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Tang liudian 唐六典

Sep 9, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Tang liudian 唐六典 "The six statutes of the Tang dynasty" is a compendium of state offices of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907). It was compiled by a team of state officials and comprises 30 juan or fascicles. In 722 Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755) ordered Lu Jian 陸堅 to compile a compendium describing the state offices under the Six Ministries (liubu 六部).

Members of the Hall of Elegance and Rectitude (Lizhengdian Xiushuyuan 麗正殿修書院) were entrusted with the compilation, led by high members of the central government, like Zhang Yue 張說 (663-730), Xiao Song 蕭嵩 (d. 749) and Zhang Jiuling 張九齡 (678-740). Among the compilers' team were important scholars like Xu Jian 徐堅 (659-729), Wei Shu 韋述 (d. 757), Liu Zhenglan 劉鄭蘭, and Lu Shanjing 盧善經. In 738 the book was finished, including a commentary, and was submitted to the throne by Counsellor-in-chief Li Linfu 李林甫 (683-753). The emperor was nominally called the author of the book.

Although the Tang liudian alleges to be structured according to the model of the Confucian Classic Zhouli 周禮 "Rites of the Zhou", the putative offices of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th. cent.-221 BC), it is in fact structured according to the real government structure of the Tang empire. In the beginning the so-called Three Preceptors (sanshi 三師), the Three Dukes (sangong 三公), and the Department of State Affairs (shangshusheng 尚書省) are described, follwed by the Six Ministries and their sub-agencies.

The Chancellery (menxiasheng 門下省), the Palace Secretariat (zhongshusheng 中書省), the Palace Library (mishusheng 秘書省), the Palace Administration (dianzhongsheng 殿中省) and the palace domestic service are the next. These are followed by the Censorate (yushitai 御史臺), the nine courts (jiusi 九寺), the five directorates (wujian 五監), and the imperial guards. The administration of the household of the heir apparent comes next. The book is finished with the description of the local administration of the Tang empire.

What is described on all those levels of the central government and the local administration are the particular offices, the fixed number of officials serving (dingyuan 定員), and their official rank (pinji 品級). The task each official is entrusted with is also described. The commentary adds changes through the ages and gives further information, as imperial edicts concerning the offices. It is especially the statements about the administrative structure of earlier times which is worth mentioning because the Tang liudian is the only source where such information is preserved.

The first print of the Tang liudian was produced in 1080, but any copies are lost. The earliest extant copy dates from 1134. Its fragments are stored in the Peking Library (Beijing Tushuguan 北京圖書館) and some other libraries. The Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published a facsimilie of this version. Two copies from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) have survived, one from 1515, the other from 1544. During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) the Saoye Shanfang Studio 掃葉山房 printed the Tang liudian in 1800, and the Guangya Shuju Press 廣雅書局 in 1895. In Japan, several early copies have survived of which the reprint by the Kōchi Gakuen Jigyōbu 広池学園事業部 from 1975 is rated the best.

Table 1. Contents of the Tang liudian 唐六典
1. 三師三公尚書都省 Sanshi, Sangong, Shangshu dusheng The Three Preceptors, the Three Dukes, the Department of State Affairs
2. 尚書吏部 Shangshu Lìbu The Ministry of Personnel
3. 尚書户部 Shangshu Hubu The Ministry of Revenue
4. 尚書禮部 Shangshu Lǐbu The Ministry of Rites
5. 尚書兵部 Shangshu Bingbu The Ministry of War
6. 尚書刑部 Shangshu Xingbu The Ministry of Justice
7. 尚書工部 Shangshu Gongbu The Ministry of Works
8. 門下省 Menxiasheng The Chancellery
9. 中書省集賢院史館匭使 Zhongshusheng, Jixianyuan, Shiguan, Guishi The Palace Secretariat, the Academy of Scholarly Worthies, the Historiography Institute, the Petition Box Office (?)
10. 秘書省 Mishusheng The Department of the Palace Library
11. 殿中省 Dianzhongsheng The Palace Administration
12. 内官宮官内侍省 Neiguan, gongguan, Neishisheng Palace service personnel (eunuchs), palace women, the Palace Domestic Service
13. 御史臺 Yushitai The Censorate
14. 太常寺 Taichangsi The Court of Imperial Sacrifices
15. 光禄寺 Guanglusi The Court of Imperial Entertainments
16. 衛尉宗正寺 Weiwei(si), Zongzhengsi The Court of the Imperial Regalia, the Court of the Imperial Clan
17. 太僕寺 Taipusi The Court of the Imperial Stud
18. 大理寺鴻臚寺 Dalisi, Honglusi The Court of Judicial Review, the Court of State Ceremonial
19. 司農寺 Sinongsi The Court of the National Granaries
20. 太府寺 Taifusi The Court of the Imperial Treasury
21. 國子監 Guozijian The Directorate of Education
22. 少府軍器監 Shaofu(jian), Junqijian The Directorate for Imperial Manufactories and the Directorate for Armaments
23. 將作都水監 Jiangzuo(jian), Dushuijian The Directorate for the Palace Buildings and the Directorate for Waterways
24. 諸衛 Zhuwei The guards
25. 諸衛府 Zhu weifu The Capital guards
26. 太子三師三少詹事府左右春坊内官 Taizi sanshi, sanshao, zhanshifu, zuoyou chunfang, neiguan The Three Preceptors and the Three Juniors of the Heir Apparent, the Household Administration, the left and right Secretariat, the service personnel of the Heir Apparent
27. 家令率更僕寺 Jialing, leigeng(si) [sic!], pusi The Household Provisioners of the Heir Apparent, the Court of the Watches of the Heir Apparent, the Livery Service of the Heir Apparent
28. 太子左右衛及諸率府 Taizi zuoyou wei ji zhu shuaifu The left and right guard of the Heir Apparent and the guard commands
29. 諸王府公主邑司 Zhu wangfu, gongzhu yisi The princely establishments and the households of the princesses
30. 三府督護州縣官吏 Sanfu, duhu(fu), zhouxian guanli The Three Garrisons of the Heir Apparent, the protectorates, the officials and petty officials in the prefectures and districts
Designations according to Charles O. Hucker (1985), A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press).
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