A Biographical Dictionary of the Qin, Former Han and Xin Periods (221 BC - AD 24)
The prime purpose of this study of the named men and women who lived and died between 221 BC and AD 25 is to meet the needs of those who are directly concerned with the history of China’s first empires. It is also hoped that it may be of assistance to historians of other cultures who may be tempted to enquire into the lives of those who built and operated great structures that were in some ways comparable with those of empires such as Rome or Byzantium.
The book is designed to be a work of reference that will serve students who are embarking on a study of the primary sources for that period, sinologists who do not specialise in the history of the early empires, and historians of cultures and empires that grew up outside China. It is intended to provide the help that is sorely needed by newcomers to Chinese historical texts, who are seeking in some despair to find answers to immediate questions of the time, place and context of the passages with which they wrestle. It is hoped to lead students of later periods of Chinese history to the basic background information for the references or comparisons that adorn the writings of Chinese officials or poets of Tang, Song or Qing times; for such writers assumed that their readers shared their own intellectual heritage and scholarly knowledge; they could hardly think that the allusions in their essays or their verses would baffle the understanding of those who had not received a training and education similar to their own. In addition the book is designed to help historians of other civilisations who chance upon a name of Qin or Han times in secondary writings and wish to understand better the personalities and situations to which their attention has been drawn. While it is in no sense intended to be an exercise in sociological research, its content could conceivably form the raw material for such a study, whose value and reliability would however be severely limited by the nature of the sources that are available. Of necessity it is not possible to provide here anything more than a summary for those notable figures who bestride Qin and Han history and yet await the research that they merit.
The book should be seen more as a source book than as a series of critical biographies. It seeks to collect and summarise for the reader the information that our sources provide in respect of the lives and careers of the individuals who are mentioned. As is well known those sources are at times biassed, inaccurate or incomplete, and they include material that is better classed as fiction than as verifiable fact. As such anecdotes are themselves sometimes worth recording, in so far as they feature in Chinese poetry or drama of later years, in certain cases they have been included, with a note to warn an unwary reader of such failings. 1 The entries in this book also note cases when the sources themselves include an appraisal that is worthy of note, or a number of different or even contradictory assessments of an individual.
There is no place in this volume for a detailed account of the main historical trends of the period as may be found elsewhere. Thus, as a source book rather than a history of institutions, the book records the deliberate closure of over 100 nobilities in 112 BC under each appropriate entry; it does not set out to examine the circumstances, motives or consequences of such a decision. 2 To enable readers to set the lives of individuals in the context of their times, historical summaries are provided in the somewhat long entries that are provided for each of the emperors. Inclusion of those summaries in this way has been adopted simply as a matter of convenience; it in no way implies that historical change and development necessarily or regularly accompanied the death of one and the accession of another ruler.
In planning both this volume and the forthcoming biographical dictionary for Later Han it has been thought right to maintain the distinction between the earlier and the later periods. Chinese historians have regularly wished and tried to depict Han as a single continuum that lasted for four centuries, punctuated by a short period of ‘usurpation’ by Wang Mang 王莽. We now prefer to recognise that a wide gulf separated Former and Later Han in matters such as religious and intellectual outlook and institutional practice; and for a number of years it has been shown that the picture of Wang Mang as painted by Chinese apologists for Han requires basic correction.
