Sima Guang

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Sima Guang
Family name : Sīmǎ ( 司馬 )
First name : Guāng ( )
: Jūnshí ( 君 實 )
Hào : Yúsǒu 迂 叟
Sùshuǐ Xiānsheng ( 涑 水 先生 )
Posthumous title : Wénzhèng ( 文 正 )
Nobility title : Wēnguógōng ( 溫國公 ⁴ )

Sima Guang ( Chinese  司馬 光  /  司马 光 , Pinyin Sīmǎ Guāng , W.-G. Ssuma Kuang ; * 1019 in Yuncheng , † 1086 in Luoyang ) was a Chinese historian , scholar and politician of the Song Dynasty .

It was in the year 1019 in today's prefecture-level city Yuncheng (southern province of Shanxi born), the son of a wealthy family. He made a name for himself early on as a scholar and officer. After he had acquired the highest academic title ( 進士 , jìnshì  - "doctor-like degree") in the civil service examination at the age of 20 , he took up civil service.

Sima Guang worked mainly as a historian in her ripe old age. His aim was to trace Chinese history from the beginnings of Jin State in the 11th century BC. To be recorded until his present. In 1064 he gave Emperor Yingzong a five-volume work ( 歷年 圖 , Lìniántú  - "Map of the Following Years ") that describes Chinese history in 403 BC. BC (beginning of the Warring States Period) to AD 959 (beginning of the Song Dynasty). Two years later he submitted eight more volumes ( 通志 , Tōngzhì  - "Comprehensive Records"), which cover the Warring States Period from 403 to 207 BC. With many details. In view of this success, the emperor issued an edict in which he supported the continuation of the work. He granted Sima Guang unrestricted access to the imperial library and took over the costs of paper and writing utensils, as well as the research assistance of experienced historians such as Liu Ban ( 劉 攽 , 1022-1088), Liu Shu ( 劉 恕 , 1032-1078), Fan Zuyu ( 范祖禹 , 1041-1098) and Zhao Yunxi ( 趙 鄖 西 ), who became his assistants.

After the death of Emperor Yingzong in 1067, Sima Guang presented his work to his successor Shenzong in November . The new emperor was so enthusiastic about Sima Guang's work that, in addition to the perks at work, he gave him the honor of writing a foreword for the historical work and his title in “ Comprehensive time mirror for helping the government ” ( 資 治通鑒 , Zīzhì Tōngjiàn ). Sima Guang completed his history in 1084.

Modern historians understand Emperor Shenzong's promotion of history as a turn to science. The emperor recognized the teaching character of historical science and its value for the government. At the same time he prevented the historiography from being put above his advice by naming the work "Spiegel" ( ) and thereby emphasizing its metaphorical character.

Through his work and the emperor's notable favor and loyalty, Sima Guang came to head the conservative faction at the imperial court over time, despite the declared opposition to Minister Wang Anshi , who continually criticized him. He resigned from the government in protest in 1070 and moved to Luoyang as an official retirement home for several years; there he found time and means to complete his encyclopedias. From 1085 to 1086 Sima Guang, replacing Wang Anshi, was Chancellor of the Imperial Government. In this capacity he reversed the progressive reforms of his predecessor.

In addition to his political activities, Sima Guang was also a lexicographer (author of dictionaries and encyclopedias) and spent decades writing his "Leipian" ( 類 篇  - "Arranged characters") called dictionary from 1066. It was based on the 9,000-character first Chinese dictionary Shuowen Jiezi of Xu Shen (121 AD under Emperor Han Andi , Eastern Han Dynasty ) and comprises 31,319 Chinese characters, many of which were minted in the Song and Tang dynasties. He is said to have also edited the Jiyun ( 集 韻 ) of Ding Du ( 丁 度 ) from 1067 with 53,525 characters.

Sima Guang's tomb has been on the list of monuments of the People's Republic of China since 1988 .


  • Ji Xiao-bin: Politics and Conservatism in Northern Song China: The Career and Thought of Sima Guang (AD 1019-1086). Chinese University Press, Hong Kong 2005, ISBN 962-996-183-0

Web links

Wikisource: Sima Guang  - Sources and full texts (Chinese)