Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fang Hui

Fang Hui was a scholar of the late and early from Huizhou's 徽州 She4 歙 county , who lived from 1227-1307.

Sima Guang

Sīmǎ Guāng was a historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song Dynasty.

Life, profession, and works

He was born in 1019 in present-day to a wealthy family, and obtained early success as a scholar and officer. When he was barely twenty, he passed the Imperial examination with the highest rank of ''jìnshì'' , and spent the next several years in official positions.

In 1064, Sima presented to Emperor Yingzong of Song a book of five volumes , the ''Liniantu'' . It chronologically summarized events in Chinese history from 403 BCE to 959 CE, and was something like a prospectus for sponsorship of his ambitious project in historiography. These dates were chosen because 403 BCE was the beginning of the Warring States period, when the ancient State of Jin was subdivided, which eventually led to the establishment of the Qin Dynasty; and because 959 CE was the end of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period and the beginning of the Song Dynasty.

In 1066, he presented a more detailed 8-volume ''Tongzhi'' , which chronicled Chinese history from 403 BCE to 207 BCE . The emperor issued an edict for compiling a groundbreaking universal history of China, granting full access to the imperial libraries, and allocating funds for all the costs of compilation, including research assistance by experienced historians such as Liu Ban , Liu Shu , and Fan Zuyu . After Yingzong died in 1067, Sima was invited to the palace to introduce his work in progress to Emperor Shenzong of Song. The new emperor not only confirmed the interest his father had shown, but proclaimed his favor by changing the title from ''Tongzhi'' to the honorific ''Zizhi Tongjian'' . Scholars interpret this titular "Mirror" to mean a work of reference and guidance; indicating that Shenzong accepted Sima as his mentor in the science of history and its application to government. The emperor maintained his support for compiling this comprehensive history for decades until it was completed in 1084.

Such loyalty is notable, especially since Sima was a leader of the conservative faction at court, resolutely opposed to the reformist policies of Chancellor Wang Anshi. Sima presented increasingly critical memorials to the throne until 1070, when he refused further appointment and withdrew from court. In 1071, he took up residence in Luoyang, where he remained with an official sinecure, providing sufficient time and resources to continue compilation. Indeed, though the historian and the emperor continued to disagree on policies, Sima's enforced retirement proved essential for him to fully complete his chronological history.

Sima Guang was also a lexicographer , and spent decades compiling his 1066 ''Leipian'' dictionary. It was based on the Shuowen Jiezi, and included 31,319 Chinese characters, many of which were coined in the Song and Tang Dynasty.

Sima Guang is best remembered for his ''Zizhi Tongjian'' masterwork, and Rafe de Crespigny describes him as "perhaps the greatest of all Chinese historians" .

There is a folktale that Sima Guang broke a great ceramic container where a boy was drowning. It is called SIMA GUANG DA PO GANG, which could simply be a play on his name for rhyming.

Ma Duanlin

Ma Duanlin , was a historical writer and encyclop?dist. In 1317 he published the 348 volumes comprehensive Chinese encyclopedia ''Wenxian Tongkao''.

Hu Sansheng

Hu Sansheng , born Hu Mansun , courtesy names Shenzhi , Meijian , and Jingcan , was a historian and commentator who lived during the late Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty.

Hu was born in Ninghai . He was a mid-level official under the prime minister Jia Sidao during the 1250s. After the fall of Song, he hid himself in the country, and he spent the next few years, until the end of his life, writing his influential corrections and commentaries for the ''Zizhi Tongjian''. Hu's commentaries are considered highly valuable for readers of the work.

Xue Juzheng

Xue Jucheng was a historian and scholar who served under the Song Dynasty, as well as four of the Five Dynasties that preceded the Song. Xue is best known for compiling the ''Five Dynasties History'' which was put together in the 960s and 970s.

Xue was born during the Later Liang, the first of the Five Dynasties. He received his Jinshi examination degree during the Later Tang. He continued to serve the remaining three dynasties of the Five Dynasties, the , Later Han, and the Later Zhou.

