An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Qunshu zhiyao 群書治要

Oct 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Qunshu zhiyao 群書治要 "Important matters of governance from all types of literature" is a political encyclopaedia written on imperial order during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by the historian Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580-643), who is better known as the author of the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書. The book is also called Qunshu zhengyao 群書政要 or Qunshu liyao 群書理要, in order to avoid the personal name of Emperor Gaozong 唐高宗 (r. 649-683), Li Zhi 李治.

The originally 50-juan-long Qunshu zhiyao was submitted to the throne in 631 and was approved by Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649). It includes quotations from the Confucian Classics (12 books), historiographical books (8 books) and the writings of the "masters and philosophers" (7 books). The compiler selected texts indicating reasons for the rise and downfall of states and dynasties. The sources reach from books of antiquity and to such from the Jin period 晉 (265-420).

The textual quality of these primary sources is rated as very good and reliable, so that the Qunshu zhiyao is an ideal tool for the reconstruction of the original wording of pre-Tang texts. The part on the Jin period includes historiographical works that are long since lost, like the 18 older official histories on the Jin, the so-called Shibajia jinshi 十八家晉史 (see Jinshu 晉書). Several other political treatises have also only survived as quotations in the Qunshu zhiyao, like the essays of Huan Tan 桓譚 (23 BCE-56 CE), Cui Shi 崔實 (d. 170), Zhongzhang Tong 仲長統 (180-220), Yuan Huai 袁淮, Jiang Ji 蔣濟 (d. 249 CE) or Huan Fan 桓范 (d. 249).

The original book was lost during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) and a copy to be imported from Japan during the 18th century for the compilation of the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. In this version, the juan 4, 13 and 20 were missing. There is another Japanese print dated 1787. The Qunshu zhiyao is also reproduced in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 and Xuxiu siku quanshu 續修四庫全書.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds.g (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1997.
Zhao Hankun 趙含坤 (2005). Zhongguo leishu 中國類書 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe), 34-35.