Michael Loewe


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

CHOICE AND TREATMENT OF SUBJECTS In general entries are limited to those men and women known to have been borne or to have died between the years 221 BC and AD 25. Exceptionally a few others have been included if they are deemed to have been of particular relevance, such as Lü Buwei 呂不韋 (died 235 BC) or Ban Gu 班固 (AD 32— 92). If the greater part of a person’s life and career passed in Later Han, I have left detailed treatment to Dr de Crespigny’s forthcoming volume, including here no more than a brief note to show the extent of his or her appearance in Former Han (e.g. Li Tong 李通, Kou Xun 寇恂). 1 Owing to a lack of information, it has not been possible to include entries for all subjects of the biographies of the Hou Han shu, whose main careers were lived in Later Han, but who may have been borne before AD 25. Entries for persons listed in Han shu 30 and mentioned in the Huayang guo zhi without an indication of date are included if there is a reasonable certainty that they lived in Qin, Former Han or Xin times. 

As chapter 19B of the Han shu provides lists of the senior officials of the central government, with the dates of appointment, dismissal or death, it has not been thought necessary to include one here. But as no such list is given in the primary sources for the governors of the commanderies, these are given below in the entries for major administrative units; regrettably it is only rarely that precise dates can be added. 

Necessarily some material is repeated among two or more entries in order to provide clarity. To avoid unnecessary duplication, where suitable two or more subjects are treated in one entry, with a cross-reference noted under the formula see under (e.g. Chen Tang 陳湯 and Gan Yanshou 甘延壽 are handled together). The formula see is used mainly in cases of variant versions of a name (e.g. Liu Du 劉渡). Homonyms are distinguished by numbers, and usually listed in chronological order as far as this may be determined, e.g. Liu An (1) 劉安 to Liu An (5). In general the distinction by number is maintained throughout the volume, except in certain cases of well-known persons where there is little or no room for confusion; e.g. references are usually given to Zhao Ponu 趙破奴, Liu Xiang 劉向, and Wang Mang 王莽 as such, rather than to Zhao Ponu (1), Liu Xiang (1) and Wang Mang (2). 

Names are entered in the order of characters adopted in the Kangxi Dictionary. Entries are normally given by the family name, followed by the given name (ming ), except where the majority of references both in the sources and in general use are to the surname and style (zi ); e.g. entries are for Xiang Yu 項羽 and Liu Bosheng 劉伯升 rather than Xiang Ji 項籍 and Liu Yan 劉縯, for which there are cross-references. The style is included in an entry only if it is of special significance, e.g. for Ji An 汲黯, or Du Qin 杜欽; if a style or title of nobility appears in certain passages without identification, it is entered by way of a cross-reference (e.g. Xinwu Hou 信武侯). If the sources simply refer to an individual by means of a ming, with no surname, he or she is entered by that term, enclosed within round brackets, e.g. (Sheng) (1); occasionally square brackets indicate a surname which is to be inferred but which is not stated. If in certain passages of the histories identification of the surname is not immediately obvious, an entry is provided for the given name, with a cross-reference; e.g. (Qingdi) 靑翟, see Zhuang Qingdi 莊靑翟. As the printed indexes 2 of the names that appear in the two histories include cross-references to all individuals under their title (e.g. Fuping hou 富平侯, for Zhang Lin 張臨), it has not been thought necessary to repeat such entries here, except when they appear as such in the text and may not be immediately identifiable, or in other cases of special significance, such as Weiqi Hou 魏其侯

Titles or honorific terms that are included in the heading of an entry are printed in italic; e.g. Xie Gong 泄公. On occasions when it may not be possible to distinguish between a given name and a title or general appellation an arbitrary decision has been unavoidable; e.g. Han Sheng 韓生 and Han Sheng 韓生

In general the place of origin or domicile of an individual is given in terms of the kingdom or commandery. Although the county, or some other indication, may often be given in the sources it is included here only if it is of special significance. 

With deep respect to the usage of other scholars, I have preferred, as elsewhere, to refer to emperors under the terms Gaodi, Wudi etc., rather than Emperor Gao, Emperor Wu. This is to avoid misapprehension by an unwary reader to the effect that Gao, Wu etc. were names, in the style of King George, Queen Wilhelmina, rather than titles which were accorded posthumously. In company with other scholars, and indeed as in the text of the primary sources, the terms Gaodi, Wudi, Guangwudi etc. are used anachronistically. All emperors, and some empresses, are entered under their family names and given names (e.g. Liu Bang 劉邦; Lü Zhi 呂雉), with cross references for their titles (e.g. Gaodi, and Taizu; Lü Taihou, and Empress Lü). If the sources do not provide the given name of an empress or an imperial consort, who are usually identified by their titles, they are listed here in that form; e.g. Zhao Zhaoyi 趙昭儀 (contrast Zhao Feiyan 趙飛燕). 