When the Song Dynasty replaced the Later Zhou in 960, Xue took service with the new dynasty as he had with dynasties prior to the new rulers of northern China. During the first two decades of the Song, Xue set about to compiling a history of the Five Dynasties.

Entitled ''Five Dynasties History'', the main purpose of the work was to reinforce the claim of the Song to the Mandate of Heaven from the Tang Dynasty through the Five Dynasties to the reigning Song.

Death and legacy

Xue did not live much longer than after compilation of the ''Five Dynasties History'' in 974, dying in 981. However, his legacy of writing a history of a previous era of Chinese history for the purpose of bolstering the current patron dynasty would be repreated later in Chinese history, notably with the Yuan Dynasty’s writing of the ''History of Liao''.

Zhang Xi (Chinese official)

Zhang Xi , formally the Duke of Pingyuan , was an official of the dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian's Zhou Dynasty, serving as on two occasions.


It is not known when Zhang Xi was born, but it is known that he came from a line that had served for generations as officials of Northern Wei, Northern Qi, Sui Dynasty, and Tang Dynasty. Zhang Xi's father Zhang Wencong served as a deputy minister during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang, and his uncle Zhang Wenguan served as a .

During Wu Zetian's reign

The first historical reference to Zhang Xi's own career as an official was in 700, during the reign of Emperor Gaozong's wife Wu Zetian, when Zhang Xi was serving as the deputy minister of civil service affairs . On that occasion, Zhang Changyi , the brother of Wu Zetian's lovers Zhang Yizhi and Zhang Changzong, had received a bribe from a reserve official with the surname of Xue to ask to be given an actual commission. Zhang Changyi took the bribe and his certificate of reserve commission and gave the certificate to Zhang Xi, ordering him to find a position for the man. Several days later, Zhang Xi found that he had misplaced the certificate, and he met Zhang Changyi to ask him what to do -- to which Zhang Changyi replied, "How am I supposed to remember what his name was? The only way to salvage the situation is to give a commission to everyone named Xue." Zhang Xi, in fear, left Zhang Changyi's presence, and gave commissions some 60 reserve officials named Xue. Later in 700, Zhang Xi was made ''Fengge Shilang'' , the deputy head of the legislative bureau of government and given the designation ''Tong Fengge Luantai Pingzhangshi'' , making him a chancellor ''de facto''. At that time, Zhang Xi's nephew Li Jiao was already serving as chancellor, and as Wu Zetian did not want both uncle and nephew to serve as chancellors simultaneously, she removed Li Jiao from his office, but it was still regarded as a great honor to the family at the time to have him succeed his nephew. He continued to serve in the capacity as selector of officials, along with Zheng Gao .

In 701, Zhang Xi was accused of revealing palace secrets and accepting bribes, and he was set to be executed. At the time of his arrest, he rode a horse to the jail for high level officials, and continued, once there, to enjoy luxurious meals, while another chancellor who was also arrested, Su Weidao, slept on a mat on the floor and ate very simple meals. When Wu Zetian heard this, she released Su and returned him to office, while setting an execution date for Zhang Xi, but at the last moment spared him and exiled him to Xun Prefecture .

After Wu Zetian's reign

Wu Zetian was overthrown in a coup in 705, and her son the Crown Prince, formerly emperor, was restored to the throne . Sometime during Emperor Zhongzong's reign, Zhang Xi was recalled to serve as the minister of public works and was also in charge of editing imperial histories, and was eventually put in charge of the eastern capital Luoyang.

In 710, Emperor Zhongzong suddenly died -- a death that traditional historians believed to be a poisoning carried out by his powerful wife and daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle, so that Empress Wei could become "emperor" like Wu Zetian did and that Li Guo'er could become crown princess. Meanwhile, though, Emperor Zhongzong's son by a concubine, the Prince of Wen, was made emperor, with Empress Wei retaining power as empress dowager and regent. She conferred on Zhang Xi the designation of ''Tong Zhongshu Menxia Sanpin'' , again making him chancellor ''de facto'', but had him remain in charge at Luoyang. Less than a month later, she and Li Guo'er were killed in a coup led by Emperor Zhongzong's sister Princess Taiping and nephew the Prince of Linzi, and Li Longji's father the Prince of Xiang, himself a former emperor, was restored to the throne . Emperor Ruizong demoted all of the chancellors that Empress Dowager Wei had commissioned, and Zhang Xi was demoted to be the prefect of Jiang Prefecture . Sometime after that, he was created the Duke of Pingyuan, and died after his retirement, but the date of his death is not known.