The principal sources on which this book calls are the Shiji and the Han shu, the two dynastic histories which long formed the models on which historians based the arrangement of their material and the style in which they handled it. 3 While the writings of a number of hands, ranging from Sima Tan 司馬談 to Chu Shaosun 褚少孫 and Ban Zhao 班昭, are included in those works, the degree of consistency, as judgea by inspection of all references to a given person therein, is on the whole remarkable. On occasion differences can be reconciled by reference to the Qian Han ji 前漢記 of Xun Yue 荀悅 (AD 148—209); sometimes they may be due to deliberate choice whereby a person is treated with sympathy or antagonism, at length or with brevity, as may be seen in the poor, or even perfunctory, way in which the Shiji handles Ni Kuan 兒寬, or Zhuang Zhu 莊助. Some statements raise questions of accuracy whose solution yet requires research. 4
Other sources on which this book draws include some of the contemporary writings or Former Han, such as the Huainanzi, the authentic parts of the Chunqiu fanlu, the Yantie lun, Shuo yuan, Xin xu, and fragments of the Xin lun; and writings of Later Han or even later, such as the Dong guan Han ji, Lunheng, Qianfu lun or Xijing zaji, together with the Hou Han shu and Xu Han shu, Huayang guo zhi and San guo zhi. Stone stele and inscriptions record the names of the ancestors of officials and other dignitaries who served Later Han, and it may sometimes be asked how far such claims to antiquity, featuring in epitaphs that are avowedly laudatory, can be accepted as authentic. For nearly 2,000 years Chinese scholars have bent their minds and their pens to commenting on the text of the Shiji and the Han shu, pointing out differences and inconsistencies, drawing on the books just named, and others now lost, to supply confirmatory evidence and adding their own shrewd remarks that sprang from an empathetic understanding of the situations that were being described. In this way historians of Han owe an immense debt to writers such as Meng Kang 孟康 (c. 180—260) or Yan Shigu 嚴師古 (581—645). Faced by the Herculean task of acquiring a familiarity with the great host of their writings, not to speak of those of Japanese scholars and the western scholars of the last century, the present author can hardly expect to consult more than a part of the whole corpus of material that is available. The present book leans heavily on the acute summaries and scholarly judgements of Wang Xianqian 王先謙 (1842—1918) and Takigawa Kametarô 瀧川龜太郎 (b. 1865); on subsequent writings by Wang Shumin 王叔岷, Yang Shuda 楊樹達, Shi Zhimian 施之勉 and Chen Zhi 陳直; and, from the West, on scholars such as Chavannes, Dubs, Hulsewé and Wilbur. It cannot be claimed that full account has been taken of all the relevant references in the Hou Han shu and Xu Han shu.
It may be surmised that in some cases the compilers of the Shiji and Han shu were able to call on archive, such as imperial decrees, or the reports submitted by provincial officials, or the summaries of such documents that were stored in the offices of the government. 5 Some of this material is retained in the two histories in the form of tables, a particular form of record that does not appear again in the Standard Histories until for the Tang period.
These tables 6 set out in chronological sequence the succession of rulers in the pre-imperial kingdoms, reaching back to 841 BC in the Shiji. In both histories they list the kings (Zhuhouwang 諸侯王) who ruled parts of China during the Former Han Dynasty, the nobles (Chehou 徹侯 Liehou 列侯 or Tonghou 通侯) of the Han empire in their different categories and the holders of the principal officials of state from 206 BC to AD 5 (i.e. from Gaodi to Pingdi). It may be surmised that the tables as we have them are the results of editing earlier lists and documents which derived from the clerks of the central or the provincial government, such records forming an essential element in the conduct of the administration. Possibly it was the subordinate officials of the Superintendent of the Imperial Clan (Zong zheng 宗征) or the Commandant, Orders of Honour (Zhu jue Duwei 主爵都尉) who were responsible for maintaining these lists in order and keeping them up to date. Possibly some of these archives started life in the form of the documents found recently at Yinwan 尹灣. 7 Signs of editing on the part of the compilers of the histories may be seen in certain entries where it is noted that full information was not available, or where details are included that referred to dates long after the end of Han. 8 Parts of some of the tables were undoubtedly included well after the time of Sima Qian 司馬遷 (died c. 86 BC).
There are certain differences in the form or layout of some of the tables as between the two histories; e.g. the entries in Shiji chapter 17 are read as it were from a scroll, with successive years following one another in an horizontal line that runs from right to left; whereas in the corresponding chapter of the Han shu (chapter 14) the entries are set out and read in vertical columns. In addition the mode of noting dates may vary as between the two histories. Nonetheless a remarkable degree of identity persists between the details furnished by each of the works; either the two sets of historians were working from one and the same set of archives, adopting different forms as they saw fit; or, perhaps more probably, the two groups of compilers were working from duplicate copies of a record that had been made out as such by central or provincial officials.
