Du You (Chinese: 杜佑; pinyin: Dù Yòu; Wade–Giles: Tu Yu) (735
– December 23, 812), courtesy name Junqing (君卿), formally
Duke Anjian of Qi (岐安簡公), was a Chinese scholar, historian and
chancellor of the Tang Dynasty. Du was born to an eminent aristocratic
family in what is now Xi'an, Shaanxi, almost eighteen years before the
abrupt rebellion of An Lushan, and received office for the privilege
as administrator of Chi-nan commandery (modernly Licheng District).
Robert G. Hoyland considers him a "political thinker on a grand
scale," comparable to Ibn Khaldun, but he is most often remembered for
his thirty-six year compilation of the Tongdian, a historical
encyclopedia of 200 sections (volumes) collecting laws, regulations,
and general events from ancient times to his own.
While considering Confucian teachings on the relationship between
father and son essential, Du stated that he didn't believe that they
provided relevant information for government policy. A legal
specialist and authority over state finances, he became Commissioner
for Public Revenue and Salt and Iron, and has been called a "Legalist"
for his appreciation of political planners, dismissal of antiquity and
concepts like fate, and strong interest in the Xunzi.
John Keay calls
him "enamored" of Shang Yang. However, despite expending little effort
on rectifying Imperial conduct, along the lines of
Xun Kuang he still
believed in the possibility of moral transformation, and considers
rites essential to government (which in Xun Kuang's view encompass all
government regulations and institutions). Du favored the light
taxation system of the Confucians and the recommendation system of the
Han dynasty as a replacement for the examination system. As a
character he has often been regarded as antithetical to the more
Confucian Lu Zhi, but in reality they seemed to agree on a number of
points and Lu didn't have any problem recommending Du for his
1 Writing of the Tongdian
3 During Emperor Dezong's reign
4 During Emperor Shunzong's and Emperor Xianzong's reigns
5 Notes and references
Writing of the Tongdian
Main article: Tongdian
Du You had been impressed by a 35-volume work by Liu Zhi during
Emperor Xuanzong's reign known as the Zhengdian, which was a
compendium of philosophies, rites, and principles of governance.
However, Du considered the
Zhengdian to be incomplete, so he expanded
on the coverage of the
Zhengdian and added writings about the rites,
music, and written works of Emperor Xuanzong's time, into a 200-volume
work. In 801, while he was still at Huainan, he had his subordinates
carry the work to
Chang'an to offer it to Emperor Dezong. Emperor
Dezong issued an edict greatly praising the work. The work became
popular and a key source of information on rites, music, criminal law,
and governance for the people of the time, and it was said that it was
so detailed that the information from the last thousand years could be
Du You was born in 735, during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong. His
family was from the
Tang Dynasty capital
Chang'an and traced its
ancestry to a line of officials of Chu, Qin Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Cao
Wei, Jin Dynasty (265-420), Northern Zhou, and Tang. Du You's
great-grandfather Du Xingmin (杜行敏), grandfather Du Que (杜愨),
and father Du Xiwang (杜希望) all served as officials in Tang
Du You's own civil service career started from a position that he was
given on account of his heritage — the military advisor to the
governor of Ji'nan Commandery (濟南, in modern Jinan, Shandong). He
later was made secretary general of Yan County (剡縣, in modern
Shaoxing, Zhejiang). As he went through Run Prefecture (潤州, in
modern Zhenjiang, Jiangsu), he went to see the prefect, Wei Yuanfu
(韋元甫), who had previously been a beneficiary of Du Xiwang's, but
initially, Wei, not remembering that, treated him only like the son of
an old friend.
On one way during Du You's visit, however, when Wei was judging over a
difficult case, Wei wanted to test Du and therefore asked him for his
opinions, and his opinions were all correct ones, impressing Wei. Wei
kept him as legal advisor. Later, when Wei served successively as the
governor of Zhexi Circuit (浙西, headquartered in modern Zhenjiang)
and military governor (Jiedushi) of Huainan Circuit (淮南,
headquartered in modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu), he continued to invite Du
to serve on staff and entrusted Du with many responsibilities.
