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Chinese Literature
Suishu 隋書 "The Book of the Sui Dynasty"


The Suishu 隋書 "The Book of the Sui Dynasty" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618). It was written by a professional team of historians. The Suishu is 85 juan "scrolls" long, of which 5 juan are imperial biographies (benji 本紀), 30 juan treatises (zhi 志), and 50 juan normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳). It covers the time frame from 581 to 618, when the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) was founded.
The imperial decree to compile the official history of the Sui was issued in 629. The compilation of the biographies was supervised by Wei Zheng 魏徵, and the team leaders were Yan Shigu 顏師古, Kong Yingda 孔穎達 and Xu Jingzong 許敬宗. The book was completed in 636. The treatises were compiled by Yu Zhining 于志寧, Li Chunfeng 李淳風, Li Yanshou 李延壽 and Yan Shigu, the supervision was taken over by Linghu Defen 令狐德芬, later by Zhangsun Wuji 長孫無忌, and they were finished in 656. The treatises were not only compiled separately but were also dealt with as a separate book, the Wudaishi zhi 五代史志 "Treatises to the five dynastic histories" (not the Five Dynasties 五代 [907-960]!), dealing with the five dynasties of Liang 梁 (502-557), Chen 陳 (557-589), Northern Zhou 北周 (557-581), Northern Qi 北齊 (550-577) and Sui. This book was later directly attached to the Suishu. The particular histories of these dynasties, the Liangshu 梁書, Chenshu 陳書, Zhoushu 周書 and Beiqishu 北齊書, contain no treatises. Unfortunately the usefulness of the Suishu treatises is therefore not well balanced. While the treatise on measures, mathematics and calendar (16-18 Lüli zhi 律曆志), for instance, also deals with the Southern and Northern dynasties 南北朝 (300~600), the geography treatise (29-31 Dili zhi 地理志) reflects the administrative situation of the Sui period. The treatise on the imperial library (32-35 Jingji zhi 經籍志) is of great importance because it is the first library catalogue after that of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220), the Hanshu 漢書 30 Yiwen zhi 藝文志, and the existence and extent of certain books can be investigated.
There was already an older history of the foundation of the Sui dynasty, with the same title, written by Wang Shao 王劭, in 80 juan, during the reign of Emperor Wen 隋文帝 (r. 581-604) of the Sui dynasty. Under Emperor Yang 隋煬帝 (r. 604-617) Wang Zhou 王冑 compiled the official imperial diary, the Daye qijuzhu 大業起居注. The extant Suishu surely relied on these sources, and this gives some of the biographies a very exact reliability and a vivid style because of the short time distance between the writings and the event they describe.
The first printing was done in 1024, but no copy has survived. Two other Song period 宋 (960-1279) printings have only survived in fragments. The Suishu version of the Bona 百衲 edition is based on a print from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The most widespread version during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) was the print of the imperial Wuying Hall 武英殿. In 1973 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 published a modern print.


Source: Zhang Zexian 張澤咸 (1992). "Suishu 隋書", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 2, pp. 1043 f. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

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July 10, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail