Archives of the Diary-keeper

Tags: documents | National Palace Museum


Anonymous, Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Yellow-silk edition
29.5 x 18.2 cm 
The "Ch'i-chü chu" (Diary-keeper)" was the title of an official in imperial China whose duty was to record the daily actions and sayings of the emperor into what was known as the "Archives of the Diary-keeper." As the name suggests, this type of historical information was similar to a diary in form. This system has ancient origins in China, extending as far as the Chou dynasty (ca. 1100-256 BC) and being referred to in the Han (207 BC-AD 220) and T'ang (618-907) dynasties. In 1671, during the Ch'ing dynasty, the K'ang-hsi Emperor established the Hall of the Diary-keeper. The duties of the Diary-keeper were combined with those of the official who took down the sayings of the emperor, belonging to the Hanlin Academy. The Museum archives of the Diary-keeper from throughout the Ch'ing dynasty include both Manchu and Chinese editions. Under the K'ang-hsi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), one volume was compiled for every month. Starting with the Yung-cheng Emperor (r. 1723-1735), the number was expanded to two volumes per month. The Diary-keeper recorded all types of formal events and activities under daily headings. Consequently, wherever the emperor went, such as on trips, the Diary-keeper followed. The archive entries first record actions, followed by imperial decrees, events presented to the throne, and then officials seen. The archives of the Diary-keeper also contain informal notes recording various activities and events attended by the emperor. Thus, the range of items in the archives is extremely varied and the contents very specific, making them an important source of direct historical material for filling in the details not found in other official documents and archives.

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