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Tongdian 通典

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Tongdian 通典 "Comprehensive statutes" is a universal administrative history written by the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) scholar Du You 杜佑 (735-812), courtesy name Junqing 君卿. The 200-juan long book was finished around 770 but was only fully completed in 801, after revision, and presented to the throne. Du You also wrote the book Binzuoji 賓佐記, and a commentary on the book Guanzi 管子, Guanzi zhiliüe 管子指略.

A book on administrative history called Zhengdian 政典 "Statutes on government" in 35 juan had been written by Liu Zhifang 劉秩仿 at the end of the Kaiyuan reign-period 開元 (713-741), and provided the idea to Du You's book. The sequence of the chapters in the Tongdian follows a concept which poses food and commerce at the base of all things (shihuo 食貨), followed by selection and appointment of state officials (xuanju 選舉), as well as official career (zhiguan 職官) in the various governmental institutions. These statutes (dian 典) are followed by a detailed description of the administration of state rituals (li 禮), ceremonial music (yue 樂), the military (bing 兵), penal law (xing 刑), as well as the local administration (zhoujun 州郡) and border defence (bianfang 邊防), making a total of nine statutes covering more than 1,500 topics.

Du You describes all these aspect of the government apparatus through the ages, down to his own times. As an experienced state official, Du You was expert in all those fields, and is thus very reliable, at least concerning the institutions and regulations of the Tang period. His book is not a simple description of all governmental matters, but Du also provides a critical view on the advantages and disadvantages of particular institutions, and the reasons for changes in the course of time. Its analytical character has made his book an important source for the study of ancient China's administrative system, as well as many aspects of the daily life of the upper class, like clothing, marriage, mourning rites, family relationships, the ancestral system, social and cultural life.

Du You makes clear that there was a constant change in Chinese history, and not something like an ever-repeating cycle, and stresses that changes that inevitable. For this reason, he has been criticized by Neo-Confucian scholars like Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) who tend to use the past as a model for the present. The Yuan-period 元 (1279-1368) scholar Ma Duanlin 馬端臨 (1254-1323) was, after studying the Tongdian, inspired to compiled a similar compendium, the Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考.

Du You's sources were the treatises in the official dynastic histories and a lot of administrative regulations like the Suichao yili 隋朝儀禮, Da-Tang yili 大唐儀禮, Kaiyuanli 開元禮, Taizong zhengyao 太宗政要, and the Tang liudian 唐六典. Numerous quotations from different sources have only survided in the Tongdian. Some of the treatises usually included in the official dynastic histories, like astronomy, measures, omina and the Five Agents, have not been considered by Du You as important for practical government.

The first print of the Tongdian was produced during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). It has been reprinted by the Kyōko Shoin Press 汲古書院 in 1981. A Korean print from 1101 is preserved in the Libary of the Imperial Household Agency (Kunai-chō shoryō-bu 宮内庁書陵部) in Japan. A Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) print is preserved in the central library of Tenri University in Japan (Tenri Roshokan 天理図書館), as well as, but only in a fragment, in the Beijing Library (Beijing Tushuguan 北京圖書館). A Yuan-period print was first kept in Lu Xinyuan's 陸心源 (1834-1894) Bisong Studio 皕宋樓 and is now to be found in the Seikadō Library 静嘉堂文庫 in Japan. During the Ming period 明 (1368-1644), a print was published by Li Yuanyang 李元陽 (1497-1580), and one during the Jiajing reign-period 嘉靖 (1522-1566), now kept in Japan.

There is a Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) print from the Hall of Military Glors (Wuyingdian 武英殿), a print by a Master Xie 謝氏 from Chongren 崇仁 from the Xianfeng reign-period 咸豐 (1851-1861), and a print of the Xuehai Studio 學海堂 in Guangzhou from the Tongzhi reign-period 同治 (1862-1874). Between 1935 and 1937, the Shanghai Shangwu Press 上海商務印書館 published it as part of the series the Shitong 十通 "Ten Comprehensives" (part of the series Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫). This version was reprinted in 1984 by the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局, enriched with an index. A modern edition with punctuation marks was published in 1988 by the same press.

Xu tongdian 續通典

The Xu tongdian 續通典, official title Qinding xu tongdian 欽定續通典, is an administrative history compiled on imperial order between 1767 and 1782. It is written as a sequel to the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) book Tongdian 通典 by Du You 杜佑 (735-812). For the compilation, a special institute was set up, the Santongguan 三通館, which was also responsible for the compilation of the alternative history Xu tongzhi 續通志 and the statecraft encyclopaedia Xu wenxian tongkao 續文獻通考.