In general I have not included the figures that are given for the armed forces engaged in warfare, such figures often seeming to be entered more for rhetorical or propagandist purposes rather as a reliable or verifiable record. 

Where possible or suitable, dates are included in the main biographical list for individuals who lived before or after Qin, Former Han and Xin times. 

DATES The compilers of the Shiji and the Han shu were not normally concerned with providing dates for the birth or death of the persons whom they mention. These are usually available, somewhat exceptionally, for emperors, whose dates of accession are also specified, and the dates of death are usually included in the tables of the nobilities. As basic dates can thus be included only rarely at the outset of an entry, readers are obliged to infer the time of a person’s life from his or her relations with others, such as emperors, or from the dates of incidents in which he or she was involved. Specific years are mentioned in the entries only if they can be authenticated. All too frequently it is possible to write only in terms such as ‘early in Wudi’s reign’. In cases where the tables of the nobilities do not include a date, it has not been possible to express this in more precise terms than by the number of generations passed since the death of a previous holder, e.g. Liu Han 劉漢 (2). 

On a number of occasions the dates of an event are given inconsistently, either as between the two histories, or as between different chapters in one of them. Unless there is a clear indication to the contrary, in such cases I have usually chosen to follow the Han shu, as this is in general more consistent than the Shiji. 3 At times there is also a further difficulty in identifying the dates of certain events. In some of the tables of the two histories, the timing is given simply in the form such as 四年薨; it is not always possible to determine whether such a form indicates the fourth year of a named Nianhao or the fourth year following a previously reported event. 

As dates are normally identified in the sources (and here) as years of the Chinese luni-solar calendar, there can be no exact identity or correspondence with the years enumerated in the reconstructed and extrapolated Julian or Gregorian calendars. 4 The situation is complicated by changes in Chinese practice; until 104 BC the tenth of the twelve or thirteen months was adopted as the first of the incoming year; from 103 calendrical New Year’s Day was celebrated on the first day of the first month (Zheng yue 正月); and from AD 9 Wang Mang 王莽 named the twelfth month as the first month of the year. 5 Thus, Jingdi, Zhongyuan中元 3, started on 21 November 148 BC (Julian) and ended on 10 November 147 BC; Xuandi, Dijie 地節 4 started on 22 February 66 BC and ended on 10 February 65 BC. 

In all cases, and particularly where the sources do not mention a month, let alone a day, strict accuracy can be maintained only by referring to a year in the form of 137/136. As such a usage would, if repeated, be both clumsy and cluttering, I have chosen to give the number of the year in western style which corresponds for the greater part with that of the Chinese calendar. 

As in the reconstructed calendars, so here Yuanshou 元壽 2 is equated with 1 BC, followed by Yuanshi 元始 1 as AD 1. There is no provision for a year which was entitled in some texts as Yuanshou 3, and which would have corresponded with a year to be numbered as 0 in a western system. 6

Of the reconstructed calendars, for years up to 1 BC Père Hoang relates days to the Gregorian calendar; Tung Tso-pin, followed by Dubs, Bodde and Hulsewé, changes these figures so as to correspond with the Julian calendar, and such a usage has been followed here (e.g., Xuandi’s accession is dated to a day which corresponded with 10 September 74 BC). 

The great majority of years mentioned in the entries are before the Christian era and the adoption of a civil calendar with an enumeration in terms of BC. Except where a reader may be in doubt (e.g., for the years 10—1 BC), the letters BC have been omitted; AD is added regularly for years named as such in the western civil calendar. To avoid unnecessary repetition, dates for the reigns of emperors have been omitted throughout; for ease of reference they appear below and in the end-leaf of the volume. 