Later, Du was recalled to
Chang'an to serve as Gongbu Langzhong
(工部郎中), a supervisorial official at the ministry of public
works (工部, Gongbu). Yet later he successively served as the
director of the Qingmiao (青苗) tax (i.e., taxation on young food
Jiangxi Circuit (江西, headquartered in modern Nanchang,
Jiangxi); the prefect of Fu Prefecture (撫州, in modern Fuzhou,
Jiangxi); and the director of Rong District (容管, headquartered in
modern Yulin, Guangxi).
During Emperor Dezong's reign
During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong's great-grandson Emperor Dezong,
Yang Yan became chancellor in 779, Yang had Du recalled to
Chang'an, and Du successively served as Gongbu Langzhong again and
then as Jinbu Langzhong (金部郎中), a supervisorial official at
the ministry of census (戶部, Hubu). In 780, Yang also had Du
made the director of food supplies from the
Yangtze River and Huai
River regions. He later served in another supervisorial position at
the ministry of census — Duzhi Langzhong (度支郎中), before
being promoted to be the deputy minister of census (戶部侍郎, Hubu
Shilang), in charge of the financial matters of the state. With
Emperor Dezong waging multiple campaigns against warlords ruling their
circuits in de facto independent manners at the time, Du was forced to
raise taxes heavily and force merchants to lend one quarter of their
assets to the state to cover the expenses.
Du would become despised by Yang's successor as primary chancellor, Lu
Qi, and Lu had him sent out to be the prefect of Su Prefecture
(蘇州, in modern Suzhou, Jiangsu). Du declined the assignment on
account that his mother was still alive and the previous prefect of Su
Prefecture had to leave office when his mother died. He was then made
the prefect of Rao Prefecture (饒州, in modern Shangrao, Jiangxi),
and soon thereafter the military governor of Lingnan Circuit (嶺南,
headquartered in modern Guangzhou, Guangdong). Up to that point, the
military governor of Lingnan customarily also carried the title of
director of five special districts that Lingnan was divided into —
one of which was Rong District, which Du had previously governed.
Because Emperor Dezong had been forced to flee
Chang'an due to a
Zhu Ci in 783, however, the officials at his makeshift
court did not have full knowledge about precedents, and Du became the
first military governor of Lingnan not to also be director of the five
In 787, Du was recalled to
Chang'an to serve as Shangshu Zuo Cheng
(尚書左丞), one of the secretaries general of the executive bureau
of government (尚書省, Shangshu Sheng). He was later made the
governor (觀察使, Guanchashi) of Shan Prefecture (陝州, in modern
Sanmenxia, Henan) and then the military governor of Huainan Circuit.
While he was serving there, his mother died, but Emperor Dezong
recalled him from his mourning period to continue his service. In
Zhang Jianfeng the military governor of neighboring Xusihao
Circuit (徐泗濠, headquartered in modern Xuzhou, Jiangsu) died, the
soldiers of Xusihao assassinated the acting military governor Zheng
Tongcheng (鄭通誠) and supported Zhang's son Zhang Yin (張愔) as
his replacement. Emperor Dezong gave Du the additional post as
military governor of Xusihao, gave him the honorary chancellor
designation of Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi
(同中書門下平章事), and ordered him to attack Xusihao's
capital Xu Prefecture. Du sent his officer Meng Zhun (孟準) to
attack Xu Prefecture, but Meng was defeated while trying to cross the
Huai River. When another attack by Zhang Pi (張伾) the prefect of Si
Prefecture (泗州, in modern Huai'an, Jiangsu) also failed to capture
Xu Prefecture, Emperor Dezong was forced to make Zhang Yin the
military prefect (團練使, Tuanlianshi) of Xu Prefecture, but took
the other two prefectures of the circuit and merged them into Huainan
Circuit, under Du's command. (When one of Zhang Jianfeng's staff
members, the future chancellor Li Fan, subsequently fled to Huainan's
capital Yang Prefecture, one of Zhang Jianfeng's former subordinates,
Du Jian (杜兼), falsely accused Li Fan of encouraging Zheng's
assassination and the soldiers' support of Zhang Yin. Emperor Dezong,
believing Du Jian's accusation, ordered
Du You to execute Li, but at
Du You's intercession, Li was spared.)
In 802, with
Du You repeatedly requesting to be replaced, Emperor
Dezong made Wang E (王鍔) Du's replacement and recalled him to
Chang'an. After Du arrived in
Chang'an in 803, he was made chancellor
with the designatino of Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi and acting
Sikong (司空, one of the Three Excellencies).
