An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

yudie 玉牒, imperial genealogy

Aug 31, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

Yudie 玉牒 "jade records" was a designation for the imperial genealogy (see also jiapu 家譜). The name was derived from the adornment of the case in which the documents were preserved.

Imperial genealogies are attested under the term yudie for the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907), but it is quite probable that such documents existed already in much earlier times. The shape of the genealogy did not change until the end of imperial times in 1912. Imperial genealogies earlier than the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) are not preserved, barring the singulary copies of the Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279) genealogy, Xianyuan leipu 仙源類譜 and Zongfan qingxi pu 宗藩慶系錄, which were preserved in the Qing archives.

Those of the Qing, Da-Qing zongshi pudie 大清宗室譜牒 (both those of the Imperial Palace and the copies of the Court of the Imperial Clan), are stored in the First Historical Archive (Zhongguo di yi lishi dang'anguan 中國第一歷史檔案館).

The Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) founded for the compilation of their genealogies, the Huang-Song yudie 皇宋玉牒, a special Imperial Genealogy Office (yudiesuo 玉牒所). Its name was under the Qing changed to Imperial Genealogy Bureau (yudieguan 玉牒館). Both stood under the direction of the Court of the Imperial Clan (zongzhengsi 宗正寺, by the Qing called zongrenfu 宗人府). Like many offices, the Genealogy Bureau was only temporary because the genealogies were compiled in intervals of ten years (28 rounds during the Qing). The staff was headed by one or several supervisors (zhengzongcai 正總裁) and vice supervisors (fuzongcai 副總裁) selected by the emperor, an *organizer (ducui 督催, normally a Grand Academician, daxueshi 大學士), a general compiler (zongjiaoguan 總校官) from the Court of the Imperial Clan, two controllers (tidiaoguan 提調官), eleven compilers (zuanxiuguan 纂修官), twelve archivists (shouzhangguan 收掌官), and 36 examination copyists (tengluguan 謄錄官). These persons came from the Grand Secretariat (neige 內閣), the Ministry of Rites (libu 禮部) or the Hanlin Academy ( 翰林院).

The Qing recorded for each individual of the family Aisin Gioro (Aixin Jueluo 愛新覺羅) the date of birth and death, the affiliation (zongzhi 宗支) to the main or a collateral line (di-shu 嫡庶), membership of a Banner (Plain Yellow in case of the imperial family or Plain Red in case of other Gioro family members), bestowment of titles of nobility (fengjue 封爵) and offices (feng-zhi 封職), marriage, spouses and secondary wives, and children of both genders. The same is true for the members of all lateral lines of the imperial house (zongshi 宗室). The data of living persons were written in red ink, those of deceased ones in black. The genealogies were written in two languages, namely Manchu, and Chinese.

The genealogies were recorded in two different patterns and two formats, namely vertical (large and small), and horizontal (large and small): zhige dadang 直格大檔, hengge dadang 橫格大檔, zhige xiaodang 直格小檔, and hengge xiaodang 橫格小檔. The vertical format consisted of 16 columns per page, with 1 or 2 page-tables (ge 格) per person. One booklet normally comprised one generation (bei 輩). The horizontal format consisted of 13 rows per page. The horizontal format consisted of 13 rows per page-table, with one row per generation, so that several generations were found on one page. The oldest person of the line stood in the first row of the first page, while all following generations were written one row deeper. This is a very popular format found in genealogies.

The originals of the genealogies was stored in the Shouhuang Hall 壽皇殿 of the Jingshang Park 景山, and copies were produced to be archived in the imperial palaces in Beijing (the Qianqing Hall 乾清宮) and Shengjing 盛京/Mukden (the Jingdian Tower 敬典閣). The Genealogy Bureau itself retained second-hand copies (fuben 副本) of the large and small documents (dadang 大檔, xiaodang 小檔) and such for research purposes (beichadang 備查檔).

Yudie (or yudie wen 玉牒文) was also a term for a sacrificial text used during the offerings to Heaven and Earth (fengshan 封禪) on the summits of Mt. Taishan 泰山 and Mt. Liangfu 梁父.

Chen Wenliang 陳文良, ed. (1992). Beijing chuantong wenhua bianlan 北京傳統文化便覽 (Beijing: Beijing Yanshan chubanshe), 114.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1037.
Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 44.
Lü Zongli 呂宗力, ed. (1994). Zhongguo lidai guanzhi da cidian 中國歷代官制大辭典 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe), 204, 205.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 180.
Xue Hong 薛虹 et al., ed. (1998). Zhongguo huangshi gongting cidian 中國皇室宮廷辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 159.
Zhang Zhenglang 張政烺, ed. (1990). Zhongguo gudai zhiguan da cidian 中國古代職官大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe), 266.

Further reading:
《仙源类谱》与《宗藩庆系录》 (
宋代皇族谱牒《仙源类谱》和《宗藩庆系录》 (