Yuan Zai

Yuan Zai , courtesy name Gongfu , formally Viscount Huang of Xuchang and then Viscount Chengzong of Xuchang , was an official of the Tang Dynasty, serving as a during the reigns of and , becoming particularly powerful during the middle of Emperor Daizong's reign. He was said to be very capable as an official, but also treacherous and corrupt. His behavior eventually wore out Emperor Daizong's patience, and he was arrested and executed.


It is not known when Yuan Zai was born, but it was known that his family was from Qi Prefecture . His father's name was originally Jing Sheng . Jing Sheng became the property manager for Princess Yuan, the wife of Li Ming the Prince of Cao, a son of Emperor Taizong of Tang, who was probably from the lineage of Northern Wei's imperial Yuan clan. He served her well, and she helped him to be adopted into her Yuan clan, and his name was changed to Yuan Sheng. Yuan Zai lost his father early in life, and it was said that in his youth, he was studious and intelligent, and particularly well-studied in Taoist writings. He was so poor that he went to the local examinations on foot, and he repeatedly failed to advance in the examinations.

During Emperor Xuanzong's reign

Early in the ''Tianbao'' era of , Emperor Xuanzong began to favor Taoism, and he scheduled a special examination for scholars well-versed in the ''Zhuangzi'', '''', ''Liezi'', and ''Wenzi''. Yuan Zai did well on this special examination and was made the sheriff of Xinping County . When the imperial censor Wei Yi was put in charge of selecting officials from Qianzhong Circuit , he invited Yuan to serve as his assistant. After Yuan became better known, he was promoted to be ''Dali PIngshi'' , a secretary at the supreme court . Later, when the official Miao Jinqing served as the official in charge of the eastern capital Luoyang, he also invited Yuan to serve as his assistant. After that term of service, Yuan became ''Dali Sizhi'' , a junior judge at the supreme court.

During Emperor Suzong's reign

In 755, the general An Lushan rebelled at Fanyang Circuit and established his own state of , throwing the Tang realm into a state of war and confusion. Yuan Zai fled to the region south of the Yangtze River during the war. Li Xiyan , the surveyor of Jiangdong Circuit commissioned Yuan as his deputy and the prefect of Hong Prefecture . After Emperor Xuanzong's son and successor recaptured the capital Chang'an and Luoyang from Yan forces, Yuan was recalled to the imperial government to serve as a junior official at the ministry of census . When he met Emperor Suzong, Emperor Suzong was impressed by his quick thinking, and gave him several responsibilities -- deputy minister of census , deputy chief imperial censor , and the director of financial matters of the Yangtze-Huai River region. Believing that the Yangtze-Huai region was still comparably wealthy compared to the rest of the realm, Yuan taxed the region heavily to replenish the imperial treasuries, sometimes taxing as much as 80% to 90% of the people's assets, leading to much flight and banditry in the region.

Meanwhile, Yuan began a close association with the powerful eunuch Li Fuguo, through Li Fuguo's wife Lady Yuan, who was a clanswoman of Yuan Zai's. In 762, at Li Fuguo's recommendation, Yuan was named the mayor of the special municipality that included Chang'an, Jingzhao Municipality . Yuan then met Li Fuguo and earnestly declined the post -- and Li Fuguo understood this to mean that he wanted an office ''higher'' than being the mayor of Jingzhao. The next day, when the Xiao Hua was removed from his office, Yuan was given the designation of ''Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi'' , making him a chancellor ''de facto''. He also continued to be in charge of financial matters.

