A Classical Chinese Reader:
The Han shu biography of Huo Guang, with notes and glosses for students

Donald B. Wagner

Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1998.
Paperback 14.99
Bound 40.00

ISBN 0-7007-0960-6 (hbk)
ISBN 0-7007-0961-4 (pbk)

This Web sampler includes the introduction, the first page of the Chinese text, and the glosses and notes relating to that page.

To see one page of the Chinese text, click here.
To see some of the Glosses, click here.


My hope for this book is that it will provide help to students making the transition from "textbook texts" to "real texts". Introductory textbooks of Classical Chinese naturally use texts which do not present serious philological problems, and whose understanding does not depend on a detailed knowledge of their historical context. Students beginning their own research therefore often find themselves at a loss reading "real" texts, in which such problems abound. This textbook uses a significant historical text, and all of the problems which it presents are confronted in the glosses and notes.

The text used here is the biography of Huo Guang in the Han shu , together with the commentaries compiled by Yan Shigu (A.D. 541-645). Glosses are given for most unfamiliar words and phrases, and notes are provided on grammatical matters and on the historical context. Most of the glosses are translated directly from Chinese and Japanese dictionaries, and the source of each is indicated. It should be encouraging to see that one can arrive at a useful understanding of a significant historical text using standard reference works, without the help of an erudite Chinese master - though of course those who have such a master will always have the advantage over those who do not.

Advice to the student

Background reading.

We are concerned here with a historical text, and in reading it you will need to know something of the history, culture, and institutions of the Han dynasty. Reading or re-reading the chapter on the Han period in any general work on Chinese history, whichever one you are already familiar with, should provide an adequate (though minimal) background as you start on the textbook. If you are at all interested in early Chinese history, however, you will want to read more. An excellent broad introduction to Han history is:

Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens, Michèle
The Han Dynasty, tr. by Janet Seligman. New York: Rizzoli, 1982. Also published with the title The Han culture of China. Orig. La Chine des Han, 1982.
Before reading further in the research literature on Han history it will be important to be familiar with the historical sources for the period. The most important of these are the three Official Histories (Zheng shi ):
Shi ji
(Records of the historian), by Sima Qian (ca. 145-90 B.C.) and his father Sima Tan . A history of the known world from the beginnings to the authors' own time, thus incorporating approximately the first century of the Han period.
Han shu
(The book of Han), by Ban Gu (A.D. 32-92), his sister Ban Zhao , and others. A history of China from the beginning of the Han to the period of the usurper Wang Mang , i.e. from 206 B.C. to A.D. 25. For the first century of the Han it overlaps with the Shi ji, and in these parts the Han shu text is usually copied from the Shi ji, slightly rewritten.
Hou Han shu
(The book of Later Han), by Fan Ye (A.D. 398-445). A history of China from the Wang Mang period to the final fall of the dynasty, i.e. from about A.D. 25 to 220. In writing this history Fan Ye drew on a number of earlier histories of the same period, many of which had this same title, Hou Han shu, which have survived only in part.
There is a vast literature available on these works, of which the following may be mentioned as some of the best:
Watson, Burton
Ssu-ma Ch'ien, Grand Historian of China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958.
Chavannes, Édouard (tr.)
Les mémoires historiques de Se-ma Ts'ien. T. 1, 1895; t. 2, 1897; t. 3, 1898; t. 4, 1901; t. 5, 1905; t. 1-5 repr. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1967. T. 6, ed. and completed by Paul Demiéville, Max Kaltenmark, & Timoteus Pokora, Paris: Maisonneuve, 1969.
"Introduction", t. 1, pp. i-ccxlix.
Van Der Sprenkel, O. B.
Pan Ku, Pan Piao, and the Han history. Canberra 1964.
Swann, Nancy Lee
Pan Chao: Foremost woman scholar of China. First century A.D. Background, ancestry, life, and writings of the most celebrated Chinese woman of letters. (1932). Repr. New York 1968.
Bielenstein, Hans
"The restoration of the Han dynasty: With prolegomena on the historiography of the Hou Han shu", Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 1954, 26: 1-209.
"Text history", pp. 9-20; "Historiography", pp. 20-81.
Beck, B. J. Mansvelt
The treatises of Later Han: Their author, sources, contents and place in Chinese historiography. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990 (Sinica Leidensia, 21).
Much more important than any of the secondary literature, however, is to read the sources themselves, in translation at first and later in the original. The following translations from the Shi ji and Han shu seem to be the most useful for students:
Chavannes' translation of the Shi ji,
cited above, covers the first 52 chapters, most of which are related to pre-Han periods and thus are of less importance here.
Watson, Burton (tr.)
Records of the Grand Historian of China: Translated from the Shi chi of Ssu-ma Ch'ien. 2 vols., New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1961.
Rev. and expanded ed., Records of the Grand Historian: by Sima Qian. 1993.
Translates most of the chapters of the Shi ji which relate to the Han period.
Watson, Burton (tr.)
Courtier and commoner in ancient China: Selections from the History of the Former Han by Pan Ku. New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1974.
Dubs, Homer H. (tr.)
The history of the Former Han Dynasty, by Pan Ku, a critical translation with annotations. Vols. 1-3, Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1938, 1944, 1955. Tr. of juan 1-12 + 99 of Han shu. Further volumes were planned but never published.
Watson is justly famous for his highly readable translations of ancient Chinese texts, but he is criticised for the very sparing commentary and philological apparatus in his translations; Dubs' translations from the Han shu are much more "scholarly", but not at all easy to read.