For the history of Former Han these tables are invaluable. They provide corroboration of statements made in other chapters of the histories or correct some of the details, such as those of date. They supplement the deficiencies of some of the other chapters, at times making it possible to distinguish between homonyms; they provide a wealth of information which concerns institutional practice, legal procedure and genealogical history that is not available elsewhere. The great value of the tables may be appreciated when a study is made of a period for which they are not available, such as the reign of Wang Mang. 9
To the names included in this book there could be added many more, being those of the officers and men who are mentioned in the military and official records of the defence lines of the north-west. The strips of Dunhuang 敦煌 and Juyan 居延 and of other fortresses refer to the activities and lives of such named persons, at times giving details of their place of origin and age, with the names and ages of members of their families. From such records much is learnt about the daily lives spent by servicemen during their terms of duty, experiencing the rigours of a severe climate to which they were unaccustomed, and being subject to a military discipline that they may well have resented. In return for their labours as servicemen on guard or patrol, as lumberjacks engaged in constructing or maintaining buildings, or as farmers working on the state sponsored farms they received clothing and rations of food. Surviving lists record the names of some of those upon whom these and other duties fell. Either willingly or by means of compulsion these men served their emperor by implementing the policies of his officials. Many of their names are recorded in other publications, but it has not been deemed right to include them here. 10
A short acquaintance with the principal primary sources for the dynasties that are concerned here will alert a reader to the mixed content of those books. They include short statements of fact that can be verified; propagandist claims designed to persuade or deceive, so as to serve dynastic purposes; and anecdotes that add colour to a dry chronicle. Readers may also at times seek in vain to find pertinent information with which to clarify their understanding, and it cannot always be determined whether such a lack is due to the ignorance or the deliberate suppression on the part of the compilers. On certain occasions we are reminded that it may not be possible to determine the degree of veracity in our records. Yang Gongshu 楊公叔 is named in one source as being able to understand the speech of birds; in another source, which is concerned with problems of epistemology, an anecdote records such skills on the part of Yang Wengzhong 楊翁仲. Both Gongshu and Wengzhong are likely to be styles (zi 字) rather than given names (ming 名). Possibly the two men are to be identified; possibly both accounts depend on hearsay rather than on attested fact.
The Shiji and the Han shu may at times tend to fasten on personal detail in a manner which betrays prejudice, and scholars have for long pointed to the need for a constant care to avoid an unwary acceptance of some of the implications of our texts. Unfortunately written records which derive from an external source are rarely, if ever, available so as to corroborate the statements with which we are furnished. But whatever the weaknesses of the works and however daunting some of the difficulties of the historian may be, a study of the sources with a view to revealing contradictions and establishing consistency discloses certain activities, achievements and failures of individual effort. Some of those activities took place as a result of the personal initiative of a named person; some may have been launched in direct opposition to the will of a political rival; some may have sprung from disenchantment with the prevailing ideas of the day; but in all cases they formed parts of China’s historical development, and events that are apparently unconnected may often tell of the practical way in which the imperial system operated.
Thus the conferment of nearly 800 nobilities and the succession of holders of those honours show how the hierarchical structure of Han society worked out in practice. The ambitious rivalries and violent struggles between named princes of the imperial blood and their families, or between contesting politicians, illustrate at times the consolidation of imperial power, at times the decline of a unifying authority. The step by step careers of named officials, beginning as a Gentleman (Lang 郎) or Counsellor (Dafu 大夫), as a junior clerk in the provinces or on the staff of a military commander, display the organs of government and the system of officialdom in operation, with its succession of appointments and promotions, its demotions and dismissals. Study of particular cases of the punishments inflicted on a criminal or the deprivation of honours decreed on an official reveals the processes of the laws and the will of government. Accounts of the rise and fall of imperial favourites may indeed read as being biassed; they may also tell of the strength or weakness of an emperor.
That the list of names included in this book cannot be taken as representative is only too self-evident. Long before the spectre of womens’ studies or gender studies had stalked the groves of academe, or subservience to political correctness had menaced deference to traditional scholarship, historians had been well aware that the primary sources on which they relied mention women only too rarely, and at times, as it would appear, only for the sake of denigration or denunciation. Perhaps as many as a quarter of the entries are for members of the imperial family of Liu, often mentioned solely as successors to a nobility and with no further claim to fame. Their inclusion is possible thanks only to the detailed records of the tables of the histories and places an undue emphasis on a small and very special element of the whole population. Of the remaining names the highest proportion are those of senior officials and nobles, to the exclusion of low-ranking clerks and the great majority of the population on whose labours the small number of men and women included here depended for their sustenance or their defence from invading enemies. Officials who fell victims to their rivals and ended their days as criminals or alleged traitors may well have served their emperor or voiced unorthodox but highly interesting views; but if they died as victims of intrigue, as criminals or allegedly as parties to a plot, the compilers of the histories could not include special biographies in which to recount their services. In this way we are denied a full record of men such as Sang Hongyang 桑弘羊, a far-sighted official who may well have influenced both domestic and foreign policies during Wudi’s reign. It can also hardly escape the notice of readers that the extent of information for the subjects who are treated varies considerably, ranging from the lengthy accounts that are possible for men such as Jia Yi 賈誼 or Liu Xiang 劉向 (1) to the simple statements of the succession of others to a nobility.