The Xu tongdian is 150-juan long and divided into nine statutes (dian 典), following the pattern of the Tongdian. There is, nevertheless, a change in the arrangement: The military statutes (Bingdian 兵典) were separated from that of penal law (Xingdian 刑典).

The Xu tongdian covers the administrative institutions and regulations from the year 756 to the end of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). The main sources for the Xu tongdian were the official dynastic histories, the institutional histories Tang liudian 唐六典, Tanghuiyao 唐會要, Wudai huiyao 五代會要, Yuandianzhang 元典章, Ming jili 明集禮, Minghuiyao 明會要, the encyclopedias Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜 and Taiping yulan 太平御覽, and the histories Shantang kaosuo 山堂考索, Qidan guo zhi 契丹國志, and Da-Jin guo zhi 大金國志, to literary anthologies like Tangwencui 唐文粹, Wenyuan yinghua 文苑英華, Songwenjian 宋文鑒, the Yuanwenlei 元文類, or the anthology of political essays like the Ming jingshi wenbian 明經世文編. Informations about the Ming dynasty's institutions cover the largest part of the book.

There is a print from the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian 武英殿), and a reprint from the Zhejiang Press 浙江書局 from the end of the Qing period. Between 1935 and 1937, the Shanghai Shangwu Press 上海商務印書館 published it among the "Ten Comprehensives" (Shitong 十通) in the series Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫.

Qing tongdian 清通典

The Qing tongdian 清通典 or Qingchao tongdian 清朝通典, official title Qinding huangchao tongdian 欽定皇朝通典, is an administrative history compiled on imperial order between 1767 and 1786. It is written as a sequel to the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) book Tongdian 通典 by Du You 杜佑 (735-812), and the latter's sequel Xu tongdian 續通典.

For the compilation of the Qing tongdian, a special institute was set up, the Santongguan 三通館, which was also responsible of the alternative history Qing tongzhi 清通志 and the statecraft encyclopaedia Qing wenxian tongkao 清文獻通考. The Qing tongdian is 100-juan long and is divided into nine statutes (dian 典), following the pattern of the Tongdian, with an introductory chapter explaining the guidelines of the compilation (fanli 凡例).

There are, nevertheless, some minor changes: In the statutes on food and commerce (Shihuo dian 食貨典), the sections on taxes on ferments (quegu 榷酤) and conversion of string coings (suanmin 算緡) have been eliminated, in the statutes on state rituals (Li dian 禮典), the section on the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth (fengshan 封禪) on Mt. Tai has been omitted, while in the military statutes (Bing dian 兵典), a section on the system of the Eight Banners (Baqi zhidu 八旗制度) has been inserted, and the statutes on local administration (Zhoujun dian 州郡典) have been updated.

The Qing tongdian covers the administrative institutions and regulations from the beginning of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) to the mid of the Qianlong reign-period 乾隆 (1760s). The main sources for the Qing tongdian were the law code Qing lüli 清律例, the imperial geography Da-Qing yitong zhi 大清一統志, the ritual code Da-Qing tongli 大清通禮, and the administrative statutes Da-Qing huidian 大清會典.

There is a print from the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian 武英殿), and a reprint from the Zhejiang Press 浙江書局 from the end of the Qing period. Between 1935 and 1937, the Shanghai Shangwu Press 上海商務印書館 published it among the "Ten Comprehensives" (Shitong 十通) in the series Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫.

Table 1. Contents of the three Tongdian 通典
通典 Tongdian by 杜佑 Du You 續通典 Xu tongdian 清朝通典 Qingchao tongdian
食貨典 Shihuo Food and money 1.-12. 1.-16. 1.-17.
選舉典 Xuanju Examination and promotion 13.-18. 17.-22. 18.-22.
職官典 Zhiguan State offices 19.-40. 23.-44. 23.-40.
禮典 Li Rites 41.-140. 45.-84. 41.-62.
樂典 Yue Music 141.-147. 85.-91. 63.-67.
兵典 Bing Military 48.-162. 92.-106. 68.-79.
刑法典 Xingfa Penal law 163.-170. 107.-120. 80.-89.
州郡典 Zhoujun Local administration 171.-184. 121.-146. 90.-96.
邊防典 Bianfang Border defence 185.-200. 147.-150. 97.-100.
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