History of the Five Dynasties


Wu dai shi ji (History of the Five Dynasties) was the original title of this work by Ouyang Xiu (1007–72), statesman, historian, essayist, calligrapher, and poet of the Song dynasty. It traditionally has been called Xin Wu dai shi (The new history of the Five Dynasties) to distinguish it from another work entitled Jiu Wu dai shi (The old history of the Five Dynasties), by Xue Juzheng (912–81). This was the only authorized history compiled privately after the Tang dynasty and before the publication of Xin Yuan shi (The new Yuan history). Ouyang Xiu spent more than 20 years on the compilation of this work. Its existence was not known until after his death, when it was dispatched to the court by imperial order and was promulgated to the entire country. The work consists of 74 juan, 12 of them basic annals, 45 biographies, three critical studies, 10 family histories, a genealogy, and three supplemental juan on four non-Han tribes. Stylistically different from the older dynastic history, it follows the style of the Tang historian Li Yanshou, who divided his work of 659 on the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589) into histories of the south and the north. Ouyang Xiu provides a general history combining the period of the Five Dynasties of Late Liang, Late Tang, Late Jin, Late Han, and Late Zhou (907–60). The material in this work was taken both from Xue Juzheng’s history and from historical records of works, such as Wu dai hui yao (Essentials of the Five Dynasties), Wu dai shi bu (Supplement to the history of the Five Dynasties) and Wu dai shi que wen (Missing texts in the history of the Five Dynasties). Various notes and collected essays were also consulted. The contents, therefore, are extremely rich. Ouyang Xiu was the most eminent literary figure of his time. His style of writing was concise and meticulous, following that of the Chun qiu (Spring and autumn annals). This work was vastly superior to Jiu Wu dai shi, and so much importance was attached to it that after its publication Xue Juzheng’s earlier history was largely forgotten and nearly lost to the world.

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Physical Description

74 juan, 18 volumes, 16.7 x 11.6 centimeters


  • Only preface and juan 1–15 are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: January 3, 2018