An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Beiqishu 北齊書

Jul 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Beiqishu 北齊書 "Book of the Northern Qi" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Northern Qi dynasty 北齊 (550-577, occasionally called Houqi 後齊 "Later Qi"), one of the Northern Dynasties 北朝 (386~581). It was written during the early Tang period 唐 (618-907) by Li Baiyao 李百藥 (565–648, courtesy name Zhonggui 重規). The original title was Qishu 齊書, and the prefix bei- "northern" was only added during the Song period 宋 (960-1279), in order to differentiate it from the history of the (Southern) Qi dynasty 南齊 (479-502) and its official history, Nanqishu 南齊書.

The Beiqishu comprises 8 juan of imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀) and 42 juan of normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳). There are no treatises and tables in the Beiqishu, but treatises on the Northern Qi empire can be found in a compound collection of treatises in the history Suishu 隋書.

Li Baoyao's father Li Delin 李德林 was a historiographer at the Northern Qi court, where he started composing a dynastic history of which 17 juan were completed during that time. During the Sui period 隋 (581-618) he submitted 38 juan of this history to the throne. His son completed the work and in 638 submitted his version to the throne.

One of Li Baoyao's sources was probably a book named (Bei)-Qizhi (北)齊志 "Records of the Qi", written by a historian named Wang Shao 王劭 (c. 600, courtesy name Junmao 君懋). The bibliographic chapter in the dynastic history Jiutangshu 舊唐書 lists three books on the Northern Qi dynasty, namely Li Delin's 李德林 book Beiqi weixiu shu 北齊末修書 "Unrevised book of the Northern Qi" (24 juan), Li Baiyao's book and Zhang Dasu's 張大素 Beiqishu, with a length of 20 juan. In the Xintangshu 新唐書 catalogue Wang Shao's Qizhi or Beiqizhi 北齊志 (17 juan) is listed twice, once among the dynastic histories, and once among the chronicles. The Suishu 隋書 book catalogue (Jingji zhi 經籍志) includes a book Qiji 齊紀 (30 juan), written by Cui Zifa 崔子發.

During the early Song period Li Baiyao's Beiqishu was already incomplete. The modern version consists of the original parts (juan 4, 13, 16-25, 41-45) and supplements copied from the Beishi 北史, a parallel history of the Northern Dynasties 北朝 (386~581), and Gao Jun's 高峻 Gaoshi xiaoshi 高氏小史 (now lost).

The difference in the origin of texts can be seen in the designations for the emperors. While the original Beiqishu uses the temple names of the emperors (with the suffix -zu 祖 or -zong 宗), the other sources usually name them with their posthumous honorific titles (like Emperor Wucheng 北齊武成帝 instead of Shizu 北齊世祖). Nearly all chapters close with a discussion (lun 論) and an eulogy (zan 讚), following a paradigm founded in the Houhanshu 後漢書.

There are no imperial annals of the Prince of Ande 安德王, who ruled for a few months during the year 576, but his biography in included among the nephews of the dynastic founder (11).

The collective biographies include those on imperial consorts (9), the imperial house (10-14), Confucian scholars (44 Rulin liezhuan 儒林列傳), writers (45 Wenyuan liezhuan 文苑列傳), benevolent officials (46 Xunli liezhuan 循吏列傳), cruel officials (47 Kuli liezhuan 酷吏列傳), kinsmen of imperial consorts (48 Waiqi liezhuan 外戚列傳), magicians and diviners (49 Fangji liezhuan 方伎列傳), and imperial favourites (50 Enxing liezhuan 恩倖列傳).

Table 1. Chapters of the Beiqishu 北齊書
1.-8. 帝紀 Diji Imperial Annals-Biography 1-8
1.-2. 1-2 神武帝 Emperor Shenwu
3. 3 文襄帝 Emperor Wenxiang
4. 4 文宣帝 Emperor Wenxuan (r. 550-559)
5. 5 廢帝 Feidi, the Deposed Emperor (r. 559-560)
6. 6 孝昭帝 Emperor Xiaozhao (r. 560)
7. 7 武成帝 Emperor Wucheng (r. 561-564)
8. 8 後主 Houzhu, the Last Ruler (r. 564-577), 幼主 Youzhu, the Infant Ruler (r. 577)
9.-50. 列傳 Liezhuan Normal and collective biographies
9.-12. Empresses (hou 后) and sons of the emperors (wang 王 "imperial princes") (supplement)
13.-14. other imperial princes (supplement)
15.-43. (individual biographies); 15 and 26-40 are supplements
44. 儒林 Rulin The forest of scholars
45. 文苑 Wenyuan The garden of literati
46. 循吏 Xunli Benevolent ministers (supplement)
47. 酷吏 Kuli Cruel ministers (supplement)
48. 外戚 Waiqi Relatives of empresses and consorts (supplement)
49. 方伎 Fangji Diviners and magicians (supplement)
50. 恩倖 Enxing Favourites (supplement)
Klein, Kenneth (2015). "Bei Qi shu", in Cynthia L. Chennault, et al., eds. Early Medieval Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley), 13-17.
Zhou Yiliang 周一良 (1992). "Beiqishu 北齊書", 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. 1, 33.