Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cai Yong

Cai Yong was a scholar of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was well-versed in calligraphy, music, mathematics, and astronomy. One of his daughters is the famous Cai Wenji.


Early life

Cai Yan was born into a substantial local family in Chenliu , which had a reputation of not having their territory divided for three generations. When his father Cai Leng died, Cai Yong lived with his uncle Cai Zhi while taking great care for his own mother for her last three years. When she died, Cai Yong became known for his arrangement of his mother's tomb. After that, Cai Yong studied composition, mathematics, astronomy, pitch-pipes, and music under Hu Guang , one of the highest ranking officials in the Han court.

Service under Emperor Ling

In the early 160s Cai Yong was recommended to the by the senior eunuchs for his skill with the drums and the guqin. On his way to the capital, Cai Yong feigned illness to return home to study in seclusion. Ten years later in the early 170s, Cai Yong went to serve Qiao Xuan as a clerk, and Qiao Xuan greatly admired his abilities. Afterwards, Cai Yong served as a county magistrate and then a Consultant in the capital, in charge of editing and collating the text in the library. Known for his literary skills, he was constantly commissioned to write eulogies, memorial inscriptions, and the like.

In 175, in fear of parties trying to alter the classics to support their views, Cai Yong and a group of scholars petitioned to have the Five Classics engraved in stone. approved, and the result was the Xiping Stone Classics , completed in 183, which set the canon for future generations of scholars.

Throughout his political career, he was an advocate of restoring ceremonial and often criticized against the eunuchs' influence in politics. He was successful in persuading the emperor to participate in a ritual in the winter of 177 through his memorials, but his attacks on the eunuchs were not so successful.

In the autumn of 178, the scholars were asked for advice on recent ill omens. Cai Yong responded with criticisms of eunuch pretensions. The eunuchs learnt of the attack, and accused Cai Yong and his uncle Cai Zhi of extortion. They were thrown into prison and sentenced to death, but the sentence was later remitted to exile in the northern frontiers. Nine months later, he cited to the throne that his work on the dynastic history and classics were at risk from enemy raids, and was allowed back to the capital. However, he offended the sibling of an influential eunuch during a farewell banquet before his return, which put his position in the capital at risk. Cai Yong fled south to the Wu and Guiji commanderies and stayed there for twelve years.

Service under Dong Zhuo

When Dong Zhuo came to power in 189, he summoned Cai Yong back to the capital. At first Cai Yong was unwilling, but Dong Zhuo enforced his demand with the threat "I can eliminate whole clans", Cai Yong had no choice but to comply. Under Dong Zhuo, Cai Yong was made a General of the Household, and became in charge of revising rituals for Dong Zhuo's new government. Despite Dong Zhuo's admiration of Cai Yong as a scholar and musician, Cai Yong worried about Dong Zhuo's temper and once considered to return home, but was persuaded that he was too well known to escape.

In 192, when Dong Zhuo was killed in a plot by Wang Yun, Cai Yong was put into prison and sentenced to death for allegedly expressing grief at Dong Zhuo's death. Cai Yong and other government officials pleaded with Wang Yun to allow him to finish his work on the history of Han, but Wang Yun denied them, saying: It was said that Wang Yun eventually regretted this decision, but Cai Yong had already died in prison. After his death, pictures were set up in his honour, and commemorative eulogies were composed throughout his home county of Chenliu and the Yan province.


Due to the turmoil in China in the decade after his death, much of his work had been lost. However, Cai Yong had apparently entrusted the bulk of his library to his protégé Wang Can, and it is through his collection that Cai Yong's work can be found in compilations like the ''Book of Later Han''. Few items of his work survive today.

His contributions include:
*The editing of the Xiping Stone Classics
*The compilation of ''Dongguan Hanji''
*''Duduan'' on ceremonial
*''Cai Yong bencao'' on pharmacology
*''Nü Xun'' , advice for women
*''Qin Cao'' on playing the guqin
*''Zhuan shi'' on the aspects of the traditional seal script


*Cai Xi
*Cai Leng
*Cai Zhi
*Cai Yan
*Daughter, name unknown, married to Yang Dao
*Son, name unknown
*Cai Xi
*Yang Hu

Ban Zhao

Bān Zhāo , courtesy name Huiban , was the first female historian. She was married to a local resident Cao Shishu at the age of fourteen, and was called in the court by the name as Venerable Madame Cao . She was the daughter of the famous historian Ban Biao and younger sister of the general Ban Chao and of historian Ban Gu author of the history of the Western Han, a book known in modern times as the ''Book of Han''. She completed his book as he was imprisoned and executed in 92 because of his association with the family of . It was said her works could have filled eight volumes.

