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Sima Guang (17 November 1019 – 11 October 1086),
courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The courtesy name would replac ...
Junshi, was a Chinese historian, writer, official, and politician. He was a high-ranking
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou, ending the Five Dynasties a ...
scholar-official and historian who authored the monumental history book ''
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
''. Sima was a political conservative who opposed Wang Anshi's reforms.


Early life

Sima Guang was named after his birthplace Guāng Prefecture, where his father Sima Chi () served as a county magistrate in Guangshan County. The Simas were originally from
Xia County Xia County or Xiaxian () is a county in the southwest of Shanxi Shanxi (; Postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the North Chi ...
in Shǎn Prefecture, and claimed descent from Cao Wei's official
Sima Fu Sima Fu () (180–272), courtesy name Shuda, was an imperial prince and statesman of the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty of China. He previously served as an official in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period before his grandne ...
in the 3rd century. A famous anecdote relates how the young Sima Guang once saved a playmate who had fallen into an enormous vat full of water. As other children scattered in panic, Sima Guang calmly picked up a rock and smashed a hole in the base of the pot. Water leaked out, and his friend was saved from drowning. At age 6, Sima Guang once heard a lecture on the 4th-century BC history book '' Zuo Zhuan''. Fascinated, he was able to retell the stories to his family when he returned home. He became an avid reader, "to the point of not recognizing hunger, thirst, coldness or heat". Sima Guang obtained early success as a scholar and officer. When he was barely twenty, he passed the
Imperial examination Chinese imperial examinations, or ''keju'' (lit. "subject recommendation"), were a civil service examination system in Imperial China for selecting candidates for the state bureaucracy. The concept of choosing bureaucrats by merit rather tha ...
with the highest rank of ''jìnshì'' (進士 "metropolitan graduate"), and spent the next several years in official positions.


Professional life

Sima Guang is best remembered for his masterwork, ''
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
'', and the Australian sinologist Rafe de Crespigny describes him as "perhaps the greatest of all Chinese historians" . In 1064, Sima presented to
Emperor Yingzong of Song Emperor Yingzong of Song (16 February 1032 – 25 January 1067), personal name Zhao Shu, was the fifth emperor of the Song dynasty in China. His original personal name was Zhao Zongshi but it was changed to "Zhao Shu" in 1062 by imperial decr ...
the five-volume ( ) ''Liniantu'' (歷年圖 "Chart of Successive Years"). It chronologically summarized events in Chinese history from 403 BCE to 959 CE, and served as a prospectus for sponsorship of his ambitious project in historiography. These dates were chosen because 403 BCE was the beginning of the Warring States period, when the ancient Jin (Chinese state), State of Jin was subdivided, which eventually led to the establishment of the Qin Dynasty; and because 959 CE was the end of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and the beginning of the Song Dynasty. In 1066, he presented a more detailed eight-volume ''Tongzhi'' (通志; "Comprehensive Records"), which chronicled Chinese history from 403 BCE to 207 BCE (the end of the Qin Dynasty). The emperor issued an edict for the compilation of a groundbreaking universal history of China, granting full access to imperial libraries, and allocating funds for the costs of compilation, including research assistance by experienced historians such as Liu Ban (劉攽, 1022–88), Liu Shu (劉恕, 1032-78), and Fan Zuyu (范祖禹, 1041–98). After Yingzong died in 1067, Sima was invited to the palace to introduce his work-in-progress to Emperor Shenzong of Song. The new emperor not only confirmed the interest his father had shown, but showed his favor by bestowing an imperial preface in which he changed the title from ''Tongzhi'' ("Comprehensive Records") to ''
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
'' ("Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government"). Scholars interpret the "Mirror" of the title to denote a work of reference and guidance, indicating that Shenzong accepted Sima as his guide in the study of history and its application to government. The emperor maintained his support for the compilation of this comprehensive history until its completion in 1084. From the late 1060s, Sima came to assume a role as leader of what has been identified as a conservative faction at court, resolutely opposed to the New Policies (Song dynasty), New Policies of Chancellor Wang Anshi. Sima presented increasingly critical memorials to the throne until 1070, when he refused further appointment and withdrew from court. In 1071, he took up residence in Luoyang, where he remained with an official sinecure, providing sufficient time and resources to continue the compilation of
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
. Though the historian and the emperor continued to disagree on policies, Sima's enforced retirement proved essential for him to complete his chronological history over the following one and a half decades. Contemporary accounts relate that to work more and sleep less when he was writing his great opus, the Zizhi Tongjian, he had a wooden pillow made from a log, designed to slip from under his head whenever he rolled over. He called this Jingzhen 警枕 (Alert Pillow), and used it throughout the period of
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
's compilation.


Death

Emperor Shenzong died in 1085, shortly after Sima had submitted ''
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
'' to the throne. Sima was recalled to court and appointed to lead the government under Emperor Zhezong of Song. He used this time in power to repeal many of the New Policies (Song dynasty), New Policies, but he died the following year, in 1086.


Achievements

As well as his achievements as a statesman and historian, Sima Guang was also a lexicographer (who perhaps edited the ''Jiyun''), and spent decades compiling his 1066 ''Leipian'' ("Classified Chapters", cf. the Yupian) dictionary. It was based on the Shuowen Jiezi, and included 31,319 Chinese characters, many of which were coined in the Song and Tang Dynasty. His ''Family Precepts of Sima Guang (司馬溫公家訓)'' is also widely known and studied in China and Japan.


See also

*''
Zizhi Tongjian The ''Zizhi Tongjian'' () is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 AD during the Song dynasty in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang (1019–1086 ...
'' *''Sushui Jiwen'' *Twenty-Four Histories *Chancellor of China *History of the Song Dynasty *Fan Zhongyan *Wang Anshi


References

* * . *Ji Xiao-bin (2005), ''Politics and Conservatism in Northern Song China: The Career and Thought of Sima Guang (1019-1086)'', Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. *Edwin G. Pulleyblank, Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1961). "Chinese Historical Criticism: Liu Chih-chi and Ssu-ma Kuang," in ''Historians of China and Japan'', William G. Beasley and Edwin G. Pulleyblank, eds., Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 135–66. * Strange, Mark (2014), "Sima Guang", in ''Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography'', Kerry Brown, ed., Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, vol. 2, pp. 664–683. * Joseph P Yap (2009), ''Wars With the Xiongnu - A translation From Zizhi tongjian'', Extract translations on Qin, Han, Xin and Xiongnu and Introduction. AuthorHouse.


External links


Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling
''Zizhi Tongjian'' Chapters 54-59 (157-189 BCE), translated and annotated by Rafe de Crespigny {{DEFAULTSORT:Sima, Guang 1019 births 1086 deaths 11th-century Chinese historians 11th-century Chinese people Chinese scholars Historians from Henan Politicians from Xinyang Song dynasty chancellors Song dynasty historians Song dynasty politicians from Henan Writers from Xinyang