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Xianbo zhishi 先撥志始

Mar 4, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Xianbo zhishi 先撥志始 "Records of the origin of the uprooting [of the dynasty's trunk]" is a history book on last decades of the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) written by Wen Bing 文秉 (1609-1669), courtesy name Sunfu 蓀符, style Zhuwu yimin 竹塢遺民, from Wuxian 吳縣 (today's Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu).

The 2-juan (in some editions, 6-juan) long book was written around 1700 and is described in the imperial catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要. It ends in 1629 and mainly describes the turmoils at the court under the dominance of the eunuchs, and their end under the early Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644). The text is a valuable source on the events during the Wanli 萬曆 (1573-1619) and Tianqi 天啟 (1621-1627) reign-periods not recorded in the official dynastic history Mingshi 明史.

The title of the book is derived from a quotation from the Confucian Classic "Book of Songs" Shijing 詩經, where it is said that "while [a tree's] branches and leaves are yet uninjured, it must first have been uprooted" (zhi ye wei you hai, ben shi xian bo 枝葉未有害,本實先撥, transl. Legge). The author wished to express that the origins of the end of the Ming dynasty were found in those decades, when the eunuchs killed competent court officials.

The book was first printed in 1752 by the Jianyi Studio 儉壹堂, and again published in 1847, and in a version revised by Xie Xie 夏燮 (1800-1875) in 1863. It is included in the reprint series Jieyue shanfang huichao 借月山房彙鈔, Zhihai 指海, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Zhonguo fanglüe congshu 中國方略叢書, and Zhongguo yeshi jicheng 中國野史集成.

Sources:
Qinghua daxue tushuguan 清華大學圖書館, ed. (2003). Qinghua daxue tushuguan cang shanben shumu 清華大學圖書館藏善本書目 (Beijing: Qinghua daxue chubanshe), 68.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 327.
Zhongguo fanglüe congshu 中國方略叢書 (Chengwen Publishing), www.chengwen.com.tw/tc/cat/str/guo13.htm.