Anecdote may be recorded alongside the formal facts of an official’s appointments. The latter details can usually be taken as correct, being confirmed by the subsequent stages of a man’s career and by consistency with other information. The occasional remarks of a personal nature may well add a flavour of verisimilitude to his life that is of no concern to a dry, official record; and although such remarks may be of little relevance to the growth of a man’s reputation, they may well inadvertently disclose matters of principle. Thus we are told that in his will He Bing 何並 directed his son to refuse the customary gifts made on the occasion of a senior official’s death; and therein there may lie an item of institutional history that is not otherwise recorded. Personal information, given only too rarely, forms a welcome addition to the solemn accounts of a highly respected official’s conduct of his duties or the maintenance of his loyalty. Huo Guang 霍光, we learn, was a man of invariable habits, never deviating by a step when treading his known path to or from the palace; Kong Guang 孔光 was obsessed by so punctilious a sense of duty and security that he refused to tell his family what trees were growing in the compound of his official quarters, and changed the subject of conversation.
It may be asked what place a work of this sort should give to matters such as the account of the parentage of Liu Fa 劉發 (1), which may possibly have been based on hearsay. Inclusion here has been deemed justifiable in that it bears on dynastic matters and that it reveals something of the mind of the writers on whom we rely and their sense of what was significant. It may be surmised that in this particular instance the tale was included not necessarily to reveal a discreditable side of Jingdi’s character or to excite a prurient interest in his personal habits. The parentage of an imperial prince was a matter of the highest importance and could affect the fate of a dynasty; it is not altogether surprising that the historians would have felt obliged to include a statement that some persons, and posssibly they themselves, believed to be true, rather than risk accusation of suppressio veri. A further reason for the inclusion here of matter that may well owe more to hearsay or imagination, than to factual truth, lies in its appearance in political discussion, its importance in mythology and its retention in China’s literature and drama. Throughout the imperial period Chinese officials have been wont to support their arguments by appeals to the past, invoking examples of bravery and heroism on the one hand and those of depravity and disgrace on the other. The tale of the self-sacrifice of Wang Ling’s 王陵 mother lent itself easily to such purposes. The dramatic tale of the last days and moments of Xiang Yu 項羽 may not be subject to factual proof; familiarity with its pathos is essential for an understanding of later writings, leading to the recently made film ‘Farewell my Concubine’.
Working over the last fifty years and more, China’s archaeologists have unearthed material evidence for Qin, Han and Xin times to an extent that is little less than overwhelming. In a number of cases such finds may be related to the written records, and neither historian nor archaeologist can afford to ignore the results of his colleague’s researches. Perhaps some 30,000 tombs, of which no more than a fraction have been excavated, may be dated to the four hundred years that ran from the establishment of the Qin empire in 221 BC to the abdication of the last of the Later Han emperors in AD 220. 11
The great majority of these tombs are the sepulchres of that multitude which none can number and who have passed to another shore. For 2,000 years their bones lay buried safe from disturbance; for most no written memorial exists to tell their names or to warrant inclusion in this record; for a few, a seal or an inscription discloses the name of a man or woman for whom a tomb was built, but it cannot be claimed that all those whose identity is reported in the archaeological journals have been included in this book. At a relatively small number of sites characteristic features such as the style of the tomb or the selection of funerary goods indicate that the occupant was a man or woman of a defined rank or status; other evidence, of situation and dating, may suggest identification within a narrow range of alternatives. At times the absence of a name or of a full name way be tantalising, as in the case of the two men buried at tombs nos. 6 and 18 at Wuwei 武威; in one there was found a copy of part of the Yili 儀禮, possibly a memorial of the occupant’s scholarship; the other tomb included the text of a decree that conferred privileges upon the aged. 12
As yet (January 2000) we await publication of reports of the full excavation of any of the tombs of the Qin or Former Han emperors, 13 while lengthy and well-illustrated monographs describe some of the more important and spectacular discoveries, e.g. of Mawangdui, Mancheng, Shizhaishan, Xi’an and Guangzhou. 14 These riches emphasise the essential need to study literary and material evidence in combination. While our texts include statements about the layout and size of Chang’an it is essential for historians to take full account of the traces now found of buildings with their artifacts and inscriptions. Similarly, archaeologists cannot expect to understand the importance of the tombs at Mancheng without attending to the statements that the histories provide regarding the character and behaviour of Liu Sheng 劉勝 (1). Art historians bent on studying the plethora of jades and the types of decor found at the tomb of Zhao Mo 趙眛 cannot fail to take note of the statements that the histories carry on the relations between the Han empire and the kings of Nan Yue.
