Nèishìshěng (內侍省) -- The Eunuch bureau (note different tone than the legislative bureau above), later changed by Emperor Wen's son Emperor Yang of Sui to Diànnèishěng (殿內省)
Under Emperor Wen, the executive bureau was regarded as the most important, and he had his most honored officials such as Gao Jiong, Yang Su, and Su Wei lead it at various points. Its heads were generally regarded as chancellors (as it always had two heads, known as the Shàngshūpúshè (尚書僕射)). Ouyang asserts, however, that the heads of the examination and legislative bureaus were also considered chancellors.
The Tang dynasty founder Emperor Gaozu initially followed the Sui's system of governance, including the five-bureau organization. However, he deviated from his predecessors by creating a single head for the executive bureau, known as the Shàngshūlǐng (尚書令) and appointed the office to his second son and future emperor Lǐ Shìmín (李世民). After Li Shimin became emperor in 626, the office was left vacant because none of his officials dared to occupy it. Thus from the year 626 the executive bureau was headed by its two vice-directors, the Shàngshūpúshè. Around this time, probably by Emperor Taizong's orders, the institution of multiple chancellors was formalized, with the heads of the executive, examination, and legislative (which was renamed the Zhōngshūshěng (中書省)) bureaus regarded as the chancellors. As there were often, but not always, more than one head for the examination and legislative bureaus, there were not necessarily only four chancellors. Emperor Taizong's reign also began to designate certain high-level officials, even though they were not heads of one of the bureaus, as chancellors, with titles such as Cānyù Cháozhèng (參豫朝政, literally "participator in the administration's governance"). Yet later in 643, he revised the designation and formalized it as the Tóngzhōngshūménxiàsānpǐn (同中書門下三品, literally meaning "equivalent to the officials with the third rank from the Zhōngshū and the Ménxià") — because the heads of the legislative bureau, the Zhōngshūlǐng (中書令), and the examination bureau, the Shìzhōng (侍中), were of the third rank. These officials were rendered as "chancellors de facto'" Shízhìzǎixiàng (實質宰相) by the Chinese historian Bo Yang in his modern Chinese edition of the Zizhi Tongjian.
Throughout Tang history, the names of the examination and legislative bureaus were changed multiple times, and so the designation of Tóngzhōngshū Ménxià Sānpǐn was frequently changed in response thereof. For example, during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, when the legislative bureau was briefly known as the Zǐwéishěng (紫微省) and the examination bureau the Huángménshěng (黃門省), the chancellors de facto were known as the Tóng Zǐwéi Huángmén Sānpǐn. A lesser designation, with the same powers, was created in 682 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong, and was initially known as the TóngZhōngshū Ménxià Píngzhāngshì (同中書門下平章事, literally "equivalent to the participators from the Zhōngshū and the Ménxià"), rendered by Bo as "chancellors de facto second grade." Later in Tang history, after the Anshi Rebellion, while the chancellor-de facto designation was not officially abolished, it was no longer in use, as the last chancellor to be designated as such was Li Lin, in 757–758, and the chancellor-de facto-of-second-grade designation became very common and was used for the rest of Tang history. Furthermore, after 705, the heads of the executive bureau were no longer considered chancellors unless they received the chancellor-de facto designation of either kind. Throughout the early dynasty until the second reign of Emperor Ruizong in 710, variations of the Canyu Chaozheng also continued appearing, including Canzhi Jiwu (參知機務, literally "participator in important matters"), Canzhang Jimi (參掌機密, literally "participator in national secret matters"), Canzhi Zhengshi (參知政事, literally "participator in governance matters"), Canmou Zhengshi (參謀政事, similarly in meaning to Canzhi Zhengshi) also appeared, which Bo rendered as "chancellors de facto of the third class."
The chancellors periodically met together at the Zhengshi Tang (政事堂, literally "the Hall of State Matters"), originally physically located within the examination bureau. In 683, when Pei Yan, then the head of the examination bureau, became the head of the legislative bureau, the Zhengshi Tang was moved from the examination bureau to the legislative bureau. Later, during Emperor Xuanzong's reign, when Zhang Shuo became chancellor, he changed the name to Zhongshu Menxia (中書門下), apparently employing a double entendre, as when the terms were put together, they meant, "within the doors of the Zhongshu." Zhang also reorganized the Hall by creating five offices under the chancellors—in charge of civil service, state secrets, military matters, governance, and criminal law, respectively. Later in the dynasty—starting during the reign of Emperor Suzong — the chancellors begin to rotate off-days so that at least one would always be on duty; when submissions were to be made to the emperor, they were signed in the names of all chancellors, whether on duty or not. The name of their meeting place also changed back to Zhengshi Tang.
List of Tang chancellors
This list includes the chancellors during the Zhou Dynasty of Wu Zetian, even though the propriety of considering it as part of the Tang Dynasty is disputed. The list does not include people who served as regional governors who were given the titles as honorific titles. The chancellors under the pretenders Li Yun and Li Yu, Prince of De are listed, but not the chancellors under the pretender Li Chenghong because, while Li Chenghong was described to have multiple chancellors, only two (Yu Kefeng (于可封) and Huo Huan (霍環)) was named in historical accounts, and Yu and Huo's actual titles were not given in those accounts.
