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The “Supplementary” Historian? Li Zhao’s Guo shi bu as Mid-Tang Political and Social Critique

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This article examines the Tang dynasty anecdote collection Guo shi bu 國史補 (Supplement to the History of the State), compiled by Li Zhao 李肇 (?-after 827) in part as a critique of imperial government and elite social mores of the early decades of the ninth century. A quantitative analysis of topic frequency and distribution in the collection reveals Li Zhao’s techniques for depicting the corruption or political brilliance of the reigns of Tang emperors, as well as his admiration of powerful aristocratic clans, and his disdain for social climbing, perspectives that likely stemmed from his experiences as an official in Xianzong’s court and his elite family background. Understanding the organization, underlying themes, and structure of individual anecdotes of the Guo shi bu allows us to see the ways that anecdotes and “miscellaneous” histories ultimately shaped official accounts of the Tang dynasty.
Cet article examine la collection d’anecdotes d’époque Tang Guo shi bu 國史補 (supplément à l’histoire de l’Etat) compilée par Li Zhao 李肇 (?-après 827), et la considère en partie comme une critique du gouvernement impérial et des mœurs des élites au début du ixe siècle. Une analyse quantitative des thèmes traités, dans leur fréquence et leur répartition au sein de l’ouvrage permet de révéler les techniques mises en œuvre par Li Zhao pour décrire la corruption ou le rayonnement politique des règnes des empereurs Tang successifs, son admiration pour les grands clans aristocratiques, et son dédain pour les parvenus et l’ascension sociale. Li hérite certainement cette vision de son expérience en tant que fonctionnaire à la cour de Xianzong ainsi que de son ascendance au sein des élites. Une telle compréhension de l’organisation du Guo shi bu, de ses thèmes sous-jacents et de la structure des anecdotes prises individuellement nous permet de mieux saisir comment les anecdotes et les miscellanées ont fini par déterminer le contenu des histoires officielles de la dynastie des Tang.

Affiliations: 1: Princeton University


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