Given the literary resources at our disposal and the reasons for their compilation, it is hardly possible to produce a biography of any person in early imperial times that would satisfy Momigliano’s description of biography as ‘an account of a man from birth to death’ with an attempted assessment that will stand up to scrutiny. 15 Only in a relatively few instances is it possible to identify a decisive effect that an individual played in directing public affairs or contributing to the rise or fall of a dynasty. Such a statement may sound strange when it is recalled that whatever place can or should be assigned to biography in the western tradition, from the earliest times of Chinese historiography this type of writing held a recognised and consolidated place as one of the main divisions of historical writing, and that for long these chapters formed the greater part of a standard or dynastic history. 16 In the main they concerned the men who held high offices of state, served as military commanders or were distinguished by their literary or scholarly activities in Qin, Former Han and Xin times.
If it is asked whether the purpose in compiling these biographical accounts may be compared with that of similar activity in the Greek and Roman world, the answer is far from clear. Momigliano has discussed at some length the distinction between historical writing as such and biographies, and the emergence of the latter genre in the classical world. He distinguishes a Suetonian type, i.e. a combination of a tale in chronological order with the systematic characterisation of an individual and of his achievements, and a Plutarchian type, which is a straightforward chronological account of events and as such is well suited to tell the life of a general or of a politician. 17 In concluding his explanation of why neither biography nor autobiography became prominent literary genres in Greece in the fifth century BC, Momigliano writes ‘But Thucydides confined his appreciation of individuals to their contribution to political life in specific moments: and so after all did Herodotus in the case of most Greek politicians. The value of the individual lay in his contribution to the welfare of the state to which he belonged. That excluded biography.’ 18
Similar motives in China, however, did not exclude biography. Here too an interest in recording an individual’s achievements sprang partly from his success at organising human beings and controlling their work. The prime point of significance in these accounts is the rise and fall, the strength and weakness of a dynastic house or an emperor, or a pretender’s attempts to establish his own regime. The parts played by individuals are recorded to show how an emperor’s will was guided or his wishes implemented; how the institutions of the empire were operated, exploited or abused. A further motive lay in a wish to hold up examples of nobility by way of encouragement or to excoriate those of base conduct by way of warning.
Precedents may certainly be found in pre-imperial works for pieces of writing that may loosely be described as biographical; but it is to the authors of the Shiji that full credit is due for their initiative in establishing the genre as ‘a new departure in historical writing’. 19 In addition to their contributions, the practice of biographical writing may also have owed something to a need to trace an individual’s genealogy and to establish it for all time. Such a motive perhaps lay behind the composition of the long epitaph inscriptions and the erection of the majestic stele of Later Han. The praises that these texts bore of an ancestor’s character and the account of his official appointments both testified to a family’s attention to the Confucian virtue of Xiao 孝, or ‘filial piety’, and proclaimed the family’s pretensions to renown in compeetition with those of its neighbours and rivals.
The tale of the six thousand men and women that is treated here reveals a heritage left to China’s later generations of mixed content. There were those who paid their respects to religious rites; there are few records of the attainment of spiritual values. Poets, historians and essayists moulded the forms of Chinese literature; how far they left an experience of emotion recollected in tranquillity, an insight into historical analysis or a cogent philosophical thesis may be open to doubt. Some of those whose names are recorded bore in mind a recognised concept of the cosmos and ordered their lives so as to conform with its harmony; how far their ideas bear description as proto-scientific or scientific is open to argument. Some of those who feature here built and operated the structure of an empire, moved by loyalty to their governing house; others exploited their positions to dispute the control of power and to serve their own ambitions. Standards of loyalty, very different from those conceived in the West, did not inhibit certain brave generals from changing sides to join a non-Chinese master. There is a long tale of those who had reached the highest places of public life but chose the path of suicide, rather than face public execution and bequeath the heritage of a shameful end to their descendants.