READINGS AND RENDERINGS Chinese characters are included for proper names on their first occurrence in an entry. But to avoid unnecessary duplication those for Chang’an 長安 and Luoyang 洛陽 and for the kingdoms and commanderies of the empire are omitted, the latter being provided in the list of Major Administrative Divisions below (pp. 779—805). To ease identification for readers who may not necessarily have been trained in traditional Chinese, characters are provided throughout for terms such as Analects or Xiongnu. The following points of detail may be noted:

  • Unusual readings are given as these are advised by traditional commentators or according to the consensus of modern dictionaries; 7 e.g., Xianlian 先零 (see HS 69, p. 2973 note); fei (see HS 84, p. 3423 note), mu (see under Mu Tong 莽通).

  • When appearing as surnames, is read as Xie rather than Jie, and as Ge rather than Gai.

  •  櫟陽 is read as Yueyang.

  • As in Chinese traditions, is rendered with its literary reading of ju rather than che; and Shen is retained for the given name of Cao Shen 曹參. For the reading of the given name Yiji 食其, see Shiji 97, p. 2691 and Han shu 43, p. 2105 notes.

  • For the problems of reading in certain contexts, see HS 94B, p. 3826 and 99C, p. 4168 notes.

  • Yue is given here regularly as in preference for 粵.

  • The well-established is used in place of .

  • The title Jieyu is given here in the form 婕妤 as is usual in the Shiji and occasionally in the Han shu, where it is regularly given as 倢伃.

  • There appears to be no certainty about the reading of when used in personal names. I follow Dubs rather than Chavannes for Liu Chang 劉長 (1); 淳于長 is given as Chunyu Zhang.

  • It is by no means certain whether, in the case of some personal names, our texts give us shi or 巿 fu, the two characters being barely distinguishable in most prints. Thus Xu Fu 徐福 (1) is given as such in Han shu 45, p. 2171, but as 徐巿 in Shiji 6, p. 247, and doubts arise whether a similar change which has occurred elsewhere has been concealed by the substitution of shi for fu 巿. In the absence of strong evidence to suggest that fu is correct, the character is retained as shi .

  • For variant forms of the character Mo, in the name Zhongli Mo 鍾離眛, see Wang Shumin, Shiji jiao-zheng, p. 789.

  • Zhuang has been restored in place of Yan .

  • The names of non-Chinese persons are usually run together without separation, e.g. Midanger 靡當兒, Wuliwendun 烏厲溫敦, with the pronunciation as suggested by traditional commentators. Exceptions are seen when it seems that a Chinese style name has been adopted, e.g. Pu Peng 僕朋.

  • For the renderings adopted for official titles, see under Titles of Officials (pp. 756—768 below). Those of non-Chinese peoples, such as Shanyu 單于, are left in transliteration with no attempt at translation. Despite the variant of Kunmi 昆彌, that title has been rendered as Kunmo 昆莫 (see Hulsewé, CICA, p. 143, note 377).

  • As elsewhere, in order to avoid an incorrect association with the titles and ranks of the feudal systems of Europe, I have chosen to render the term hou by the neutral expression ‘noble’. 

REFERENCES References to the Shiji, Han shu and Hou Han shu, as given at the close of each entry, are to the punctuated editions published by the Zhonghua shuju in 1959, 1962 and 1965. As complete indexes to the proper names in those works are readily available, 8 only a selection has been included here. Where the subject of an entry has been treated with his own biography in the Shiji or Han shu, the reference thereto is given initially; the ensuing references are in general restricted to those that are of greatest importance. Two or more series of numbered notes may sometimes appear on a single page of those editions of the histories; references to such notes are given here without their numbers.

1 For a detailed study of the part played by some of the subjects listed here during the wars to restore the Han dynasty, see Bielenstein, Restoration, vol. II.

2 Wu Shuping, ed., Shiji renming suoyin and Wei Lianke, ed., Han shu renming suoyin.

3 A particular case in which the tables of both histories (SJ 21, pp. 1108—15, HS 15A, pp. 470—5) are evidently in error will be treated in a forthcoming publication.

4 For the correspondence between days of the Chinese calendar and those of western systems, see the tables of Père Hoang, Chen Yüan and Tung Tso-pin; for consideration of Chinese calendrical systems, see Sivin, Cosmos and Computation.

5 See Bodde, Festivals, p. 27.

6 See HSBZ 19B.51a note.

7 E.g. Dai Kanwa jiten, Han yu da zidian and Han yu da cidian.

8 Wu Shuping, ed., Shiji renming suoyin; Wei Lianke, ed., Han shu renming suoyin; and Li Yumin, ed., Hou Han shu renming suoyin.


Michael Loewe