Published translations from the Hou Han shu are few, but one can indirectly read it in translation by reading translations from the Zizhi tongjian . This book is a year-by-year history of China from the fifth century B.C. to the tenth century A.D., compiled by Sima Guang (1019-1086) by a scissors-and-paste method from the sources available to him. Since the Hou Han shu was very nearly his only source for the Later Han period, the following translations from the Zizhi tongjian can be useful to students as substitutes for translations from the Hou Han shu:

DeCrespigny, Rafe (tr.)
The last of the Han: Being the chronicle of the years 181-220 A.D. as recorded in chapters 58-68 of the Tzu-chih t'ung-chien of Ssu-ma Kuang (Centre of Oriental Studies, Monograph 9). Canberra: Australian National University, 1969.
DeCrespigny, Rafe (tr.)
Emperor Huan and Emperor Ling: Being the chronicle of Later Han for the years 157 to 189 AD as recorded in chapters 54 to 59 of the Zizhi tongjian of Sima Guang (Faculty of Asian Studies monographs: New series, 12). 2 vols., Canberra: Australian National University, 1989.
Besides the Official Histories there are numerous other historical sources for Han history, of which the following are two of the best known:
Yan tie lun
(Discourses on salt and iron), by Huan Kuan (1st cent. B.C.). Report on a state conference on administrative and economic problems held in 81 B.C.
Hua yang guo zhi
(Treatise on the states south of Mount Hua), by Chang Qu (4th cent. A.D.). A history and geography of the region of modern Sichuan from the Han to the author's own time.
There are two partial translations of the Yan tie lun:
Gale, Esson M. (tr.)
Discourses on salt and iron: A debate on state control of commerce and industry in ancient China. Taipei: Ch'eng-wen, 1967. This is a combined facs. repr. of the Leiden 1931 tr. of chapters 1-19 and the tr. of chapters 20-28 in Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1934, 65: 73-110.
Baudry-Weulersse, Delphine, Jean Levi, & Pierre Baudry (trs.)
Chine, an -81: Dispute sur le sel et le fer. Yantie lun. Presentation par Georges Walter. Seghers, Paris, 1978.
At the moment there is not much available in Western languages from or about the Hua yang guo zhi, but an article by Harald Bøckmann is expected.

