How much truth is in the claim that the Byzantine, Arab and Chinese worlds were better recorded/documented at the time than Medieval Europe?

Dec 2011
2,119
#11
Thank you for that list, but I find it difficult to get to the (English translation of) the relevant documents. A google search of the first item (by Wang Tong) turns up a footballer of the same name as the author. Even the link you gave doesn't seem (true, I only looked for a less than a minute) to show any original writings, which is what I would like to see (in English).
 
Jan 2016
571
United States, MO
#12
The 全唐文 (Comprehensive Collection of Tang Prose) was compiled during the Qing dynasty. The work is a collection of all texts inhereted from the Tang dynasty (618-907) and the Five dynasties Ten kingdoms period (907-979) excluding poetry. In total, the collection contains over 18,400 writings and over 3000 authors.

It is also important that excavated texts wouldn’t be included in this collection.

The Comprehensive Collection of Song Prose is particularly large. It was a 20 year project at Sichuan University, just published in 2006 It contains over 170,000 writings and an estimated 100,000,000 chinese chracters

So, we have lots of written material to study china’s past, but the sources don’t always discuss topics that we want to know more about, and archeology is less than a century old and it didn’t really get started in earnest until the late 1970s or so, which means there is a lot of stuff in the ground that we don’t have acess to.
 
Jan 2016
571
United States, MO
#13
Thank you for that list, but I find it difficult to get to the (English translation of) the relevant documents. A google search of the first item (by Wang Tong) turns up a footballer of the same name as the author. Even the link you gave doesn't seem (true, I only looked for a less than a minute) to show any original writings, which is what I would like to see (in English).
Most of these have not been translated into English.
 
Jan 2016
571
United States, MO
#15
Have any of the works in Hackenyscribe's list been translated into English?
I am not sure, but i wouldn’t count on it. Of the 24 official histories, I think that only the Records of the Grad Historian and the Liao history have been translated into English. Most of the works in the list are not official histories and there is probably not enough incentive to translate them.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
13,842
Europix
#17
Have any of the works in Hackenyscribe's list been translated into English?
Well, that's the problem. English is an extremely young language as international, of general use, as "lingua Franca", if You prefer.

I can't talk about China, or Byzantium, but on Africa, for example, one still finds more in-depth and more diverse literature in French. Another example would be the steppe warriors: one finds a lot more interesting stuff in Russian than in English or in French.
 
Jan 2016
571
United States, MO
#18
Well, that's the problem. English is an extremely young language as international, of general use, as "lingua Franca", if You prefer.

I can't talk about China, or Byzantium, but on Africa, for example, one still finds more in-depth and more diverse literature in French. Another example would be the steppe warriors: one finds a lot more interesting stuff in Russian than in English or in French.
It would be nice to have more translations, but unfortunately we donn’t have much. There are a few factors that go into this.

For one, until quite recently very few people knew chinese or cared to know. Western scholarship on China in general was quite small. It has grown rapidly in recent decades.

Also scholars are not always incentivised to translate. They can contribute to the field more by writing something. And, if they are targeting a lay audience, they would focus on writing something bold or catchy. As important as translated primary sources are, they are non exactly best sellers.

Furthermore, the size of the task involved in translating just one official history is huge. Wittfogel originally planned to translate all of the official histories, and he chose the Liao history because it was one of the shortest one. He never ended up going on to the on to the rest.

So, unforunately there aren’t many translations into Western languages (Japanese has quite a bit) even if we would like there to be. However, we do have some excellent surveys of Chinese history such as the Cambridge History of China. The Cambridge History of Inner Asia is also very good.

Additionally, although it is not a chinese source, the entire Secret History of the Mongols has been translated into english a few times and the first book of the translation by De Rachewiltz is available as a free pdf online. This first book contains the entirety of the Secret History in English. However the two other books in his translation (the index and transliteration of the original) are seperate and not cheap. But these last two books would not be of much use unless one wants to study mongolian
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,669
Blachernai
#19
This is a list of what I have so far compiled so far for the early Chinese Medieval period (400 AD -1000 AD). It is by no means comprehensive. After doing one full page I just got tired of compiling. I only included histories that covered the early Medieval period AND whose authors lived in the early Medieval period, even if it was just barely. This is what I have so far:
Thanks for this. Do you know of any bibliographical resources that list translations of early medieval Chinese texts into modern European languages?