Heads of the Executive Bureau
The executive bureau had these changes in name:
Shangshu Sheng (尚書省) (618–662)
Zhong Tai (中臺) (662–670)
Shangshu Sheng (670–684)
Wenchang Tai (文昌臺) (684)
Wenchang Dusheng (文昌都省) (684–685)
Wenchang Dutai (文昌都臺) (685–703)
Zhong Tai (703–705)
Shangshu Sheng (705–907)
Correspondingly, the heads of the executive bureau, considered chancellors from 618 to 705, had these titles during those periods:
Shangshu Ling (尚書令) (618–626)
Shangshu Puye (尚書僕射) (618–662)
Kuangzheng (匡政) (662–670)
Shangshu Puye (670–684)
Wenchang Xiang (文昌相) (684–705)
Shangshu Puye (705–713)
Cheng Xiang (丞相) (713–742)
Shangshu Puye (742–907)
The men who held the office included (including the Shangshu Puye during Emperor Gaozu's reign, even though at that time the office was for the deputy heads of the Shangshu Sheng):
The office recurred as variations of the pre-formalization titles, even after formalization of the chancellors de facto offices of the first and second grades, but did not regularly recur after 713. Liu Youqiu, who held the title as Zhi Junguo Zhongshi, was the last person to hold any variation of the title as chancellor as a regular title, although Pei Du would hold the title of Pingzhang Junguo Zhongshi (平章軍國重事) briefly in 830. Toward the end of the dynasty, Li Zhirou was briefly put temporarily in charge of the Office of the Chancellors in 895 with the designation Quanzhi Zhongshu Shi (權知中書事) and therefore could be regarded as a chancellor as well (and was listed in the table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang); similarly, Lu Guangqi went through two similar titles.
^However, one of Li Lin's contemporaries, Lü Yin, was said to have carried the title as well when he became chancellor in 759 until his removal in 760, but the table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang did not indicate such. See Old Book of Tang, vol. 185, part 2Archived September 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine and New Book of Tang, vol. 140Archived 2008-09-21 at the Wayback Machine.
^ abcSomewhat inconsistent with accounts about Shangshu Puye not being a chancellor post after 705, Doulu, Tang, and Wei were still referred in the table of chancellors while holding those posts during Emperor Zhongzong's second reign. See New Book of Tang, vol. 61.
^By this point, Shangshu Puye was ordinarily not considered a position for a chancellor any more. However, the table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang listed Li Chengqi as a chancellor. See New Book of Tang, vol. 61.
^ abcThe table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang, vol. 61, recorded that Pei became Neishi in 685 and became Nayan in 686, but then again recorded in 687 that he became Nayan. According to the chronicles of Wu Zetian's reign in the Old Book of Tang, vol. 6,"Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 25, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), he became Neishi in 685 and Nayan in 687. According to the chronicles of Wu Zetian's reign in the New Book of Tang, vol. 4 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), he became Neishi in 686 and Nayan in 687.
^ abcdefThe table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang had several entries with regard to chancellor movements during Wu Zetian's reign that were considered errant entries (as they were immediately duplicated within other subsequent entries) by both its commentators and Sima Guang, the lead editor of the Zizhi Tongjian, and accordingly, those entries are not considered here. Further, it gave no date for the end of Lu Yuanfang's second stint as chancellor, but the Zizhi Tongjian did. See New Book of Tang, vol. 61.
^Zhu Mei, who was the main supporter of the pretender Li Yun, had himself commissioned as Shizhong in 886 during Li Yun's brief reign, but is not listed among the official list of Tang chancellors in the New Book of Tang.
^Li Zhongchen joined Zhu Ci's state of Qin in 783 and served as a chancellor for Qin, but the table of chancellors in the New Book of Tang continued to regard Li Zhongchen as a chancellor until he was captured and executed by Tang forces in 784.
^Han Huang was not listed in the table of chancellors, perhaps because he was still then military governor (Jiedushi) of Zhenhai Circuit (鎮海, headquartered in modern Zhenjiang, Jiangsu) and therefore arguably only an honorary chancellor, but he was listed in the table of chancellors' family trees, in the New Book of Tang. Compare New Book of Tang, vol. 62, with New Book of Tang, vol. 73."Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved April 8, 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)"Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
^Zheng Tian was listed in the official list of Tang chancellors for a brief duration in 881 as well; however, at that time, when Emperor Xizong had fled the capital Chang'an in response to the attack by the agrarian rebel Huang Chao, Zheng was serving as the military governor (Jiedushi) of Fengxiang Circuit (鳳翔, headquartered in modern Baoji, Shaanxi) in defense against further attacks by Huang, and therefore, despite that listing, he will not be considered a chancellor in 881.
^Pei Che served as the chancellor of the pretender Li Yun from 886 to 887, but was not officially removed from his chancellorship for the commonly recognized Emperor Xizong until he was executed in 887.
^Xiao Gou served as the chancellor of the pretender Li Yun briefly in 886, but was not officially removed from his chancellorship for the commonly recognized Emperor Xizong until he was executed in 887.
^Zheng Changtu is not listed in the official list of Tang chancellors in the New Book of Tang because he served under the pretender Li Yun.
^ abcXu Jingzong, Gao Jifu, and Zhang Xingcheng were referred to as de facto chancellors by the New Book of Tang, vol. 61, but this appeared to be a temporary measure during the Goguryeo campaign with Emperor Taizong out of Tang territory and Li Zhi in charge temporarily. Xu, Gao, Zhang (each of whom would be later made chancellor) were not again referred to as chancellors until they were made chancellors after Emperor Taizong's death, even though they were not explicitly removed.