An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Guiqianzhi 歸潛志

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Guiqianzhi 歸潛志 "Memories in Retirement" is a privetly written history of the last years of the Jin dynasty 金 (1115-1234) and Mongols' conquest of northern China. The author is Liu Qi 劉祁 (1203-1250), courtesy name Liu Jingshu 劉京叔, style Shenchuan dunshi 神川遁士. He came from Hunyuan 渾源, Shanxi,and was a famous student at the National University (taixue 太學), but failed to pass the final examination. Only after the Mongols had conquered northern China he succeeded and was appointed examining official (kaoshiguan 考試官) in the province of Shanxi-East 山西東路. Later on he was a member of the imperial field secretariat (xingsheng bizhi mufu 行省辟置幕府) during the conquest of the Southern Song empire 南宋 (1127-1279). His collected writings Shenchuan dunshi ji 神川遁士集 are lost. Liu started writing down his memories of the Jin court after the conquest of the capital Kaifeng 開封 (modern Kaifeng, Henan) in order to remember the old days and the many persons he had met. His book is 14 juan "scrolls" long.
In the first ten chapters Liu Qi describes the life of the Jin court as he had observed it, with a focus on writers and scholars in chapters 1-6 and 8-9, and the problematic court politics of Emperor Xuanzong 金宣宗 (r. 1213-1223) in chapter 7. The eleventh chapter gives an account of the Mongol siege of Kaifeng 開封, the southern capital of the Jin empire, the twelfth chapter describes how general Cui Li 崔立 surrendered to the Mongols. He also tries to find reasons for the downfall of the Jin dynasty. In the last chapters Liu Qi collects a lot of quotations from other persons, and also some poems by contemporaries (part Guiqiantang ji 歸潛堂記).
Liu Qi's Guiqianzhi is an earnest account of the last decade of the dynasty that ruled over northern China as opponent to the glorious Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) in the south of China. When the official dynastic history of the Jin dynasty, the Jinshi 金史, was compiled under the direction of the Mongolian Toqto 脫脫, the compilers made extensive use of the internal material provided by Liu Qi's memories, like assessments of the Jin government's military system, the influence of eunuchs on the central government, or the behaviour of the chief minister during the court's flight from Kaifeng. Other writers like Li Zhichun 李之純, Zhao Bingwen 趙秉文, or Wang Yu 王郁 also relied on the memories of Liu Qi. His book has nevertheless traditionally been categorized as novel, not as history, probably because of its loose arrangement.
The Guiqianzhi is included in the reprint series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Wuyingdian juzhenban congshu 武英殿聚珍版叢書, Zhibuzuzhai congshu 知不足齋叢書 and Biji xiaoshuo daguan 筆記小說大觀. In 1983 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 published a modern edition with annotations by Cui Wenyin 崔文印.

Cui Wenyin 崔文印 (1992). "Guiqianzhi 歸潛志", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, pp. 276277. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2151.