By Margaret Wade Labarge
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Extra info for A Medieval Miscellany
The dynasty 18 The Oxford History of Historical Writing survived only by ceding de facto control over large regions of the country to other military governors in exchange for their immediate support against the rebels. Fighting continued through 763, further fragmenting the Tang aristocracy’s economic base and shattering its earlier monopoly of political and military power. The result was a much-weakened centre, with economic and political power devolved to regional military commanders. After the formal end of Tang in 907, these regional commanders continued to dominate north Chinese political life throughout the ﬁrst half of the tenth century, the Five Dynasties period (908–59).
Many scholars accept the dynastic histories as ‘primary sources’. Yet in reality the surviving standard histories from this period are vast cornucopias of text many rewritings, reworkings, and recombinations away from their origins and original contexts as primary documents. Consequently, when utilizing ofﬁcial Chinese history-writing, the student must ﬁrst understand the condition of the historiographical process at the given points in time under study. ACHIEVEMENTS OF TANG HISTORIOGRAPHY As the preceding survey indicates, Tang era historians pioneered important developments in middle period historiography.
Its complex organization enabled its compilers to include material on many issues. A brief sample may serve to indicate the breadth of the work’s coverage. There are sections on imperial names and titles, ritual debates, regulations on court procedure, omens, natural disasters, regulations concerning the clergy, ofﬁcial recruitment and the examination system, changes in the taxation system, and relations with nonChinese groups. Unlike the Tang liu dian, the distinctive focus of the Tang huiyao is on the actual process of government operations.
A Medieval Miscellany by Margaret Wade Labarge