A New Compilation of Events from the Xuanhe Period


Xin bian Xuanhe yi shi (A new compilation of events from the Xuanhe period) is a Song dynasty work by unknown authors. The Xuanhe period was 1119–25. The book has two juan, representing two parts, and the title appears at the beginning of each juan as well as in the table of contents. The literary style of the work is hua ben, meaning written versions of storytellers’ tales. They are loosely based on historical figures and events from ancient Yao and Shun times up to the 1127–62 reign of Gaozong, the first Southern Song emperor. With growing urbanization and population growth in Song China, the public demand for orally performed fiction and for printed stories increased greatly. There was also heightened demand for entertainment on the streets and in markets. While traditional stories in China often focused on strange events, Song-era popular stories appealed to readers with a much wider range of topics. Books of such orally transmitted tales normally were made by hand, but as printing with moveable type became widespread, storyteller novels were also printed and widely read by the public. The most common stories were about historic persons and heroes or were love stories. Shui hu zhuan (Water marshes), the classic Chinese novel (known in the West as Outlaws of the Marsh) about 108 outlaws on Mount Liang, originated from one of the chapters of this work. At the end of the book is a handwritten inscription by Huang Peilie (1763–1825), the famed Qing book collector, telling of his first encounter with the book at a friend’s house.  

Last updated: November 9, 2011