An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

shilu 實錄, veritable records

Jul 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Shilu 實錄 "veritable records" are a kind of chronicle centered on the rule of a single emperor. They is arranged chronologically and refer to all important political, economical, military and cultural decisions and events, records natural disasters and social circumstances, as well as private affairs of emperors, like marriage or funerals. Veritable records include an abundance of material and are written with great accuracy in each detail. They often served as blueprints for the compilation of official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史).

The language of the memorials included in the veritable records is highly standardized and does not always refer to matters in a direct way.

The earliest surviving veritable records are those of Emperor Wu 梁武帝 (r. 502-549) from the Liang period 梁 (502-557), the Liang huangdi shilu 梁皇帝實錄 compiled under the supervision of Zhou Xingsi 周興嗣 (469-521).

From the Tang period 唐 (618-907) on it became custom that after the death of every emperor, the veritable records of his rule were compiled. The compilation had to be ordered by his successor and was done by an especially grouped staff of historians who combed the archives for important documents to be included.

The last veritable records were compiled for the Guangxu Emperor 光緒 (r. 1874-1908) of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911). Of all 116 veritable records, only a small part has survived. From the Tang period, only those of Emperor Shunzong 唐順宗 (r. 805) survive, the Shunzong shilu 順宗實錄, compiled under the supervision of the writer, historian and philopher Han Yu 韓愈 (768-824). From the Song period 宋 (960-1279), only a fragment of 20 juan of the vertiable records of Emperor Taizong 宋太宗 (r. 976-997) survive, the Taizong shilu 太宗實錄.

Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing period vertibale records have survived in total, the Ming shilu 明實錄 and Qing shilu 清實錄.

In rare cases, private writings can bear the title of "veritable records", like Li Ao's 李翱 (774年-836) Huangzu shilu 皇祖實錄 from the Tang period.

Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓, et al., ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe), 96.