Of the names recorded in this list four may be singled out as those of men whose influence long survived their own lives and affected the culture that evolved in China over two thousand years. The first Qin Emperor’s legacy of ordered central government and hierarchical responsibilities that were practised on an imperial scale formed the framework within which all subsequent imperial regimes exercised authority. It was Wang Mang 王莽 who first claimed that his empire was modelled on the ideals of the kings and teachers of Zhou 周; no subsequent empire was ever able to gainsay this principle and only a few statesmen left cogent arguments with which to show the falsity of such pretensions. The collection and classification of literature, formulated by Liu Xiang 劉向 (1), who died in 8 BC, served as a significant model that affected the greater part of subsequent scholarly and bibliographical work; Zhang Yu 張禹 (2), who died in 5 BC, laid the basis for the text of the Analects whose teachings informed the minds of countless officials of the succeeding ages. Yet of these four, the first two have regularly featured in Chinese historiography as villains; and while due praise has been accorded to Liu Xiang, few persons other than specialists have heard of Zhang Yu.
It may be tempting to conclude that the most enduring elements of the heritage that Former Han left to its successors were the achievements not of its emperors, its prominent officials or ministers of state but those of a few officials without senior appointment; and in some cases the major achievements were those of men who died in disgrace or as criminals. To Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 (traditionally c. 179— c. 104 BC), who never rose to a position that was higher than that of Chancellor of a provincial kingdom, may be ascribed the formulation of a synthesis that shaped the intellectual basis of imperial sovereignty. It was in the years before he had reached high office that Kuang Heng 匡衡 (died 30 or 29 BC) presented his most far-reaching memorials. By such means he initiated religious changes in the performance of the state cults and the services paid to an emperor’s ancestors. Likewise it was at that early stage in his career that Kuang Heng drew attention to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, which was to occupy a central place in China’s political thought of imperial times. In the immediate future the doctrine was to be invoked to support the claims that Wang Mang, Wei Ao 隗囂, Gongsun Shu 公孫述 and Wang Lang 王郎 put forward to imperial rule; advisers encouraged the future Guangwudi by quoting the force of the Mandate.
Liu Xiang was anything but a close relative of the emperors in whose reigns he lived; and he never held high office after dismissal from the post of Superintendent of the Imperial Clan (Zongzheng 宗正) in 47 or 46. But it was he rather than Xuandi, Yuandi or Chengdi who laid the foundations of an imperial promotion of learning. By contrast, as archaeologists gratefully acknowledge, Wendi’s earlier plea for unostentatious funerals, shorn of a profuse burial of treasure, had little effect on future practices. Sang Hongyang 桑弘羊 had set about the establishment of economic controls in a forceful manner. Certainly he held high office; but he died a victim to the headsman’s axe in 80 BC. Low ranking officials such as Geng Shouchang 耿壽昌 and Gong Yu 貢禹 (2) were others who concerned themselves with these matters. 20 Other examples include Jia Yi 賈誼, banished to Changsha, but ever after becoming a paragon of a man who was treated scurvily and unjustly. Zhou Yafu 周亞夫, the highly successful Supreme Commander who saved the imperial house from disruption at a time of crisis (154 BC), fell out of favour and failed to receive the recognition that he deserved; Xiao Wangzhi 蕭望之 and Liu Xin 劉歆 died a suicide’s death in 47 BC and AD 23 respectively.