Extremely informative and reliable on books of the Han and before is:

Loewe, Michael (ed.)
Early Chinese texts: A bibliographical guide (Early China special monograph series, 2). Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China and Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1993.
After becoming familiar with the most important sources for Han history you will be prepared to begin reading the research literature on the period. The place to start is:
Twitchett, Denis & Loewe, Michael (eds.)
The Cambridge history of China. Vol. 1: The Ch'in and Han empires, 221 B.C. - A.D. 220. Cambridge University Press, 1986.
This book, 1000 pages without a single illustration, is intentionally and emphatically an old-fashioned history. You may not wish to read it, but you will certainly want to use it as a reference work. Either read it or browse through it, then go on to its bibliography. Consider especially works by B. J. Mansvelt Beck, Hans Bielenstein, Rafe DeCrespigny, Patricia Ebrey, A. F. P. Hulsewe, Michael Loewe, Henri Maspero, C. M. Wilbur, and L. S. Yang.

On the material culture and archaeology of the Han there is not as much available as one would like, but a certain amount can be gained from the following:

Pirazzoli-t'Serstevens, Michèle
The Han dynasty, cited earlier
Wang Zhongshu
Han civilization. Tr. by K. C. Chang a.o. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1982. Tr. of a series of lectures given in the U.S., later published in China: Han dai kaoguxue gaishuo (A survey of Han archaeology). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1984.
Dien, Albert E. (et al., eds.)
Chinese archaeological abstracts, vols. 2-4 (Monumenta archaeologica, vols. 9-11). 3 vols., Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1985.
Two more specialized works, by Hayashi Minao and Käthe Finsterbusch, will be mentioned further below.

Huo Guang and his time.

The text we are concerned with here is the biography in the Han shu of Huo Guang (d. 68 B.C.), the de facto holder of supreme power under two Emperors. Most of the relevant chapters of the Han shu can be found in English translation in the books by Watson and Dubs cited above.[1]

Two important books deal at length with our period:

Loewe, Michael
Crisis and conflict in Han China, 104 B.C. to A.D. 9. London: Allen & Unwin, 1974.
Liu Pak-yuen (Liao Boyuan )
Les institutions politiques et la lutte pour le pouvoir au milieu de la dynastie des Han antérieurs (Mémoires de l'Institut des Hautes Études Chinoises, 15). Paris: Collège de France / Diffusion de Boccard, 1983.
Either of these books will be useful for the background to the events covered by Huo Guang's biography, but the most interesting aspect is the comparison between the two. Broadly speaking, Michael Loewe follows the traditional Chinese view, that Huo Guang was a faithful servant of the Emperors under whom he served, while Liu Pak-yuen sees him as a manipulator who usurped the legitimate powers of the Emperors. What is more, this disagreement is sustained in spite of the fact that the authors use the same sources (chiefly Huo Guang's biography), and use them almost uncritically, believing virtually every word of the Han shu. I invite you to read both books and then, while reading the biography of Huo Guang, consider how such different interpretations of the same text can be possible. This is not the place to give my own view, but I suggest that you consider whether the reason is perhaps to be sought in events and currents of thought of Ban Gu's own time.

In reading Han historical texts it is important to know something of Han bureaucracy and institutions. The following can help:

Loewe, Michael
"The orders of aristocratic rank of Han China", T'oung-pao, 1960, 48.1/3: 97-174.
Wang Yü-ch'üan
"An outline of the central government of the Former Han dynasty", Harvard journal of Asiatic studies, 1949, 12: 134-187.
Bielenstein, Hans
The bureaucracy of Han times. Cambridge University Press, 1980.
Hucker, Charles O.
A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China. Stanford University Press, 1985.

Dictionaries and reference works.

