Twenty-Four Histories

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The Twenty-Four Histories (Chinese: 二十四史; pinyin: Èrshísì shǐ; Wade–Giles: Erh-shih-szu shih), also known as the Standard Histories (zhengshi 正史) are the Chinese official historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to the Ming dynasty in the 17th century. The Han dynasty official Sima Qian established many of the conventions of the genre, but the form was not fixed until much later. Starting with the Tang dynasty, each dynasty established an official office to write the history of its predecessor using official court records. As fixed and edited in the Qing dynasty, the whole set contains 3213 volumes and about 40 million words. It is considered one of the most important sources on Chinese history and culture.[1]

The title "Twenty-Four Histories" dates from 1775 which was the 40th year in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. This was when the last volume, the "History of Ming" was reworked and a complete set of the histories produced.

Books of the Twenty-Four Histories[edit]

Inheritance works[edit]

These works were begun by one historian and completed by an heir, usually in the next generation.

Related works[edit]

  • New History of Yuan (新元史, Xīn Yuán Shǐ), compiled by Ke Shaomin 柯劭忞 in 1920
    Considered an official history by the Republic of China (ROC) but not by the People's Republic of China (PRC).
  • Draft History of Qing (清史稿, Qīng Shǐ Gǎo), compiled under Zhao Erxun 趙爾巽 in 1927
    The responsibility for publishing a history of the Qing rested on the regime that would replace the Qing. The ROC left an edition in draft form in 1927, but before it could be returned to, the PRC took over Mainland China. The ROC published a revised edition in 1961 and the PRC is currently working on their own edition.

Modern editions[edit]

In China, the Zhonghua Shuju have edited a number of these Histories. These sets (or editions) are appreciated because they have been carefully collated and edited (punctuated) by the Chinese specialists. Therefore, these editions are believed to be relatively reliable, and easy to read and understand.[4]


Only two of the Twenty-Four Histories have been completely translated into English: Records of the Grand Historian by Burton Watson in 1963, and New History of the Five Dynasties by Richard Davis in 2004. In Korean and Vietnamese, only the Records has been translated. Most of the histories have been translated into Japanese.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ch 49, "Standard Histories," in Endymion Wilkinson. Chinese History: A New Manual. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 2012). ISBN 9780674067158. Also see "Standard Histories" link to the Googlebook of the 2000 edition of Wilkinson.
  2. ^ Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  3. ^ Xu Elina-Qian, p.23
  4. ^ Xu Elina-Qian, p.19

External links[edit]