An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Liangshu 梁書

Jul 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Liangshu 梁書 "Book of the Liang" is the official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557) , one of the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420-589). It was written during the early Tang period 唐 (618-907) by Yao Silian 姚思廉 (557–637, courtesy name Jian 簡 or Jianzhi 簡之, but Jian was probably also his actual name and Silian his courtesy name) and is 56-juan long. It includes imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀, 6 juan) and normal and collective biographies (liezhuan 列傳, 50 juan). Treatises or tables are not included, but treatises on the Liang empire can be found in a compound collection of treatises in the history Suishu 隋書.

Yao Silian's father Yao Cha 姚察 (533–606, courtesy name Boshen 伯審) had already been occupied with the compiling of histories of the former dynasties at the court of the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618). His son took over this profession and in 629 submitted his history of the Liang dynasty to the throne. Part of this text had already been written by Yao Cha. In order to honour Yao Silian the emperor had the imperial secretary Wei Zheng 魏徵 written a laudation (XXX) at the end of the imperial annals of the Liangshu.

The collective biographies cover the themes imperial consorts and their relatives (7 Huanghou liezhuan 皇后列傳), the imperial house (8, 22, 23, 29, 44, 55), persons of filial conduct (47 Xiaoxing liezhuan 孝行列傳), Confucian scholars (48 Rulin liezhuan 儒林列傳), writers (49-50 Wenxue liezhuan 文學列傳), scholars in retirement (51 Chushi liezhuan 處士列傳), persons displaying self-sufficiency (52 Zhizu liezhuan 止足列傳), benevolent officials (53 Liangli liezhuan 良吏列傳), and "barbarians" (54 Zhuyi liezhuan 諸夷列傳). The book closes with the biographies of the seditious princes Xiao Zong 蕭綜, Xiao Ji 蕭紀, Xiao Zhengde 蕭正德 and Xiao Yu 蕭譽 (55), and the rebel Hou Jing 侯景 (56).

The Liangshu is actually much too short compared with the histories of the other Southern dynasties. It is expecially the literary and scholarly life at the court and among the nobility of the Liang period that would have deserved more attention.

The bibliographic chapter Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the dynastic history Suishu 隋書 lists three dynastic histories of the Liang dynasty, namely Xie Wu's 謝吳 Liangshu 梁書 (49 juan, original size 100 juan), Xu Heng's 許亨 (517–570, courtesy name Hengdao 亨道) Liangshi 梁史 (53 juanLiangshu diji 梁書帝紀 (7 juan). Yao Silian's Liangshu is not listed there because it was not yet finished when the Suishu was written.

Catalogues compiled after the end of the Tang period only list two books with the title Liangshu, namely Yao Silian's book, and a 34-juan long text jointly written by his father Yao Cha, Xie Hao 謝昊 (undoubtedly identical to 謝吳) and others. Following the statements in the Suishu, it might be that the "book" mentioned last was in fact a combination of different texts.

The bibliographic chapter in the universal history Tongzhi 通志 lists the books separately, with their original sizes, and an additional text called Liangshi (10 juan), written by Wu Jing 吳競.

Among the chronicles section the Suishu bibliography lists the books Liangdian 梁典 (30 juan) by Liu Fan 劉璠, Liangdian (also 30 juan) by He Zhiyuan 何之元, Liang cuoyao 梁撮要 (30 juan) by Yin Sengren 陰僧仁, Liang houlüe 梁後略 (10 juan) by Yao Xu 姚勖, Liang taiqing ji 梁太清紀 (10 juan, covering the reign-period Taiqing, 547–550) by Xiao Shao 蕭韶 and Huaihai luanli zhi 淮海亂離志 (4 juan, about the rebellion of Hou Jing 侯景) by Xiao Shiyi 蕭世怡 (courtesy name Dayuan 大圓).

An anonymous, 7-juan long collection of imperial annals called Huangdi ji 皇帝紀, is mentioned in the bibliographic chapter of the Jiutangshu 舊唐書, as well as five more chronicles, namely Qifeng chunqiu 棲鳳春秋 (5 juan) by Zang Yan 臧嚴, Liang zhao houlüe 梁昭後略 (10 juan) by Yao Zui 姚最, 天啟記 (10 juan) by Master Shoujie 守節先生 (which is rather a collection of semi-historical tales than historiography), Houliang chunqiu 後梁春秋 (10 juan) by Cai Yungong 蔡允恭, and the short anonymous Liang modai ji 梁末代記. The last two covered the history of the Later Liang dynasty 後梁 (555-587), which continued the Liang for some decades, yet only in a tiny "empire". Liu Zhongwei's 劉仲威 Liang chengsheng zhongxing lüe 梁承聖中興略 is only seen in the Tongzhi bibliography.

Chaussende, Damien (2015). "Liang 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), 167-170.
Zhou Yiliang 周一良 (1992). "Liangshu 梁書", 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. 2, 577.