The only good Chinese-English dictionary of Classical Chinese is:

Karlgren, Bernhard
"Grammata Serica recensa", Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Stockholm) 1957, 29: 1-332. Facs. repr. as a separate vol., Göteborg 1964.
It is however concerned only with single characters and only with usage in pre-Han texts, and is therefore of limited use here. It is often useful in attempting to determine the primary or original meaning of a word and, as will be discussed below, it is also useful in dealing with the fanqie sound glosses given by commentators of the Six Dynasties and Tang periods.

Using "Grammata Serica recensa" can unfortunately be rather laborious. In the body of the work, characters with the same phonetic part are grouped together, and the phonetic parts are listed by radical in the index. To find , for example, it does not help to look under the character's own radical, , no. 149. Instead one looks up the phonetic part, , under its radical, , no. 86. This is on p. 327 of the index, and one finds here the number 617. Group no. 617 is listed on p. 165, where is no. 617a and is no. 617l. The definition for no. 617l, on p. 164, is "id. speak (Shï)." Here "Shï" (for Shi jing ) indicates Karlgren's source for this meaning; normally he indicates the earliest text in which the character is used with the given meaning. "Id." means that the pronunciation is the same as that of the previous character, which in this case is given as "*d'âm / d'âm / t'an". These are the reconstructed Archaic and Ancient pronunciations, followed by the Mandarin pronunciation. The transcription system used for the reconstructed pronunciations is explained on pp. 3-4. The transcription system used for the Mandarin pronunciation is Karlgren's own, but it resembles the Wade-Giles system, and is easy enough to understand. The Mandarin tone is not given, but can often be worked out from the reconstructed Ancient pronunciation using rules given by Karlgren on p. 5.

I continue trying to persuade students not to use Mathews' Chinese-English dictionary or Liang's New practical Chinese-English dictionary in reading Classical Chinese texts, but without much success. These are the only Chinese-English dictionaries which are even barely adequate for the purpose, but they really cannot be recommended. They mix up meanings from all periods from the most ancient to the most modern, giving no indication of period and no usage examples; and they are also very often simply wrong. This one is somewhat better:

Couvreur, F. S.
Dictionnaire classique de la langue chinoise. [3ême éd. 1911]. Repr. Taiwan, 1963.
However I do not recommend Couvreur either, for we now have excellent modern Chinese dictionaries of Classical Chinese that are definitely preferable to anything available in Western languages. Most of the Chinese dictionaries to be discussed below are concerned with Classical Chinese only, and give along with each definition one or more examples of usage.

For single characters the following are useful:

Gu Hanyu changyong zi zidian .
Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1979.
Shi Dong
Jianming gu Hanyu cidian . Kunming: Yunnan Renmin Chubanshe, 1985.
Qian Daqun & Qin Zhipei
Wenyan changyong babai zi tongshi Nanjing Daxue Chubanshe, 1987.
One of the first two should be your basic "first try" dictionary; the second is better, but is more difficult to find in bookstores than the first. The third includes only 800 characters, and therefore cannot be used alone, but it gives a wealth of information on the usage of each of the characters which it does include.

For grammatical particles the following are quite good:

Yang Bojun & Tian Shusheng (eds.)
Wenyan changyong xuci . Changsha: Hunan Renmin Chubanshe, 1983. Repr. 1985.
Changyong wenyan xuci cidian .
Xi'an: Shanxi Renmin Chubanshe, 1983. Repr. 1984.
Characteristic for all of the modern Chinese dictionaries listed so far are that they are small and fairly cheap, that they are concerned primarily with single characters (though a few of the most common character combinations are also included), and that characters generally must be looked up in their simplified forms, which can sometimes be a nuisance.