During Emperor Daizong's reign

Emperor Suzong died later that year, and after a bloody struggle between Emperor Suzong's wife and Li Fuguo , Emperor Suzong's son and crown prince became emperor . For a while, Li Fuguo had even greater powerful than before. Yuan Zai continued to serve as chancellor and, knowing that Li Fuguo resented Xiao Hua , Yuan made false accusations against Xiao, leading to Xiao's exile. Yuan was soon made ''Zhongshu Shilang'' , the deputy head of the legislative bureau of government , and continued to serve as chancellor. He was also created the Viscount of Xuchang. In 763, during a surprise attack by Tufan forces against Chang'an (which forced Emperor Daizong to flee to Shan Prefecture , Emperor Daizong made the general Guo Ziyi the supreme commander of Tang forces in the Guanzhong region and made Yuan Guo's military advisor. When Emperor Daizong returned to Chang'an that year, the official Yan Zhenqing proposed that he offer sacrifices at the imperial ancestral tombs and temple first, before returning to the palace. Yuan refused to endorse Yan's proposal, and Yan, exasperated, stated, "How can you, lord chancellor, continue to harm the government?" This led Yuan to be resentful toward Yan. Meanwhile, when Emperor Daizong removed Miao Jinqing and Pei Zunqing from their chancellor posts after returning to Chang'an, it was said that Yuan became even more powerful. He bribed Emperor Daizong's eunuch attendant Dong Xiu and had his subordinate Zhuo Yingqian serve as a liaison to Dong. Through Dong and Zhuo, he was able to keep a close watch on what Emperor Daizong's opinions were and were able to agree with Emperor Daizong's opinions closely, thus drawing greater favor from the emperor. As he was finding the financial affairs too overwhelming for him to handle in addition to the chancellor duties, he transferred his financial affairs duties to his friend . It was said that by this point, Yuan was exceedingly powerful, and his wife Lady Wang and his sons were abusing power. Meanwhile, though, with Li Fuguo and Cheng Yuanzhen having successively been removed, Yu Chao'en had become a powerful eunuch, and he and Yuan did not get along with each other, and while the two did not openly dispute with each other, for the next several years, the power struggle between them would be a strong undercurrent in Tang court politics.

In 765, when Tufan sent emissaries to propose peace with Tang, Emperor Daizong had Yuan and fellow chancellor Du Hongjian meet with them to swear peace.

In 766, with Yuan being very powerful and fearing that people would submit secret accusations to Emperor Daizong against him, he proposed that before officials could submit letters to the emperor, they must first receive approval from their superiors -- thus hoping to cut off this avenue of secret submissions. Yan, then the minister of justice, vehemently opposed, pointing out that this would lead to the rise of another Li Linfu -- who used similar methods to block off criticism against him during his service as Emperor Xuanzong's chancellor. Yuan, already resentful of Yan, accused Yan of defamation and had Yan exiled. Later that year, when Yu, during a lecture on the ''I Ching'', tried to satirize the chancellors by talking about how a '''' would overturn if imbalanced, Yuan's fellow chancellor Wang Jin, was visibly incensed, but Yuan remained calm and pleasant, leading Yu to comment, "It is common for the target to get angry, but one who remains smiling needs to be paid attention to even more carefully."

By 767, it was said that Emperor Daizong, Yuan, Wang, and Du were all devout in Buddhism, with Wang particularly so. With the emperor and the chancellors leading the way, the populace was also largely devoutly Buddhist -- so much so that the energy of the government and the people were spent on worshipping, not on affairs of the state.

In 768, with Tufan continuing to carry out incursions on a yearly basis, Yuan came up with a solution -- as he believed that at that time, the only major army on the Tufan border, commanded by the general Ma Lin , was inadequate to defend against Tufan attacks. He proposed that Ma's army be moved from Bin and Ning to Jing Prefecture , while the stronger army under Guo's command, then at Hezhong be moved to Bin Prefecture. To alleviate fears that the border prefectures, then laid fallow by the wars with Tufan forces, would be inadequate to supply this large army, Yuan committed to sending revenues from the interior prefectures to supply it. Meanwhile, he tried to sow seeds of suspicion between Guo and Yu, but was unable to do so.

