Michael Loewe


A Biographical Dictionary of the Qin, Former Han and Xin Periods (221 BC - AD 24)

My thanks are due first to my parents whose gentle schooling brought me a love of learning for the sake of learning and a recognition of the need to foster the skills with which to acquire it. Arthur Cooper, in whose company I worked in Government Communications’ Headquarters and its ancestor offices, directed my footsteps from Japanese to Chinese, and together with Colonel Jeffrey was ready to instil a rigorous approach to language. The encouragement and help that I received from Walter Simon in my early days in academic life were of untold value. In the same way as I had embarked on a study of China’s humanities in my spare time, while holding a job in GCHQ, so had he done likewise, while working as a librarian in Berlin (until 1933); we each understood the degree of application needed to engage in serious attention to a Chinese text only when the day’s work had been done.

My first meeting with Toon Hulsewé took place in 1957, in the garden of a seminary for Jesuit ordinands in Padua, and from that moment until his death in 1993 his support and guidance were never lacking, ever ready as he was to suggest new evidence that I had overlooked, to correct errors that he had spotted in my work and to draw on his fount of bibliographical knowledge. Late in his life he once remarked to me that his own work was that of a brickmaker, while that of his colleagues and successors was that of architects. In presenting below the rough stones hewn from an ever abundant quarry, the present writer asks his fellow scholars to exercise their forbearance and to overlook the deficiencies that they may observe in the shaping. Of necessity, preparation of the book has revealed a number of problems and situations that require research, and it is intended to bring these to attention in subsequent publications.

Edward Shils was wont to discriminate shrewdly when lending his approval to an academic venture; that he did not dismiss these undertakings as worthless was a mark of high praise for which I was and am deeply grateful. He saw the first draft entries of this book, which recorded the unscrupulous or even ruthless steps taken by ambitious contenders for power in the early days of the Chinese empires, and he would ask me if all the subjects that I would be handling would be ‘ruffians’. Unfortunately he did not live long enough to comment on the fruits of my assurance that he should wait and see. Of my own immediate colleagues, Denis Twitchett (also a colleague in GCHQ), D.C. Lau, Piet van der Loon, Laurence Picken, and David McMullen have helped me most; and it has been a pleasure to work in harness with Rafe de Crespigny. Elisabeth Hsu, of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridge, kindly helped with advice where the history of Chinese medicine was concerned. My thanks are also due to Carol Michaelson, of the British Museum, who drew my attention to the seal noted below under Chen Chong; to Fokke Dijkema and Patricia Radder of Brill; to Alison Gilderdale, for editorial help and guidance; and to Richard Germany, who patiently led me in the mysterious ways of a computer. Above all, throughout the six years in which this work has been proceeding, Carmen Blacker has ever buoyed me up with encouragement, prevented me from excessive ‘frousting’ in my study and enabled me to complete an undertaking whose first steps, had I but known it at the time, were taken in 1951.

Michael Loewe