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Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要 "Essentials about politics from the Zhenguan reign (627-649)" is a compendium on statecraft from the reign of Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649) of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907). The book was compiled by Wu Jing 吳競, who worked in the Historiographic Institute (guoshiguan 國史館). Two of Wu's writings, a history of the founding of the Tang, the Tangshu 唐書 in 98 juan (not the great Jiutangshu 舊唐書!), and the Tang chunqiu 唐春秋 in 30 juan, are lost.

The Zhenguan zhengyao is 10-juan long and deals with different matters of statecraft in 40 chapters. The content is arranged in a pattern of question and answer in which the emperor requests advice by his highest ministers Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580-643), Wang Gui 王珪 (571-639), Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (579-648), Du Ruhui 杜如晦 (585-630), and many others. The emperor is depicted as a virtuous ruler possessing the necessary talent to govern the dynasty. The Zhenguan zhengyao attracted much attention not only by other emperors of the Tang dynasty but by rulers of all later ages, and virtually served as a textbook for crown princes.

There are more than 20 hand-written manuscripts of the 12th century surviving, most of which are stored in libraries in Japan. There are also 12 woodblock prints from the Song period 宋 (960-1279) preserved. The oldest surviving moveable-type print dates from 1370, stored in the Beijing Library 北京圖書館. A print by Ge Zhi 戈直 from 1333 includes many Song- and Yuan- 元 (1279-1368) period commentaries, as those of Liu Fang 柳芳, Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-1072) or Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019-1086). It was, revised by a Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) editor, republished in 1978 by the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社. In 1962 Harada Taneshige 原田種成 published several of the manuscript versions stored in Japan.

Table 1. Contents of the Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要
1 君道 Jundao The way of the ruler
2 政體 Zhengti The body of government
3 任賢 Renxian Appointing worthies
4 求諫 Qiujian Demanding critique
5 納諫 Najian Accepting critique, app 直諫 Zhijian Direct critique
6 君臣鑒戒 Junchen jianjie The sovereign's observation and admonition of his ministers
7 擇官 Zeguan Selecting officials
8 封建 Fengjian Titles of nobility
9 太子諸王定分 Taizu zhuwang dingfen Distinction between the heir apparent and other princes
10 尊敬師傅 Zunjing shifu Respect of teachers and preceptors
11 教戒太子諸王 Jiaojie taizi zhuwang Instruction of the princes
12 規諫太子 Guijian taizi Regulating and admonishing the heir apparent
13 仁義 Renyi Benevolence and righteousness
14 論忠義 Lun zhongyi Discussion of loyalty and righteousness
15 孝友 Xiaoyu Filiality and friendship
16 公平 Gongping Fairness
17 誠信 Chengxin Sincerity and trustworthiness
18 儉約 Jianyue Austerity and restriction
19 謙讓 Qianrang Respect and resignation
20 仁惻 Rence Kindheartedness and compassion
21 慎所好 Shen suo hao Attentiveness to what one loves
22 慎言語 Shen yanyu Attentiveness to words
23 杜讒邪 Du chanxie Restriction of slandering and aberrances
24 悔過 Huiguo Repenting errors
25 奢縱 Shezong Prodigy and luxury
26 貪鄙 Tanbin Greed and vulgarity
27 崇儒學 Chong ruxue The veneration of Confucian scholarship
28 文史 Wenshi Literature and historiography
29 禮樂 Liyue Ceremonies and ritual music
30 務農 Wunong The duty of agriculture
31 刑法 Xingfa Penal law
32 赦令 Sheling Amnesty
33 貢賦 Gongfu Tributes and taxes
34 辯興 Bianxing Discussing the beginning
35 征伐 Zhengfa Punitive campaigns
36 安邊 Anbian Pacification of the borderlands
37 行幸 Xingxing Inspection tours
38 畋獵 Tianlie Imperial hunts
39 災祥 Zaixiang Natural diasters and omina
40 慎終 Shenzhong Attentiveness to the outcome of things
Chen Tao 陳濤 (1993). "Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shengyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 257.
Chen Ying 陳瑛, Xu Qixian 許啟賢, ed. (1989). Zhongguo lunli da cidian 中國倫理大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 232.
Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《教育大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part 8, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 346.
Wang Yuguang 王余光, Xu Yan 徐雁, ed. (1999). Zhongguo dushu da cidian 中國讀書大辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 1177.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 318.
Wu Feng 吳楓 (1992). "Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要", 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, 1519.
Xie Qingkui 謝慶奎 (1992). "Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhengzhixue 政治學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 468.
Zhu Shunlong 朱順龍 (1994). "Zhenguan zhengyao 貞觀政要", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Lishi 歷史卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 586.
Further reading:
Kornicki, Peter (2016). "A Tang-Dynasty Manual of Governance and the East Asian Vernaculars", Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies, 16/2: 163-177.