Other books than this tell the tale of the growth of different ideologies, the adoption of changing policies and the conflict of ambitious challengers to power, and it is against such a background that the lives, careers and achievements of the individuals mentioned here should be set. So far from maintaining a stable dynastic situation over two hundred years, as is sometimes claimed for Former Han, it is to be recognised that the empire was riven with dynastic disputes. 21 In such circumstances the accounts of individual careers and fortunes reflect the growth of political ideas and the success or failure to secure a consolidation of imperial power. Such movements are seen in a number of ways. There was developing the recognition that powers of life and death were properly restricted to the emperor and his duly deputed officials. There grew up a general readiness to accept the authority of officials, charged with the duty of collecting tax or assigning work to be completed on behalf of a county or commandery. Reasons for the bestowal and retention of nobilities and other marks of distinction were moving steadily away from those of heredity to those of imperial bounty that rewarded merit. It was largely on the basis of Former Han that the continuing ideal of an empire rested; and it was the example of Han, whether historical or mythical, that inspired the adoption of its name for transient dynasties up to the tenth century, and for a short period of four years from 1360. 22
But the description of Former Han as a time that witnessed the victory of Confucianism 23 requires modification. Recently found manuscripts have drawn attention to the importance of other modes of thought, notably Huang Lao 黃老; research has shown how religious belief and practice were tempered by other considerations than those of the masters of learning of Lu 魯; 24 it may be seen how political decisions and intellectual and religious attitudes may in some circumstances be correlated. 25 So far from the acceptance of a single attitude towards and a single interpretation of ancient writings, such as the Changes, a number of schools and traditions had been arising. 26 The recovery of the Zuo zhuan from oblivion was but one step that led scholarly endeavours to new paths that were to be trodden regularly during Later Han. Other differences between Former and Later Han are seen in the emergence of new cosmologies and the attention paid to different concepts of life and death. A growing need to train candidates for official service according to orthodox scholarly foundations had yet to impose itself on intellectuals. Academicians such as Han Ying 韓嬰 (Wendi’s reign) or Yuan Gu 轅固 (Jingdi’s reign), or the early masters of the Yan and Qi traditions of the Songs, might well have had difficulty in identifying their intentions with the aims of men such as Zheng Zhong 鄭眾 (died AD 83) or Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (AD 127—200). 27
Certain passages of the histories disclose the original historian’s skilful allusion to character, or his acute assessment of merit, as may be seen in respect of some of the founding fathers of the Han dyansty. Xiao He 蕭何 (d. 193 BC) is seen as setting the pattern for imperial loyalty and stability, steadfastly working to formulate the institutions with which to govern an empire. Cao Shen 曹參 (d. 190 BC) dutifully operated that pattern; after an active life spent on a field of battle his relaxation in a civilian position excited criticism for laziness. Zhang Liang 張良 (d. 185 BC) was capable of thinking out policies of medium or long-term value; his main strength lay in forming plans to counter dangers that were likely to persist or to recur. The quick-witted Chen Ping 陳平 (d. 178 BC) was able to meet an immediate crisis and was capable of looking after his own personal interests; his success was due in part to his proposals for a scheme that was anything but conventional or ordinary.
Few accounts of loathsome cruelty can match those that we have of Liu Jian 劉建 (3) and Liu Qu 劉去; and in so far as these figures played little or no part in determining major dynastic destinies these accounts cannot necessarily be dismissed altogether as allegations of a propagandist nature, reminiscent as they may be of some of the passages of Procopius. It may also be noticed that Liu Qu was one of the earliest members of the imperial family who is known to have studied the Book of Filial Piety and the Analects. He forms a contrast with Yang Xian 楊賢, a paid assassin who found his victim trundling a handcart so as to convey his brother’s body for decent burial; moral scruple prevented Yang Xian from carrying out his mission. Possibly, however, the description of Wang Mang’s vindictive treatment of the bodies of Fu Taihou 傅太后 and Ding Yi 丁姬 may have owed more to a subsequent historian’s loyalty to Han than to verifiable fact. As against these enormities there may happily be set tales that tell of human kindness or personal bravery. The histories do not record the personal name of a young girl with crippled hands that were cured by the emperor’s touch as he passed through Henan one day. Attracting his favours she joined the company of Wudi’s minor consorts, and she is known as Zhao Jieyu 趙婕妤. In 94 she gave birth to Liu Fuling 劉弗陵, who was destined to reign as Zhaodi from 86 to 74. In another example, in 38 BC panic ensued when a bear broke loose at a circus that Yuandi was attending. It was one of his minor consorts, named Feng Yuan 馮媛, who shielded him from danger, at considerable risk to her own safety; in the fullness of time, she was to become the grandmother of Liu Kan 劉衎 (Jizi 箕子), known as the last of the Former Han Emperors under the title of Pingdi.
1 For studies of Chinese historiography, see Chavannes, MH vol. I, pp. vii—lxi; Hulsewé, ‘Notes on Historiography’; Burton Watson, Ssu-ma Ch’ien Grand Historian of China, especially chapters iii, iv.
2 For secondary studies of institutions, see Wang Yü-ch’üan, ‘An Outline of the Central Government of the Former Han Dynasty’; Bielenstein, Bureaucracy; Hulsewé, RHL; CHOC chapters 7, 8 and 9; Tao Xisheng and Shen Juchen, Qin Han zhengzhi zhidu; Zhou Daoji, Qin Han zhengzhi zhidu yanjiu; Kamada shigeo, Shin Kan seiji seido no kenkyû.
