Chinese historiography as compared to Greco-Roman historiography

Jan 2016
1,637
India
#1
Hi all,

This thread is to compare the ancient Chinese historiography to the ancient Greco-Roman historiography in terms of:

1.) The quantity of the historical records, chronicles etc. each of them have left.
2.) The quality of their records, their nature and style.

I look forward to the contributions of the more-learned posters.
 
Mar 2016
61
Henan province of China
#2
Chinese historians are divided into 起居注史官 and 史馆史官.
起居注史官record the emperor's daily life and behavior,the emperor is not allowed to read it until the Tang Dynasty.
史馆史官record the history of the country.
They are officials, civilians have also written books, but not recognized by the government.
 
Jan 2016
1,637
India
#3
Chinese historians are divided into 起居注史官 and 史馆史官.
起居注史官record the emperor's daily life and behavior,the emperor is not allowed to read it until the Tang Dynasty.
史馆史官record the history of the country.
They are officials, civilians have also written books, but not recognized by the government.
So, most of what we have from China is the works of officials and civil servants? and not independent chroniclers like Herodotus, Thucydides etc.
 
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heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,397
China
#4
most of chinese history books are made with government support, though it is another problem that whether the authors would choose a side that favors the government.
there are authors like Herodotus, Thucydides, but their works are not looked important throughout the history, until in recent century. and due to this reason, their works lost a lot.
 
Jan 2016
1,637
India
#5
most of chinese history books are made with government support, though it is another problem that whether the authors would choose a side that favors the government.
there are authors like Herodotus, Thucydides, but their works are not looked important throughout the history, until in recent century. and due to this reason, their works lost a lot.
So how does that affect the quality of the works? To what degree, are the Chinese histories affected by the pro-government bias?

From the Western world, we have works of different historians with often varying opinions.
 

heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,397
China
#6
So how does that affect the quality of the works? To what degree, are the Chinese histories affected by the pro-government bias?

From the Western world, we have works of different historians with often varying opinions.
the quality of the works are affected for the reason that, sources on chinese history is not "too few", but "too many". so it is impossible for single scholar to write a serious work of history in ancient china.
it is a tradition that chinese scholars do not compile a complete history book for one dynasty until it fails. so usually it is not a serious problem on the bias things. this tradition applies to the post-Han dynasty times.
before Han dynasty times, it is generally known historians would take an different standard from the rulers. that is why historians are considered to be important for long time ruling, and why the rulers usually do not like them.

however, it could be a problem that rulers may try to bias the very primary sources from the very start. as mentioned by redrain. the primary sources are kept from emperors, but some strong emperor may force to inquire what have been written, it would remain unknown whether they edit something.

chinese history books usually appear as plain words with no strictly clear opinion. the various opinions usually appeared as the form of comments, which is made by individual schoalrs, not in the original history books.
 
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Oct 2015
774
Virginia
#7
Is it true that an "official" history of each "Dynasty" was written under the succeeding Dynasty? Were histories constrained by politics or tradition to reflect the cycle of rise, moral corruption and loss of the Mandate of Heaven? Is the "Dynastic Cycle" a result of the historical (Confucian?) literary tradition?
How much Chinese historical literature has survived, compared to the pitiful remains of the ancient Western sources?
 
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heylouis

Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
6,397
China
#8
Is it true that an "official" history of each "Dynasty" was written under the succeeding Dynasty?
after western han, you might want to check it for sure yourself.

Were histories constrained by politics or tradition to reflect the cycle of rise, moral corruption and loss of the Mandate of Heaven? Is the "Dynastic Cycle" a result of the historical (Confucian?) literary tradition?
constrained certainly, constrained by their contemporary politics, and most importantly constrained by the ideology of the authors themselves.
but, it has to note, at least to me, i do not know the "cycle of rise" is one important topic of chinese history books. this kind of philosophy talking does not quite suit the chinese practical ideology.

as I said historians usually use appeared plain words to write the books. so they really talk few directly. meanwhile it is important to notice the words are just plain as appeared. the authors no doubt have their standards and their own judgement upon everything, and they'd leave very subtle clues to show it(oh, note, it is not clue games, it is traditional writing style, famous by confucious, you need to read some book to know what really it is). but it is very difficult to read it out without very careful study of all kinds of references. that is why "comments" may came to be more important than history books themselves. you see, we have 25 official history books, but it would be impossible to say you fully read them without reading some comments.

How much Chinese historical literature has survived, compared to the pitiful remains of the ancient Western sources?
qing siku collected at least 2000 volumes. but qing themselves deleted and modified a lot of books. it would only be more
 
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Jan 2016
1,637
India
#9
the quality of the works are affected for the reason that, sources on chinese history is not "too few", but "too many". so it is impossible for single scholar to write a serious work of history in ancient china.
I don't understand what you're saying. Why is "too many sources" a problem? How does it stop an ancient historian to write a good work on history? And how much do you mean by "too many"?

it is a tradition that chinese scholars do not compile a complete history book for one dynasty until it fails. so usually it is not a serious problem on the bias things. this tradition applies to the post-Han dynasty times.
before Han dynasty times, it is generally known historians would take an different standard from the rulers. that is why historians are considered to be important for long time ruling, and why the rulers usually do not like them.

however, it could be a problem that rulers may try to bias the very primary sources from the very start. as mentioned by redrain. the primary sources are kept from emperors, but some strong emperor may force to inquire what have been written, it would remain unknown whether they edit something.

chinese history books usually appear as plain words with no strictly clear opinion. the various opinions usually appeared as the form of comments, which is made by individual schoalrs, not in the original history books.
What are the primary sources? How much they are in number? Can you provide some examples of the "primary sources" and the commentaries on them?
I hope I'm not asking too many questions.:) Actually I'm a total stranger to Chinese history.


Also, can you compare the Chinese and Western historiography with each other, in terms of the quantity of the historical literature they have left?
 
Mar 2016
61
Henan province of China
#10
So, most of what we have from China is the works of officials and civil servants? and not independent chroniclers like Herodotus, Thucydides etc.
China's official history books sometimes tend to be government, but most of the content is credible.
But folk history books contain the author's personal emotions and imagination, we can not determine whether it is true or not.This kind of history book is called野史,its advantage is that the author likes to write about events that the government does not want to be recorded.