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纪传体 Biographic-thematic type (of historiography)

The jizhuanti 纪传体 “biographic-thematic type” is a literary type in Chinese historiography in which history is dealt with in biographies and thematic treatises. The standard histories written in this historiographic type are the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史), but there are also other histories – mainly dynastic histories – written in this type of history. There are three types of biographies and two types of treatises:

• 本纪 benji (short: ji 纪) “imperial biographies” of emperors
• 世家 shijia biographies of the houses of the feudal lords and of eminent people (not used in all official dynastic histories)
• 列传 liezhuan (short: zhuan 传) “normal biographies” of ordinary persons and “collective biographies” like that of empresses, officials, bad ministers, magicians, eunuchs, or reports of foreign countries
• 表 biao tables (not used in all official dynastic histories)
• 志 zhi treatises about state rituals, courtly etiquette, calendar and astronomy, omina, penal law, food and commerce (including taxation), local administration, state offices, the military, literature, and also diplomatic relations

The least types to be included in a jizhuanti history are imperial biographies (ji) and normal biographies (zhuan). The treatises can be seen as condensed encyclopedias on statecraft, but always focusing on one dynasty.
The contrary to this type of historiography are chronicles or annals (biannianti 编年体 type).

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