Ban Zhao wrote the ''Lessons for Women''. Despite Ban Zhao's education and accomplishments this book generally advised women to be submissive and accept that their husbands can have concubines while as wives they must remain faithful, although the book does indicate women should be as well-educated as her so they can better serve their husband. A modern revisionist theory states that the book is a guide to teach women how to avoid scandal in youth so they can survive long enough to become a powerful dowager. Although pleasing, this theory is thus far speculative.

She was the grandniece of the notable scholar and poet Consort Ban.

on is named after her.

Ban Gu

Ban Gu , courtesy name Mengjian , was a 1st century historian best known for his part in compiling the ''Book of Han''.


In the 3rd century BC, Ban Gu's ancestors gained prominence on the northwestern frontier as herders of several thousand cattle, oxen, and horses, which they traded in a formidable business and encouraged other families to move to the frontier.

Ban Gu was born into a scholarly family, and his father, Ban Biao, was a prominent historian. He took over from his father responsibility for writing a history of the former Han Dynasty, a book known in modern times as the ''Book of Han''. However, his work was interrupted by political problems, as his association with the family of led to his imprisonment and death . A few volumes of his book in 13–20th and 26th , however, was completed by his younger sister, Ban Zhao, and became a model for many other works about later dynasties.

The modern historian Hsu Mei-ling states that Ban Gu's written work in set the trend for the establishment of geographical sections of history texts, and most likely sparked the trend of the gazeteer in ancient China.

He also wrote in the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called ''''. Some are anthologized by Xiao Tong in his ''Selections of Refined Literature'' in the 6th century.

Ban's family

* Ban Biao
** Ban Gu
** Ban Chao
** Ban Zhao

Ban Biao

Ban Biao , courtesy name Shupi , was a historian, and an official born in what is now born in during the Han Dynasty. He was the nephew of Consort Ban, a famous poet and concubine to .

Ban Biao began the ''Book of Han'', which was completed by his son, Ban Gu and daughter Ban Zhao while their brother Ban Chao was a famous general and contributed by his stories to expand the Book of Han.

Sima Tan

Sima Tan was an early historian who worked under the Western Han. He was the father of Sima Qian, who upon the death of Sima Tan, took up his father's work and completed the 130 volume ''Records of the Grand Historian''.

An essay by him has survived within the ''Records of the Grand Historian''. It is an assessment of the six major philosophical traditions of his day: Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism, Terminalism and . Sima Tan himself was a follower of Huang Lao, an early Han form of Daoism.

Sima Qian also gives a few other details about his father's life. He studied astronomy with Tang Du, the ''I Ching'' under Yang He and Daoism under Master Huang. He held the position of Grand Historian between 140-110 BC.

Liu Xin

Liu Xin , later changed name to Liu Xiu , courtesy name Zijun , was a astronomer and historian during the Xin Dynasty . He was the son of Confucian scholar and an associate of other prominent thinkers such as the philosopher Huan Tan . Liu created a new astronomical system, called "Triple Concordance". He published this system in the year 8 as section of his textbook. In it he provided the following periods:

*The Moon phase period : 29 43/81 days.
*A total of 235 synodic months add up to 19 years.
Therefore his number of days in one year was 365.25016, which is 11 minutes longer than the current value.

Liu created a catalog of 1080 stars, where he used the scale of 6 s. He also calculated periods for planets.

For centuries before the reign of Wang Mang the Chinese had used the value of 3 for their calculation of pi. Between the years 1 and 5, while working for the ''de facto'' head of state Wang Mang, Liu Xin was the first to give a more accurate calculation of pi at 3.154, although the exact method he used to reach this figure is unknown. However, the ancient record of Liu Xin's 'Jia Liang Hu' standard is still preserved in Beijing, which Joseph Needham quotes below with modern references for archaic units :

Although Liu Xin was originally a loyal partisan of Wang Mang, after Wang's troops suffered defeat on July 7, 23 at the Battle of Kunyang, Liu Xin plotted with others to overthrow Wang Mang. The plot was discovered, while all the conspirators committed suicide or were executed.

A on was named in his honor.

Liu Xiang (scholar)

Liu Xiang born Liu Gengsheng , courtesy name Zizheng , was a famous Confucian scholar of the Han Dynasty. He was born in Xuzhou and related to Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty. His son, Liu Xin, developed the "Triple Concordance" astronomical system.

Liu compiled the first catalogue of the imperial library and was the first editor of the ''Shan Hai Jing''. He was a prodigious collector of old stories, which he compiled into the ''Zhan Guo Ce'', the ''Xinxu'' , the ''Shuoyuan'' , the '''', and probably the ''Liexian Zhuan''.

Chang Qu

Chang Qu was a 4th century who wrote the ''Chronicles of Huayang'' or ''Records of the States South of Mount Hua'', the oldest extant regional history of China.