When such small dictionaries are not adequate, a different sort of dictionary is required. The next step is to look up the character or phrase in one of the medium-sized dictionaries:

Ci yuan .
Rev. ed., 4 vols., Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan, 1979.
Ci hai .
Rev. ed., 3 vols., Shanghai: Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe, 1979. Suppl. vol. , 1983.
These are larger, less handy, and much more expensive than the dictionaries listed earlier, and they are also more difficult to obtain outside China. Both include both single characters and combinations of characters. Ci yuan is devoted entirely to Classical Chinese, while Ci hai has modern meanings as well (with the period clearly indicated). For most purposes I prefer Ci yuan, but Ci hai also has its uses; in particular it seems to be better on classical names of animals and plants.

Obviously these Chinese-Chinese dictionaries often give definitions which one cannot understand, and it is then necessary to look up one or more words in a Chinese-English dictionary of modern Chinese; there are several good ones, but it would take us too far afield to discuss them here.

For those who are at ease with Japanese there is a wide selection of medium-sized Chinese-Japanese classical dictionaries available, one of which is:

Kadokawa Kan-Wa chuu jiten .
Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1959. Many reprs.
This seems to have about as many entries as Ci yuan, but it does not give usage examples and is therefore less useful.

When the medium-sized dictionaries are not enough one must go on to the large dictionaries, and this will normally mean a trip to the library. Few students will want to own these dictionaries themselves, because they are expensive and take up a great deal of bookshelf space.

Hanyu da cidian .
12 vols. + index, Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe, 1986-1994.
Morohashi Tetsuji
Dai Kan-Wa jiten . 13 vols., Tokyo: Taishukan, 1955-60. Facs. repr. n.p. (Taiwan), n.d.
Zhongwen da cidian .
("Encyclopedic dictionary of the Chinese language"). 40 vols., Taibei: Zhongguo Wenhua Xueyuan Chubanshe, 1962-68. Many reprs.
Hanyu da cidian is a marvellous dictionary, definitely the best we have for Classical Chinese, and for most purposes it supersedes Morohashi, which was once the standard. The present book was largely written before it had been completely published, however, and it will be seen that I have often used Morohashi for the glosses where today I would use Hanyu da cidian.

Morohashi's dictionary does however still have its uses. One does not have to be very good at Japanese to use it: perhaps one semester's university instruction would be enough. One looks up a word, finds a definition in Japanese, and looks this up in Nelson's Japanese-English Character Dictionary or in Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, whichever is appropriate. It is only necessary to note that Morohashi uses pre-reform kana, which means that a word like (or ), which looks as if it should be pronounced kofu, is actually pronounced kou, and must be looked up as such in the Kenkyusha dictionary. There is a useful table of the older kana combinations in Nelson's dictionary, pp. 1015-1016.

The Zhongwen da cidian is said to be largely a translation of Morohashi. It appears to be full of typographical and other errors, and since the publication of Hanyu da cidian it is no longer recommended.

A person can be referred to in a classical text by several different names, and this can sometimes give problems. The fastest way of dealing with alternate names is to look them up in the indexes to personal names in the three Han histories:

Zhong Hua (comp.)
Shi ji renming suoyin . Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1977.
Wei Lianke (comp.)
Han shu renming suoyin . Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1979.
Li Yumin (comp.)
Hou Han shu renming suoyin . Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1979.
In the Han shu index, for example, one can look up Bolu Hou , "the Marquis of Bolu", and find (on p. 222), that three men are referred to in the Han shu by this title: Huo Guang , Huo Yu , and Huo Yang . (Huo Yu was Huo Guang's son and Huo Yang was the great-grandson of a cousin.) Under Huo Guang (on p. 52) we find a list of the names by which he is referred to in the Han shu: Huo Zimeng , Bolu Hou , Bolu Xuancheng Hou , and Huo jiangjun .

Of course every personal name used in this text will be found in the Han shu index. Even when reading other texts, however, these indexes will be useful, for the greater part of all the persons known at all from the Han are mentioned in one or another of the Han histories. Failing that, one can try Ci yuan, Ci hai, and Morohashi (there are no personal or place names in Hanyu da cidian). Often help can also be obtained from Zhongguo renming da cidian (orig. 1921, numerous reprints), but it pays to be wary of mistakes and typographical errors in this book.