During Emperor Shunzong's and Emperor Xianzong's reigns
When Emperor Dezong died in 805 and was succeeded by his son Emperor
Du You served as regent for several days before Emperor
Shunzong officially took over the reins of the state. Soon thereafter,
Du was again put in charge of the financial matters of the state, with
Emperor Shunzong's close associate
Wang Shuwen as his deputy — as
Wang, who was powerful at the time, believed that it would be more
appropriate to serve as deputy to the senior Du. Several months later,
however, when Wang Shuwen's mother died and he had to leave official
service to observe a mourning period for her, Wang's partisans lost
power. Wang's ally
Wang Pi made repeated requests to Du for him to
intercede to recall
Wang Shuwen from his mourning period, but Du was
either unwilling or unable to. Soon thereafter, Emperor Shunzong, who
was seriously ill, yielded the throne to his son Emperor Xianzong, and
Wang Shuwen and his associates were almost immediately purged.
While Du was serving as the director of finances, he reorganized the
financial matters and returned a number of responsibilities that the
director of finances had undertaken to other agencies which had
previously had those responsibilities. When Emperor Shunzong died in
806, Du again briefly served as regent for several days. Later in
806, Du requested that he be relieved from his financial
responsibilities and recommended his deputy Li Sun (李巽, who had
Wang Shuwen at Du's recommendation) as his replacement.
Also in 806, he was made, in addition to chancellor, Situ (司徒,
also one of the Three Excellencies) and created the Duke of Qi. As
Du was old at that time, Emperor Xianzong afforded him great respect,
referring to him only as Situ and not by name.
When Du requested retirement due to old age in 807, Emperor Xianzong
had him keep all of his offices but be allowed to go into
semi-retirement at his mansion in Fanchuan (樊川, near Chang'an),
only to visit the office of the chancellors two or three times a month
to discuss important matters of state. Fanchuan was scenic, and Du
often invited the other officials to feasts there. Around that time,
Dangxiang tribesmen often served as guides for
Tufan forces in
attacking Tang territory, and there were many suggestions by officials
Dangxiang tribes. Du submitted a petition advising against
attacking Dangxiang, reasoning that the better strategy is to treat
Dangxiang tribes with kindness to get them to submit. Emperor Xianzong
appreciated the suggestions. In 812, when Du fell ill, he again
requested retirement, and this time Emperor Xianzong approved. Du died
later in the year and was given great posthumous honors. His grandson
Du Cong later served as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor
Wuzong and Emperor Yizong; another grandson, Du Mu, was a famed poet
of the late Tang period.
It was said that Du was diligent and studious, and even when he
reached the apex of governmental service, he continued to study
earnestly. Whenever he discussed policies with his staff members, they
were impressed by his logical reasoning and knowledge. It was said
that his acts were almost without fault, except that his reputation
suffered when, during his service as military governor of Huainan, his
wife Lady Liang died, and he promoted a concubine, Lady Li, to be his
new wife despite his family members' urging against it.
Notes and references
^ Old Book of Tang, vol. 15.
^ Official History under the T'ang, 104-7
Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, p. 244 from Twitchett,
Arthur F. Wright 1960 p.100. The Confucian Persuasion.
^ Arthur F. Wright 1960 p.99,110. The Confucian Persuasion.
Josephine Chiu-Duke 2000. p.135,150,152-153,155-156. To Rebuild the
John Keay 2009 p.284. China: A History.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Old Book of Tang, vol. 147 Archived 2008-06-21
at the Wayback Machine..
^ New Book of Tang, vol. 72."Archived copy". Archived from the
original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2008-10-03. "Archived copy".
Archived from the original on 2010-06-20. Retrieved 2008-10-03. .
^ Wei's biography in the
Old Book of Tang
Old Book of Tang does not mention a stint as
the prefect of Run Prefecture, but it mentioned his stints as the
governor of Zhexi and military governor of Huainan, specifically
mentioning that he was made the military governor of Huainan in 768
and served until his death in 771, therefore fixing the possible dates
of Du's service at Huainan. See Old Book of Tang, vol. 115.
^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 226.
^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 227.
^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 235.
^ a b Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 236.
^ a b Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 237.
Old Book of Tang, vol. 147
New Book of Tang, vol. 166.
Zizhi Tongjian, vols. 226, 227, 2