The Book of Wei, also known by its Chinese name as the Wei Shu, is a classic Chinese historical text compiled by Wei Shou from 551 to 554, and is an important text describing the history of the Northern Wei and Eastern Wei from 386 to 550.
The Northern Wei dynasty was established in 386 by the Tuoba Clan. The greatest accomplishment of the Northern Wei dynasty was the unification of Northern China in 439. An internal struggle resulted in a split which introduced the Eastern Wei and the Western Wei. The Eastern Wei dynasty was short lived. Established in 534, several military campaigns were fought to try and reunite east and west but each failed. In 550, the area was taken over by Gao Yang who founded his own dynasty which he names the Northern Qi. It is the history of these two dynasties that Wei Shou attempted to record.
In compiling the work, Wei Shou was criticized for showing partiality to ancestors of political allies and intentionally defamatory to or entirely ignoring ancestors of political enemies. Detractors of the work referred to the book as 穢書, (Hui Shu), nearly pronounced as 'Wei Shu', but meaning "Book of Filth". From a modern historical view point, the book had glaring problems, as it took glorification of the Northern Wei to an extreme, intentionally misstating history of her predecessor state Dai, which was a vassal of Western Jin, Later Zhao, Former Yan, and Former Qin, but which the book characterized as a powerful empire that those states were vassals of. It further characterized all other rival states as barbaric and made unsubstantiated accusations against their rulers. Further, it retroactively used the sinicized surnames introduced by Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei in 496 to apply to events long before, making it difficult for readers to know what the actual names of historical personages were. In addition, Wei Shou was criticized in that, as an official of the Eastern Wei and its successor state Northern Qi, he included the sole emperor of Eastern Wei, Emperor Xiaojing, among his imperial lists while intentionally omitting the three emperors from the rival state Western Wei after the division of the Northern Wei in 534. However, he was credited with harmonizing highly confusing and fragmented accounts of historical events from the state of Dai to the early period of Northern Wei and creating coherent accounts of events.
The book originally contains 114 volumes, but by the Song Dynasty some volumes were already missing. Later editors reconstructed those volumes by taking material from the History of the Northern Dynasties dated to the 7th century.
|Book of Wei|