Wang Can

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Wáng Càn ( Chinese  王 粲 , IPA ( standard Chinese) [ u̯ɑŋ35 tsʰan51 ], W.-G. Wang Ts'an ), majority name (Zi) Zhongxuan ( Chinese  仲 宣 , * 177 ; † 217 ) was a civil servant, scholar and poet of the late Han Dynasty . He participated actively in draft laws and reforms of the Supreme Minister Cao Cao and thus contributed to the consolidation of the power of the Cao family, which a few years after his death made the emperor themselves.


Wang Can was from Guanping Headquarters (now in Zou County, Shandong ) and was the son of a senior official. His grandfather and great-grandfather held high offices at court under Emperors Shun and Ling and belonged to the Three Princes ( 三公 ).

After the warlord Dong Zhuo brought the emperor into his power in 190 and relocated the capital from Luoyang to the more strategically located Chang'an in the following year , Wang Can moved to the capital in 191 and stayed there after Dong Zhuo's fall (192 ). There he became a student of the well-known scholar and calligrapher Cai Yong . The rulers Li Jue and Guo Si offered young Wang Can some offices, but he turned it down. In 194, he left the capital and moved to Jingzhou Province (now in Hubei and Hunan ) to serve Governor Liu Biao . However, there he could not reach a high position. After Liu Biao's death and the defeat of his son Liu Cong by warlord Cao Cao in 208, Wang Can, who advised Liu Cong to surrender, left Jingzhou Province and offered his services to Cao Cao.

Under Cao Cao, Wang Can assumed a key position in the government. The warlord and chief minister of Emperor Xian , whom he had placed entirely under his tutelage, made himself Duke of Wei in 213 and received a fiefdom from ten cities. He now commissioned Wang Can to revise the laws of the state and to reform them according to Cao Cao's ideas. This task had become necessary mainly because the domestic politics of the late Han dynasty (especially under Emperor Ling) endangered the central power and plagued the population, and that Cao Cao's sphere of influence no longer included all of China, but only the part to the north of the Yangtze .

The Chronicles of the Three Realms tell an anecdote that Wang Can ascribes photographic memory to: He is said to have watched a game of Go until one of the players accidentally knocked over the board. Wang Can then allegedly put the stones back in their places from memory.

In the fall of 216, Wang Can Cao Cao followed on a campaign against the southern warlord Sun Quan , but fell ill on the march and died in the spring of 217.

Literary legacy

Wang Can was considered a talented poet in addition to his civil service. He was counted among the seven masters of the Jian'an period ( 建 安七子 ) , along with seven other poets , who wrote calm, melancholy poetry under the impression of the Chinese civil war. His best-known poem at the time was the song of the seven worries ( 七 哀 诗 ), in which the suffering of the people is expressed. His poems have not survived.

He is also considered the author of a report about heroes ( 英雄 記 ), which dealt with the origins and careers of various (already deceased) people of his time. It was used to revise the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms during later editing and is only preserved in the form of quotations.

Source studies

The most important source for the life of Wang Cans are the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms of Chen Shou (233-297), who served as an officer of the Shu Han until 263 and later under the Jin Dynasty as a historian his views and experiences about the time of the three Rich put down in writing. The work was later edited by Pei Songzhi (372–451) using documents from the Imperial Archives.

In the 11th century, the historian Sima Guang created an extensive history work for the time from 403 BC with his summarized Zeitspiegel to aid the government . Chr. To 959 AD. For the time of the three kingdoms he made particular use of the chronicles of Chen Shou.


  • Étienne Balázs : La Crise sociale et la philosophie politique à la fin des Han. In: TP 39 (1949), pp. 83-131
  • Bo Yang (ed.): Sima Guang's Zizhi Tongjian. Modern Chinese Edition . Taipei 1982-1989.
  • Rafe de Crespigny (Ed.): To Establish Peace: Being the Chronicle of the Later Han dynasty for the years 189 to 220 AD as recorded in Chapters 59 to 69 of the Zizhi tongjian of Sima Guang (= Faculty of Asian Studies monographs New Series Volume 21). National Library of Australia, Canberra 1996, ISBN 0-7315-2526-4 (E-Text) .

Web links

Wikisource: Wang Can  - Sources and full texts (Chinese)