In dealing with the technical terms of Chinese administration the following can be used:

Bielenstein, Hans
The bureaucracy of Han times. Cambridge University Press, 1980.
Hucker, Charles O.
A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China. Stanford University Press, 1985.
In talking and writing about Han history we need to have an agreed standard set of translations for official titles. Until recently the de facto standard was that used by Dubs in his translation (cited above); Bielenstein uses Dubs's translations and where necessary creates new translations after the same pattern. Since translations of official titles are in any case arbitrary, it would have been sensible to stick to one standard, but now we are in the unfortunate situation of having three competing sets of translations: Hucker has created a completely different set of translations, and the Cambridge history of China uses still another set. Whether one set of translations will in time win out as a new standard, and if so which, is impossible to predict today: I continue to use those of Dubs and Bielenstein, but am aware that the other two have their good points.

For a great many glosses concerning material objects the place to go is:

Hayashi Minao
Kandai no bunbutsu . Kyooto Daigaku Jinbun Kagaku Kenkyuusho , 1976.
It is not necessary to know Japanese to use this book, though one can get much more out of it if one does. If for example one finds in a Han text a reference to a weapon called a gourang one can look it up in the glossary (p. 586) and find references to p. 462 and figures 10-50 and 10-51. On p. 462 is a short description in Japanese of the gourang, with a quotation in Chinese of a Han text which describes it and a reference (through item 375 on p. 574) to an article about it in a Chinese archaeological journal. Figure 10-50 is a sketch of an actual gourang found in a Han grave, and figure 10-51 is a sketch of a Han tomb-relief showing a gourang in use.

Further help in dealing with references to material objects can be found in:

Finsterbusch, Käthe
Verzeichnis und Motivindex der Han-Darstellungen. Bd. 1: Text, 1966. Bd. 2: Abbildungen und Addenda, 1971. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
Here one can find Han illustrations of a crossbow or a flute (by looking in the index under Armbrust or Flöte, pp. 200, 210) or indeed even a gourang (Wade-Giles kou-jang, here mistakenly transcribed kou-hsiang, p. 220).

This textbook

The text.

Two versions of our text are reproduced here, from the Zhonghua Shuju edition (pp. T3-T41) and from the edition of Wang Xianqian , Han shu buzhu (pp. T43-T65):

Han shu .
Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1962.
Wang Xianqian (ed.)
Han shu buzhu . Changsha: Xushou Tang , 1900. Facs. repr. 2 vols., Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1983.
Both include Yan Shigu's commentary, and Wang Xianqian gives additional commentary. The Zhonghua Shuju edition, being typeset and punctuated, is obviously the more convenient to read, and it will be used as the basic text here. Line numbers have been added for convenient reference.

In Wang Xianqian's edition the commentary is printed as in all pre-modern editions: each comment is printed in smaller characters directly after the point in the main text to which it refers. He gives Yan Shigu's comment, then adds his own, if any, preceded by . In the Zhonghua Shuju edition the comments are gathered in convenient groups and keyed to the text using numbers.

The Zhonghua Shuju editors' text emendations are given as follows. A small character in parentheses is a character in Wang Xianqian's edition which should be deleted, and a large character in brackets is a character not in that text which should be inserted. For example, in lines 7-8 (p. T3), we find: . This means that the character in Wang Xianqian's edition is to be replaced with the character . The editors' reasons for their emendations are given at the end of each chapter, in this case on p. T40 (p. 2968 of the original): three early editions have in this passage. The conventions followed by the editors are given in their preface.

Yan Shigu in his commentary quotes a number of earlier commentaries. Most of these are no longer extant, and what we know of them comes almost entirely from Yan Shigu's preface. I give some of this information in the notes.