3 For the sources, authorship and compilation of these two basic works, see Hulsewé, in Beasley and Pulleyblank, eds., Historians of China and Japan, chapter 3, and in ECTBG pp. 129—36 and 405—14.
4 E.g., the statement that Liu Xin 劉歆 had received instruction in the Zuo zhuan before he had himself brought the text out of comparative obscurity.
5 E.g., some of the documents of investiture that are included in Shiji chapter 60.
6 SJ chapters 13—22 and HS chapters 13—19.
7 See Yinwan Han mu jiandu.
8 See HS 15A, pp. 476—8; for an entry of an event dated AD 71, see HS 17, p. 672; possibly such entries were made by Ban Zhao (AD 48—?116) to whom compilation of the tables is ascribed.
9 For an example where a table might well eliminate some doubts, see under Wang Jia 王嘉 (4).
10 See Ôba Osamu, Kyoen Kan kan sakuin, and Loewe, RHA.
11 KG 1999.9, p. 807.
12 See Wuwei Han jian, and Loewe, The Wooden and Bamboo Strips Found at Mo-Chü-Tzu (Kansu).
13 For the results of excavation at the tomb of the First Qin Emperor, see Ledderose and Schlombs, Jenseits der Grossen Mauer; for the tombs of the Former Han emperors, see Liu Qingzhu and Li Yufang, Xi Han shiyi ling.
14 See Changsha Mawangdui yi hao Han mu; Mancheng Han mu fajue baogao; Yunnan Jinning Shizhaishan gu muqun fajue baogao; Han Chang’an cheng Weiyang gong (not published at the time of Hotaling’s study); Xi Han Nan Yue wang mu; Prüch and von der Schulenburg, Schätze für König Zhao Mo.
15 See Momigliano, p. 11; for studies of early writers of biography in the West, beginning with Cornelius Nepos (c. 99—24 BC), see Dorey, Latin Biography.
16 As contrasted with the slender volume of the surviving biographical writing in early Greek and Roman history, the biographical chapters of the Standard Histories, including a few chapters that concerned an area or ethnic group such as the Xiongnu, amounted to 69 (of the 130 chapters of the Shiji), 69 (of the 100 chapters of the Han shu) and 80 (of the 80 + 30 chapters of the Hou Han shu cum Xu Han shu).
17 See Momigliano, pp. 18—9.
18 Momigliano, pp. 38, 41.
19 So Hulsewé, in Beasley and Pulleyblank, eds., Historians of China and Japan, p. 36. For other comments on the emergence and nature of biography, see Chavannes, MH, vol. I, pp. clxxix—clxxxi; Burton Watson, Ssu-ma Ch’ien Grand Historian of China, pp. 120—30; Nienhauser, The Grand Scribe’s Records, vol. VII, p. v.
20 For Sang Hongyang, see Kroll, ‘Toward a Study of the Economic Views of Sang Hung-yang’; for Gong Yu, see Loewe, Economic co-ordination, pp. 255, 261, 263—4. At times when he expressed his views on retrenchment, Gong Yu was no more than an Advisory Counsellor (Jian Dafu 諫大夫); some of his other views were expressed after appointment as Imperial Counsellor from 44 BC.
21 E.g., see the activities of Lü Hou; the bid for the throne by Liu Xiang 劉襄 (2); the revolt of the seven kings in 154; the dynastic crisis of 91 BC; the short reign of Liu He 劉賀 (4); the bid for power by Liu Dan 劉旦 (1); the fall of the Huo family; the succession disputes and murder of two imperial infants during Chengdi’s reign.
22 See Mansvelt Beck, in Twitchett and Loewe, eds., CHOC, pp. 369—73.
23 See Dubs, HFHD, vol. II, pp.7, 20—5.
24 For the influence of different types of thought that had grown up during the Warring States period, see Harper, in Loewe and Shaughnessy, eds., CHOAC, chapter 12.
25 See Loewe, Crisis and Conflict, pp. 11—2.
26 For tables that show the filiation of different schools, see Tjan Tjoe Som, Po Hu T’ung, vol. I, between pp. 86 and 87.
27 For developments during Later Han, see Anne Cheng, Confucianisme.