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Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集

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Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集 "Separate collection of Deep Mountain Studio" is a book on historical events of the Ming period. It was written in the style of a "brush-notes essay" (biji 筆記) by Wang Shizhen 王世貞 (1562-1590). It was finished in 1590 and called "separate collection" in order to discern it from the "main collection" (zhengji 正集) which included literary writings and poetry. The events described in the 100-juan long book were so detailed that it was seen as inofficial "veritable records" (shilu 實錄) of the time. Yet in fact the book is only partially written in the style of a chronicle. The first 5 juan (Huang-Ming shisheng shu 皇明盛世述) describe the early century of the Ming dynasty, the next part (Huang-Ming yidian shu 皇明異典述, 10 juan) focuses on the history of laws and statutes. The third one (Huang-Ming qishi shu 皇明奇事述, 4 juan) presents extraordinary reports from unofficial sources (baishi 稗史). The fourth part (Shicheng kaowu 史乘考誤, 11 juan) includes a critical text on historiography. The following 31 juan include tables presenting the history of the Ming nobility as well as the occupants of the highest state offices. The next large part, "investigations" (Kao 考) of 36 juan, deal with special matters of administration, like military campaigns conducted by emperors in person (qinzheng 親征), imperial tours (xunxing 巡幸), the appanages of princes (qinwang luci 親王祿賜), salaries of officials in the prefectures (gefu lumi 各府祿米) and those of members of the imperial family (zhu wang gongzhu suihong 諸王公主歲供), the way of military orders (mingjiang 命將), posthumous titles (yifa 謚法), rewards (shanglai 賞賚 and shangong 賞功), the state examinations (keshi 科試), imperial edicts (zhaoling 詔令), the military system (bingzhi 兵制), the arrangement of markets and the horse trade (shichang 市馬), and so on. The last fascicles are genealogical trees of the imperial family.
The descriptions in this book are so detailed that it can serve as a supplement to official histories and collections of statutes. This is particularly true for the Jianwen reign 建文 (1399-1402) whose history was thoroughly rewritten by the official bureau of historiography because Emperor Chengzu 明成祖 (r. 1402-1424) wanted to legitimate his usurpation of the throne of his nephew. The official Jianwen annals are therefore less than trustworthy. The chapters Shisheng shu and Qishi shu are included more for entertainment than as decent historiographical sources.
Wang's text deeply influenced the critical historiography of the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911). It was printed in 1590 and during the late Qing period by the Guangya Book Company 廣雅書局. In 1985 the Zhonghua shuju 中華書局 published a modern, annotated edition.

Sources: Wu Feng 吳楓 (ed. 1987), Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), p. 651. ● Mao Peiqi 毛佩琦 (1992), "Yanshantang bieji 弇山堂別集", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, p. 1368.

September 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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