Yan Shigu's commentary often indicates the pronunciation of individual characters using the fanqie ("turning and cutting") system. Two characters are given, from which the reader is to use the initial consonants of the pronunciation of the first and the final part of the pronunciation of the second. A common error of beginners is to attempt to use the modern pronunciations of the two characters, which can give bizarre results. It is necessary to use the pronunciation of the time of the commentator: in this case the Tang period. Bernhard Karlgren has reconstructed this pronunciation, which he calls Ancient Chinese, in Grammata Serica recensa (cited above).

An example of the use of the fanqie system is in comment no. 2 after line 16 (p. T4): , "The sound of is given by the fan[qie] of zhi and yu ." To use this one looks up zhi and yu in Grammata Serica recensa and finds their pronunciations in Ancient Chinese, respectively and . The initial part of the first is , and the final part of the second is (the whole syllable, because there is no initial consonant). Putting these together gives . Now looking up in Grammata Serica recensa, one finds that the character has two meanings, with two different pronunciations:

modern shu, Ancient , "be attached to"
modern zhu, Ancient , "to attach"
Yan Shigu has thus told us which of these meanings the character has here, and such information can be very useful.

In my glosses I have included the Ancient pronunciation of every character involved in a fanqie sound gloss. You will notice that the results are not always as straightforward as in the above example; such cases are matters for the linguists to worry about, and I have only rarely had anything to say about them.

The glosses.

The gloss list gives definitions of words which are likely to be unfamiliar to students who have read no more than an introductory textbook such as Harold Shadick's A first course in literary Chinese (1968). The emphasis is on multi-character words (because single-character words are much easier to find in dictionaries) and on rare meanings for familiar words. In each case I have translated the definition from a Chinese or Japanese dictionary and added a reference to this source, using the abbreviations in the list below. There is very little system in my choice of which dictionary to use for any particular gloss: this book has grown with use, and my taste in dictionaries has changed over time.

I use certain conventions in the glosses. Distinctly different meanings are separated by semicolons. Three dots at the beginning of a definition indicate that I have omitted one or more familiar meanings and give only an unusual meaning, while three dots at the end of the definition indicate that I have omitted one or more meanings which I consider obscure and/or irrelevant. Occasionally it can be useful to know that a certain character combination is not found in a major dictionary; here this is indicated with the sign "\", so that for example "\CY" means "Not in Ci yuan".

Numbers in the left margin indicate the line number in which the word glossed occurs. An indication like "16.2" means "comment no. 2 after line 16".

As noted above, Karlgren's reconstruction of the Ancient Chinese pronunciation is given for all characters involved in fanqie sound glosses in the commentary.

For each official title I include Bielenstein's translation, for example "General of Agile Cavalry" for piaoji jiangjun (line 1). Here and there I have also felt it necessary to quote what Bielenstein says about the rank and duties of the position, but in general interested students will have to go to Bielenstein's book to find out this sort of thing.

The pronunciations are taken from Chinese dictionaries, and where the dictionaries do not agree I have normally used the pronunciation given in the little Xinhua zidian (1979 and later reprints), which in the matter of pronunciations is prescriptive rather than descriptive. If you have a Chinese teacher you should of course follow his or her pronunciation - it is absolutely silly to argue about pronunciation with a native speaker, even when other native speakers disagree.

You will have to decide for yourself how important correct pronunciation is in a language like Classical Chinese, which you will never have occasion to speak. There is a particular problem here concerning what some Western Sinologists insist upon as correct. Many teachers tell their students that, in reading Classical Chinese, bai is to be pronounced bo, che is to be pronounced ju, etc. These special pronunciations were learned by an early generation of Sinologists from their Chinese teachers. They are examples of a venerable tradition of yan wen yi du , "different readings in speech and writing", which, curiously enough, seems to have been preserved only in the West. Very few of these variant readings are indicated in modern Chinese dictionaries, and as far as I have been able to determine, most scholars in China today (mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong) neither use them nor have even heard of them. Many students, having laboriously learned that the "correct" pronunciation of the poet 's name is Lî Bo rather than Lî Bai, have had the embarrassing experience of being politely corrected by Chinese friends who find it odd that they should mispronounce such a common character. For linguists the yan wen yi du tradition provides valuable historical evidence; the rest of us can, in my opinion, take an entirely pragmatic view of what is correct.

