Zi Zhi Tong Jian (Chinese: 资治通鉴;English: "Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance") is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Songordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 AD) to lead with other scholars such as his chief assistants Liu Shu, Liu Ban and Fan Zuyu, the compilation of a universal history of China. The task took 19 years to be completed,and, in 1084 AD, it was presented to his successor Emperor Shenzong of Song. The Zi Zhi Tong Jian records Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1,400 years,and contains 294 volumes (巻) and about 3 million Chinese characters.
The principal text of the Zizhi Tongjian was recorded on 294 Juan, or Volume (Chinese: 卷), which are scrolls corresponding to a volume, chapter, or section of the work. The text is a chronological narrative of the history of China from the Warring States to the Five Dynasties.
Sima Guang left the traditional usage in Chinese historiography. For almost 1,000 years since the Shiji was written, standard Chinese dynastic histories had primarily divided chapters between annals (紀) of rulers, and biographies (傳) of officials. In Chinese terms, the book changed the format of histories from biographical style (紀傳體) to chronological style (編年體), which is better suited for analysis, activism and criticism. According to Wilkinson: "It had an enormous influence on later Chinese historical writing, either directly or through its many abbreviations, continuations, and adaptations.
The 294 Juan sweep through 11 Chinese historical periods (Warring States, Qin, Western Han, Eastern Han, Three Kingdoms, Jin and the Sixteen Kingdoms, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties). It was one of the largest historical magna opera in history.
The book consisted of 294 chapters, of which the following number describe each respective dynastic era:
1. 5 chapters - Zhou (1046-256 BC)
2. 3 chapters - Qin (221-207 BC)
3. 60 chapters - Han (206 BC-220 AD)
4. 10 chapters - Wei (220-265)
5. 40 chapters - Jin (265-420)
6. 16 chapters - Liu Song (420-479)
7. 10 chapters - Qi (479-502)
8. 22 chapters - Liang (502-557)
9. 10 chapters - Chen (557-589)
10. 8 chapters - Sui (589-618 AD)
11. 81 chapters - Tang (618-907)
12. 6 chapters - Later Liang (907-923)
13. 8 chapters - Later Tang (923-936)
14. 6 chapters - Later Jin (936-947)
15. 4 chapters - Later Han (947-951)
16. 5 chapters - Later Zhou (951-960)
The book includes Volume 177 to 184 covering Sui Dynasty among a series of books of Zi Zhi Tong Jian.