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jizhuanti 紀傳體, biographic-thematic type (of historiography)

Apr 26, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

The jizhuanti 紀傳體 "biographic-thematic type" is a literary type in Chinese historiography in which history is dealt with in biographies and thematic treatises. The standard histories written in this historiographic type are the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史), but there are also other histories - mainly dynastic histories - written in this type of history. There are three types of biographies and two types of treatises, namely:

benji 本紀 (short: ji 紀), "imperial annaly-biographies" of emperors

shijia 世家, biographies of the houses of the feudal lords and of eminent persons

liezhuan 列傳 (short: zhuan 傳) "normal biographies" of ordinary persons and "collective biographies" like that of empresses, officials, bad ministers, magicians, eunuchs, or reports of foreign countries

biao 表, tables

zhi 志, treatises about state rituals, courtly etiquette, calendar and astronomy, omina, penal law, food and commerce (including taxation), local administration, state offices, the military, literature, and also diplomatic relations

At least imperial annals-biographies (ji) and normal biographies (zhuan) had to be included in a jizhuanti-type history book. The treatises can be seen as condensed encyclopaedias on statecraft, but always focusing on one dynasty.

The opposite to this biography-centered type of historiography are chronicles or annals (biannianti 編年體 type).

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