In 769, with Du having died, Yuan recommended an old superior, the senior official Pei Mian, who had also recommended him before, to be chancellor. Pei, however, would die shortly after himself.

In 770, with Emperor Daizong's patience about Yu's hold on the imperial guards -- with which Yu was able to dominate the Chang'an region -- finally wearing thin, Yuan secretly conferred with Emperor Daizong and persuaded Emperor Daizong to act against Yu. Yuan bribed two close associates of Yu's -- the guard commander Zhou Hao and the general Huangfu Wen -- and was able to get full grasp of Yu's activities. In spring 770, at Yuan's suggestion, Emperor Daizong carried out several moves that were intending to be preludes to eliminating Yu -- moving the general Li Baoyu from being the military governor of Fengxiang Circuit to Shannan West Circuit , while moving Huangfu, then the military governor of Shan Circuit to Fengxiang -- while allaying Yu's suspicions by transferring control of four counties near Chang'an to the imperial guards, under Yu's command. Soon, when Huangfu arrived in Chang'an, Yuan laid a trap for Yu with Huangfu's and Zhou's soldiers, and at a secret meeting between Emperor Daizong and Yu, Yuan and Emperor Daizong acted and killed Yu.

After Yu's death, Yuan became even more powerful and corrupt. He also became extremely confident of his own abilities, and was living luxuriously, beyond his means. With Yang Guan the deputy minister of civil service affairs not willing to bow to his wishes in determining official commissions, he made Yang the principal of the imperial university and replaced him with a corrupt official, Xu Hao , who followed his orders. Emperor Daizong by now had heard about Yuan's corruption, but wanted to maintain a good relationship with him. He therefore several times personally urged Yuan to curb his ways, but Yuan could not change his ways, beginning to cause him to lose Emperor Daizong's favor. In 771, Emperor Daizong, without seeking Yuan's concurrence and without foreknowledge on Yuan's part, named the official Li Qiyun the chief imperial censor. It was said that this marked the beginning of the fall of Yuan's power. Indeed, in 773, after Li Qiyun indicted several of Yuan's associates -- Xu Hao, Xue Yong , Du Ji , and Yu Shao -- causing them to be demoted out of the capital, it was said that corruption became somewhat curbed at court.

Meanwhile, though, Yuan was working on another military project -- proposing that Yuan Prefecture -- formerly Tang territory, but now in a no-man's land between Tang and Tufan, with neither side guarding it -- be rebuilt; that Ma's forces be moved from Jing Prefecture to Yuan Prefecture; and that Guo's forces be moved from Bin Prefecture to Jing Prefecture; and that these posts then be used as bases of further forward advances against Tufan. Emperor Daizong consulted with the general Tian Shen'gong about this plan, and Tian responded, "Battling and judging the status of enemies is difficult even for well-seasoned generals. Why would Your Imperial Majesty listen to a civilian and put the entire realm's forces under his control?" Yuan's wife Lady Wang, as well as his sons Yuan Bohe , Yuan Zhongwu , and Yuan Ji'neng , were all executed. His family tombs and temples were destroyed, and his assets were confiscated. It was said that Yuan had large storages of pepper as well as gold, silver, and other treasures. Only his daughter Yuan Zhenyi , then already a Buddhist nun, was spared, but she was confiscated to be a servant inside the palace. A large number of Yuan's associates, including Yang Yan , Han Hui , Bao Ji , and Han Hui , were demoted.

After Emperor Daizong died in 778 and was succeeded by Emperor Dezong, Emperor Dezong remembered that Yuan was involved in his being named crown prince. In 784, he posthumously restored Yuan's titles and offices and permitted him to be reburied properly. Yuan's subordinates Xu Chu , Yang Jiao , and Ji Tao paid out of their pockets to rebury Yuan. Yuan was also given the posthumous name of ''Huang'' , later changed to the slightly less derogatory ''Chengzong'' .