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the Books of Tang


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Hello friends,


I am desperately seeking two classical Chinese histories in translation: the Old Book of Tang and the New Book of Tang. Both are exceptionally rich in details concerning the rulers, government, administration, law, and warfare of the Tang Empire. These precious chronicles are indispensable to my research, but I have not been able to find them translated into English or any other European language. Online, I've seen only brief excerpts. Can anyone help?

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks Shelley and ashuna.


Wish I could afford to buy these books!


If you know of any online versions in translation which can be downloaded for free, please let me know. Even lengthy excerpts would be useful.


I'm also searching for other works of Chinese history written from the Han to post-Tang times. Can you recommend old Chinese chronicles/annals which are readily available in translation?

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Wish I could afford to buy these books!


Even if you could you wouldn't be able to read them as they're in Chinese. Most of these types of history do not tend to get translated. Sima Qian is an exception and there are a number of translations of his Shiji available, including a French one here online. The Shiji became the model of historiography and even fiction for hundreds of years, so it's very worth checking out even if the era it covers isn't necessarily the one you're interested in.


In my opinion, if you don't read Chinese then your best bet will be secondary material in European languages. A lot of very good work has been done on Chinese history in English, French, German and other languages, and you should check it out if you can. One book that often gets recommended is Jacques Gernet's Le monde chinois, translated as A History of Chinese Civilisation. Some people think it's a bit dry, but it's a very useful overview of Chinese history from the Neolithic era to the 1990s — and all in one volume. For the Tang dynasty in particular, Dennis Twitchett's Official History Under the T'ang might be worth looking at, but might be a bit academic. It does nevertheless discuss in detail the books you're interested in, but especially the Old Book of the Tang. You could also try to find Mark Lewis' China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty which is an up-to-date monograph that provides a nice overview of the history and culture of the era.

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