi 皇朝大事記講義. The even includes quotations from poems of Zhao Yushi 趙與時, Chen Dong 陳東 and Lu You 陸遊. Although language of and material of the book have a quite heterogeneous character, its basic idea is to describe illness of court politics, the corruption of high officials like Cai Jing 蔡京 or the Daoist magician Lin Lingsu 林靈素, the sufferings of the common people and the heroic conduct of some personalities that try to save the country inmidst of political turmoils. The most famous of these heroes are the bandits of the Liangshan Swamp 梁山泊 that are headed by Song Jiang who fights for justice and peace, not only by punishing bad officials, but also by suppressing the rebellion of Fang La 方臘. Although written in a very simple language, these parts of the Xuanhe yishi can be seen as a precursor of the popular romance Shuihuzhuan 水滸傳.
The oldest surviving print of the Xuanhe yishi was published during the Ming period and was owned by Master Wu 吳氏 from Huangchuan 璜川 and is now to be found in the library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences 中國科學院圖書館. The version in the collectaneum Shiliju congshu 士禮居叢書 was reproduced in the Sibu beiyao 四部備要 and the Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, and then in 1914 by the Saoyeshanfang Studio 掃葉山房 in Shanghai, 1958 by the Gudian wenxue press 古典文學出版社 and 1990 by the Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社 (with annotations by Ding Xigen 丁錫根, in the series Song-Yuan pinghua ji 宋元平話集). The oldest surviving four-chapter version was owned by Master Wang 王氏 from Jinling 金陵 (revised reprint of Luochuan 洛川校正重刊本) and was reproduced in 1915 by the Hanfenlou Studio 涵芬樓 and the Shangwu yinshuguan 商務印書館, and then again in 1954 by the Gudian wenxue press.


Sources:
Cheng Yizhong 程毅中 (1986). "Xuanhe yishi 宣和遺事", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 1122.
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. 2190.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

August 9, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail