Shi Tong 史通

China’s first systematic monograph on historical theory


Chinese Name: 史通

English Name: Shi Tong, Shitong

Author: Liu Zhiji 刘知几

Originally Published: 710 A.D

Genre: History

Shi Tong 史通
Shi Tong 史通

Brief Introduction of Shi Tong

Shi Tong史通 is the first systematic monograph on historical theory in China. The author is Liu Zhiji刘知几 of the Tang Dynasty. The content of the work mainly comments on the style and compilation methods of historical books, as well as the origin of historical books and the gains and losses of predecessors in compiling history.

Shi Tong 史通

Shi Tong covers a wide range, which can be basically summarized into two categories: historical theory and historical criticism. Historiography theory refers to the discussion of historiography style, compilation method and historiographer system; Historical criticism includes commenting on historical events, discussing the gains and losses of historical records, examining the similarities and differences between right and wrong historical events, etc.

Because Shi Tong summarizes all the problems of historiography before the Tang Dynasty, it has a very high historiography status and has a far-reaching impact on future generations. The compilation time of this book began in the second year of Chang’an, Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty, and it took nine years to complete it in the fourth year of Jinglong, the emperor of the middle Tang Dynasty.

Shi Tong includes Nei Pian内篇 and Wai Pian外篇,which of 39 articles are Nei Pian and 13 articles are Wai Pian, and three of them lost in the process of historical spread,there are 49 articles in the book now.

The Nei Pian内篇 is the main body of the whole book, focusing on the genre of historical books, the collection of historical materials, the key points of expression and the principles of history, while focusing on the genre of historical books; The Wai Pian外篇 discusses the historian system, the origin of historical records, and comments on the gains and losses of historians.

Shi Tong 史通

Shitong is the earliest special book in the history of Chinese historiography that focuses on the style of historical book compilation in theory and method. It is a summary and summary of historical compilation before the early Tang Dynasty. It is a pioneering work of Chinese historians from writing history to commenting on historians, historical books and historical work.

It is an important historical review in the field of Chinese history and world history in the early 8th century. Shi Tong also has shortcomings. Its view on the genre of history books is only limited to the summary of the past and fails to put forward new ideas.

It overemphasizes the uniformity of the style of history books, so that it requires a vivid and objective history to adapt to the style model. Therefore, the criticism of past history books is often biased.

Author of Shitong

Liu Zhiji 刘知几 ( 661 ~ 721 A.D ), from Pengcheng, Xuzhou (now Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province). Minister and historian of the Tang Dynasty.

Liu Zhiji was born in a family of officials for generations and belongs to a scholarly family. Influenced by the whole family atmosphere, Liu Zhiji received good cultural education in his childhood.

Shi Tong 史通
Liu Zhiji刘知几

Liu Zhiji’s interest in historiography may have been influenced by his ancestors and his father. More importantly, his father followed his temperament and adopted the method of “teaching students according to their aptitude因材施教”, which mobilized Liu Zhiji’s enthusiasm to study and made him embark on the road of historiography smoothly.

Excerpts From Shi Tong


Time is not far or near, and things are not big or small. We should learn widely and strive to become a knowledgeable person.


A well written history book depends on whether its narration reaches the highest level; Whether the narrative pen reaches the highest level depends on whether it is concise.


Reading history books literally sees one thing, but outside the words, we can see many things by analogy.


Expressing the richest content in the simplest words is the highest realm of historical narration.

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