Programme Research Themes:

1. Study of Historical Texts

This research theme is dedicated to historical works and will aim to bring out their specificities, the questions they raise and their respective structure. Of course the project does not hope to cover all the historical texts of the period under study, but to concentrate on some works that we propose to analyse together, according to the programme members’ expertise and according to the perspectives that we will define on an ad hoc basis.

2. Texts on the Writing of History

This research theme is dedicated to historians and the methods of writing history. We propose to translate and study the “historiographical paratexts”, that is to say the autobiographies, the prefaces and postfaces written by historians, as well as all texts (such as for example memoires concerning throne presentations or imperial edicts) that will enable us to better understand the methods, concerns and intentions of historians from the Classical period, and perhaps slightly beyond it, in order to include the works of Sima Guang, which our dear colleague the late François Martin translated and studied.

3. Genres and Influences

With this third research theme, we hope to further explore the plurality of writings in ancient and classical historiography, articulating amongst other genres: narrative, judgement, documentation and description. Il will provide us with a special space to examine the overlap, continuation and influences between historiography and other writing practices such as the composition of collections of edifying biographies and anecdotes.

Results 2017-2023

Our work has developed along two main approaches:
The first approach involved working collectively on seminal historical works of Chinese historiography, highlighting their respective specificities, issues and structure. We focused first on Fan Ye’s Hou Han shu (History of the Later Han), a work representative of new issues in historiography in the medieval period, notably literary and moral. We then turned our attention to the founding work par excellence, the first to propose an eminently complex structure in an attempt to grasp a form of universal history, Sima Qian’s Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian), notably by organizing an international colloquium (see below) that followed on from a series of international colloquia (2008, 2009, 2011) initiated by Professor Lee Chi-hsiang, of the History Department at Foguang University in Taiwan.
The second approach has been to study the genres of historiography, thus further exploring the plurality of writing in ancient and classical historiography, which articulates, among other things, narrative, judgment, document and tableau. Thinking of historiography in terms of a literary genre encourages the discovery and examination of points of encounter, extension or influence between historiography and other scriptural practices, such as the writing of collections of edifying biographies or collections of anecdotes. In this context, we began by working on the genre of monograph, using as a case study the monographs of the Suishu (Book of Sui), which have the particularity of having been written to complete five works without monographs, and which we know circulated independently. Then we organized a panel study on the genre of the « historical essay » (shi lun), which at the conclusion of certain chapters provide a wide-ranging reflection on various historical processes. Finally, the symposium on the Shiji gave us the opportunity to work with specialists from other eras and historiographical traditions on the biographical genre.

Outlook 2023-2028

We envisage three lines of research.
The first axis will be to study the question of the anecdote in historical sources, but also in texts belonging, according to ancient Chinese bibliographies, of other categories, such as literature (the Shishuo xinyu , the Xinxu for example) or philosophical works (the Hanfeizi, the Lüshi chunqiu). In particular, we’ll be looking at the function of anecdotes and how they fit into a more general epidictic discourse. Activities in this area will take the form of one or more workshops.
The second axis will be devoted to the question of orality in historical sources, and in particular the question of speeches and dialogues. What, in particular, was the authors’ aim when they included a dialogue in a biography? What did the reader expect? What were the sources for these dialogues? What were the great models in this field? Comparisons between works of different genres and periods will be essential. A symposium is planned.
The third axis will focus on the « historiographical paratext », i.e. historians’ autobiographies, prefaces and postfaces, as well as any text (e.g. memoirs of presentation to the Throne or imperial edicts) that would help to better identify the methods, issues and intentions of historians of the classical period, and even slightly beyond, to include some of Sima Guang’s writings, which our late colleague François Martin had studied and translated but not formally published. Eventually, we plan to produce a collective work along the lines of François Hartog’s L’histoire d’Homère à Augustin. Préfaces des historiens et textes sur l’histoire (Paris, Le Seuil, 1999), or, in a different vein, the Comment lire un roman chinois (Arles, Picquier, 2001), edited by Jacques Dars and Chan Hingho.


Within the framework of this program, several workshops and symposiums have been organized:
• Workshop “Genres de l’Historiographie”, Université Paris Diderot, 25 February 2017.
• International symposium: “Fan Ye’s History of the Later Han”, Collège de France, 13 September 2017.
• Panel « The genre of historical disquisition (shilun ) from the Early Medieval period to the Song dynasty », organized by B. L’Haridon, with four researchers, Hugo Dubois-Mouro (Université Paris Cité), Sebastian Eicher (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität), Bingwei Jia (Université Paris Cité) et Béatrice L’Haridon (Université Paris Cité), 23e Conférence biennale de l’Association Européenne d’Études Chinoises (EACS), Leipzig, 24-27 août 2021.
• 4e international conference on the Shiji, « Lives and power in the Records of the historian: The destinies of the biographical genre », Collège de France, 18-20 mai 2022


• Damien Chaussende & Daniel P. Morgan (dir.), The Treatises of the Suishu, Springer, 2019.
• Hans van Ess & Béatrice L’Haridon (dir.), Special Section on the Hou Hanshu, in Monumenta Serica 67.1 (2019).
• Damien Chaussende, Section editor on the entries on ancient and imperial China, Encyclopédie des Historiographies : Afriques, Amériques, Asies, vol. 1 : sources et genres historiques, Nathalie Kouamé, Eric P. Meyer, Anne Viguier (dir.), Paris, Presses de l’Inalco, 2020
• Béatrice L’Haridon, « Remonstrance in a declining empire: The case of Chen Fan, minister of Emperors Huan and Ling of the Eastern Han dynasty », in Thomas Crone, Paul Fahr and Christian Schwermann et (dir.), Perduring Protest? Perspectives on the History of Remonstrance in China, Göttingen : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht/Bonn University Press, 2023.



history historiography



Damien Chaussende (CNRS)
Béatrice L’Haridon (Université Paris Cité)

CRCAO members

Full members
Damien Chaussende (CNRS)
Béatrice L’Haridon (Université Paris Cité)
Sylvie Hureau (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Alexis Lycas (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Daniel Patrick Morgan (CNRS)

Associated members
Julie Gary-Bonte (Independent)
Adrien Dupuis (Université de Pékin)

Research support
Garance Chao Zhang (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Laetitia Chhiv (Independent)

Outside Participants

Chen Jianmei (Zhejiang University)
Grégoire Espesset (Groupe Société, Religions, Laïcité)
Hans van Ess (Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität)
Michael Nylan (University of California, Berkeley)