School of International Letters and Cultures

Chinese 500: Genre and Method

Some Aids for Translating Chinese Official Titles

(Based on Benjamin Elman's Website)

(let "v" stand for "umlaut-u" in pinyin)

(1) General

(2) Qin and Han

(3) Period of Disunity (AD 220-917)

There is no general aid which provides translations of titles for this period, but they more or less followed those of the Han and in turn served as a basis for those of the T'ang. There are a number of translations (See Hans H. Frankel, Catalog of Translations from the Chinese Dynastic Histories for the period 220-960. ) including the following, which are of some assistance:

(4) T'ang 唐

(5) Five Dynasties 五 代 (907-960) and Liao (907-1126)

The Five Dynasties generally continued the system of the T'ang so the work of Robert des Rotours is largely valid for this period. Additional help can be obtained from such works as the following:

The Liao is covered by Karl A. Wittfogel and Feng Chia-hsiang in their History of Chinese Society: Liao (907-1125).

(6) Song

(7) Jin and Yuan

Again there are no works which generally treat the titles of these periods. This is unfortunate because there tends to be a greater degree of variation than is usual for succeeding periods.

For the Jin some comparison with Wittfogel and Feng is helpful, as is comparison with Song titles..

For the Yuan consult:

(8) Ming

(9) Qing

Note: All of these aids should be used in conjunction with the primary Chinese aid, Lidai zhiguan biao 歷代職官表 in 72 chuan compiled under imperial auspices by Chi Yun 紀昀 and others. The work, ordered in 1780, consists of a comprehensive set of tables of Chinese of official titles from the ancient Sandai period through the Ming arranged under the different boards, bureaux, and departments of the Ch'ing government of the time of compilation. There is one table for each department of government. The title of the highest official in the department appears first followed by the titles of other officials connected with it in order to rank. After each table material is presented on changes in rank and title in that particular branch of government during the different periods as well as material concerning changes in fuction. Unfortunately, the work is marred by some mistakes and omissions. It has been reprinted in both the Sibu beiyao 四 部 備 要 and Guoxue jiben congshu 國 學 基 本 叢 書 . There is also an abridgd version in 6 chuan which bears the same title but contains only the bare tables. In 1965 the Zhonghua shuju 中 華 書 局 in Shanghai published a Lidai zhiguan biao based on this work. In addition to reproducing the tables, however, it also provides an extensive introduction to the traditional official system, a separate section on the history and function of the various offices arranged according to number of strokes, and four-coner index. The index also has attached to it a total stroke and pinyin romanization key.

(10) Buddhist Titles