An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xuanshizhi 宣室志

Oct 3, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Xuanshizhi 宣室志 "Stories from the Chamber of Dissemination" is a collection of stories compiled by the Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Zhang Du 張讀 (834-882), courtesy name Zhang Shengyong 張聖用 or Zhang Shengpeng 張聖朋. He came from Shenzhou 深州 (modern Shenxian 深县, Hebei) and was a descendant of the writers Zhang Zhuo 張鷟 and Niu Sengru 牛僧孺. It is interesting to see that Niu had written a similar collection, the Xuanguailu 玄怪錄, and Zhang Zhuo the collection Lingguaiji 靈怪集, that is unfortunately lost. Zhang Du served in office as drafter in the Imperial Secretariat (zhongshu sheren 中書舍人), vice director (shilang 侍郎) in the Ministry of Rites (libu 禮部), chief examiner (diangongju 典貢舉) and finally left assistant director in the Department of State affairs (shangshu zuocheng 尚書左丞). Except the 10 juan "scrolls" long Xuanshizhi he has written the book Jianzhong xishou lu 建中西狩錄 that is unfortunately lost. The name of the Xuanshizhi is derived from the chamber where Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157 BCE) of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) used to inquire his minister Jia Yi 賈誼 about ghosts. The book accordingly narrates stories of supernatural events, immortals, ghosts and strange matters. Part of the stories has historiographical character, while others have Buddhist content, mainly the retribution of evil deeds in a later life. The language of the book has a very high standard, and the tales are composed in a coherent manner, and it is therefore to be rated as an excellent book of the genre of zhiguai 志怪 "stories of the supernatural". The Xuanshizhi is listed in the biographies of the official dynastic histories Xintangshu 新唐書 and Songshi 宋史, as well as in the Song period 宋 (960-1279) catalogue Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 and Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題. The earliest surviving print from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) includes an appendix (Buyi 補遺) of 1 juan. It is also included in the reprint series Baihai 稗海, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Congshu jicheng 叢書集成. In 1983 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局出 published a modern version in a joint version with Li Rong's 李冗 collection Duyizhi 獨異志, commented by Zhang Yongqin 張永欽 and Hou Zhiming 侯志明.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2164. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Shi Zhicun 施蟄存 (1986). "Xuanshizhi 宣室志", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 2, p. 1123. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.