Old Book of Tang

The Old Book of Tang (simplified Chinese: 旧唐书; traditional Chinese: 舊唐書; pinyin: Jiù Tángshū), or simply the Book of Tang (simplified Chinese: 唐书; traditional Chinese: 唐書; pinyin: Tángshū; Wade–Giles: T'ang-shu), is the first classic historical work about the Tang dynasty, comprising 200 chapters, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories. Originally compiled during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, it was superseded by the New Book of Tang which was compiled in the Song dynasty, but later regained acceptance.


The book began when Later Jin's founding emperor Shi Jingtang ordered its compilation in 941. The original chief editor was Zhao Ying (趙瑩), who was also the chancellor then. However, by the time of its completion, Liu Xu had become chancellor and taken over the work of organisation; as a result he was credited as chief editor when the work was presented in 945 to Emperor Chu of Jin.

Being a relatively quickly compiled work of official history, the Old Book of Tang was a compilation of earlier annals, now lost; it further incorporates other monographs and biographies, using as sources (for instance) the Tongdian of Du You.[1] These sources were often directly copied from records and earlier histories, and the result would be severely criticised during the Northern Song dynasty; Emperor Renzong of Song, for example, called the book 'poorly organised, burdened with unimportant details, wanting in style and poorly researched'. These errors even included duplicated biographies of characters.

Because of these criticisms, in 1044 a new history of the Tang dynasty was commissioned; with Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi as editors, the New Book of Tang was then produced. After the New Book was presented, the original Old Book of Tang went out of print, and over centuries it became very rare. It was during the Ming dynasty when the remaining copies were gathered and the book was once again published, eventually becoming canonised as one of the Twenty-Four Histories.


  1. Denis Crispin Twitchett (1992). The Writing of Official History Under the Tʻang. ISBN 978-0-521-41348-0.
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