Section from one of the original scrolls of the Zizhi Tongjian
|Author||Sima Guang et al.|
|Subject||History of China|
|Literal meaning||"Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance"|
The Zizhi Tongjian (Chinese: ?; lit. 'Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance') is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered 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 complete, and in 1084 AD, it was presented to his successor Emperor Shenzong of Song. The Zizhi Tongjian records Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1400 years, and contains 294 volumes (?) and about 3 million Chinese characters.
The principal text of the Zizhi Tongjian was recorded on 294 juan (Chinese: ?), 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. The major contributor, Sima (family name) Guang, was active in each step from collecting events and dates from various previous works to drafting and publication.
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 (?) of rulers, and biographies (?) of officials. In Chinese terms, the book changed the format of histories from biographical style () to chronological style (), 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. It remains an extraordinarily useful first reference for a quick and reliable coverage of events at a particular time." 
The 294 juan sweep through several Chinese historical periods (Warring States, Qin, Han, Three Kingdoms, Jin and the Sixteen Kingdoms, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties). It was one of the largest historical compilations (magna opera) in history.
In the 12th century, Zhu Xi produced a reworked, condensed version of Zizhi Tongjian, known as Tongjian Gangmu, or Zizhi Tongjian Gangmu (?). This condensed version was itself later translated into Manchu as
(Translteration: Tung giyan g'ang mu), upon the request of Qing Dynasty Kangxi Emperor. This Manchu version was itself translated into French by Jesuit missionary Joseph-Anna-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla. His twelve-volume translation, "Histoire générale de la Chine, ou Annales de cet Empire; traduit du Tong-kien-kang-mou par de Mailla" was published posthumously in Paris in 1777-1783.
The Zhonghua Shuju edition contains textual criticism made by Yuan Dynasty historian Hu Sanxing. The philosopher Wang Fuzhi also wrote a commentary on Tongjian, titled "Comments after reading the Tongjian" (?, "Du Tongjian Lun").
Historian Rafe de Crespigny has published translations of chapters 54-59 and 59-69 under the titles "Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling" and "To Establish Peace" (Australian National University), respectively, covering 157-220 CE, while the next ten chapters (70-79) covering up to 265 CE were previously translated by Achilles Fang in "The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms" (Harvard University Press). Chapters 1-8, covering the years 403-207 BCE, have been translated into English with copious notes and annotations. Some additional sections of Zizhi Tongjian pertaining to the Xiongnu people from Northern China have been translated into English.
The book consisted of 294 chapters, of which the following number describe each respective dynastic era: