During the Taiping Era, Emperor Taizong of Song issued an imperial decree for scholars to compile books on art and literature, philosophy and the Confucian classics in a work entitled Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era. Meanwhile, historical anecdotes, biographies, supernatural tales and fiction were appended in an entirely separate work known as Tales from the Taiping Era. Since many scholars felt that the latter work held little practical value for future readers, Tales from the Taiping Era was tucked away and remained relatively unknown.
Tales from the Taiping Era is a collection of stories. The stories are gathered from scattered anecdotes and legends a full one hundred years before the Taiping Era (Western Yuan, December 976 to November 984). The era during which the work was compiled, therefore, not only included the Taiping Era of the Northern Song, but also included the Guangyun Period of the Northern Han, as well as the Mingzhen Period in Dali and the Zhongxing Period in Anding, the Bao Ding and Tianheng Periods in the Liao Kingdom as well as the Tianzung to the Zhongxing periods of the Yutian Kingdom. The Tales, therefore, were penned by unknown writers living in different historical periods. The editors of The Tales were by in large imperial scholars living subsequently in the Late Han, the Late Zhou, the Southern Tang and the Late Jin. But that’ s not the key issue. What is important, however, is that readers do not have to focus on the authenticity of the stories even though the when, where and who are all clearly designated in this work since events recorded in Tales from the Taiping Era were based on legends and unusual accounts, but delivered as if they were the words of wild men muttering in their sleep. As artist Wu Shanzhuan has said, all stories eventually come true – if it doesn’ t happen here, then it is bound to happen there.