One may very well wonder where to stop in looking up character combinations in dictionaries. For example, was it really necessary to look up qiuwen (in the glosses for line 4) in Morohashi's dictionary? The first character means "to seek", the second "to ask", and in context the combination clearly means "to inquire about". There are three remarks to make here. First, the mere fact that the combination is in Morohashi tells us that it was a commonly used word, and the characters are not to be translated separately, as something like "to seek and inquire". Second, Morohashi gives an example of the use of the combination, in this case from the Shi ji, and such examples can be very useful in understanding the use of the word in other texts. I have not felt that I had the time or the patience to include the usage examples in my definitions, though that would in principle have been a good thing to do, but students can check them out in the locations indicated. Finally, if for example in line 3 one translates the combination guixing according to the individual characters, as something like "honoured and fortunate", one will miss the whole point of the sentence in which it occurs, for this word means specifically to be favoured by a ruler. The only way to find out this sort of fact is to look up the word in a dictionary.

But having said all this, it is also necessary to note that dictionaries have their limits, and that one's time is limited. One needs an instinct for what is worth looking up, and perhaps this textbook will be of some help in developing such an instinct.

Uses for this textbook.

Teachers have their teaching methods, and do not really want to be told their job, so I have nothing to say to them here. I hope, however, that the book will also prove useful in self-study, and in that context there are perhaps a few things to say.

Depending on your purposes, and on how advanced you are in Classical Chinese, you can choose to read either the modern typeset and punctuated edition (pp. T3-T41) or Wang Xianqian's unpunctuated wood-block edition (pp. T43-T65). You can also choose to read Yan Shigu's commentary or to ignore it. After you have been through the text, using the glosses and looking up whatever more you need, Burton Watson's translation (in Courtier and commoner in ancient China, cited above, pp. 121-157) will be very useful in checking your understanding.

When you have been through this book you will have a detailed understanding of a significant Han text, and will be able to use that understanding in any number of ways. You may for example look at it as a historical source, or a literary text, or a linguistic example, and analyse it as such. If you are primarily interested in improving your command of Classical Chinese, you will want to learn its vocabulary and its grammatical structures. We all have our ways of doing this, but one way that I and some of my students have found useful is to read the text aloud many times over. After reading and understanding a page or so, one places ten coins on the table and reads the text aloud ten times, taking a symbolic reward of one coin for each reading. --Reading aloud is important, for when reading silently it is too easy to "cheat". Most Chinese teachers would advise you to memorise large parts of the text, and what I suggest here is a lazy person's version of memorisation. Either way, this is a useful means of both learning vocabulary and becoming intimately familiar with the grammatical and rhetorical patterns of Classical Chinese.

A good way forward for more advanced self-study after this textbook would be to read some of the other chapters in the Han shu which touch in one way or another on the story of Huo Guang. In reading these you will already know the historical background and also a certain amount of the vocabulary, so that the amount of dictionary work required will be less than in reading an unrelated text.

An obvious place to begin is the biography of Jin Midi , which follows directly after Huo Guang's in juan 68. It is reproduced here (pp. T31-T36), but I have not provided glosses or notes for it. Then there are the Annals of the two Emperors Huo Guang served, Zhao-di and Xuan-di , juan 7-8 of the Han shu, which have been translated by Dubs (cited above, vol. 2, pp. 151-175 and 199-265). For those who are seriously interested in Han history it will be important to read examples like these of Han shu Annals, but they are dry and disjointed, and many will prefer to continue reading biographies, for example juan 63, the collective biography of the five sons of the emperor Wu-di . This has been translated by Watson (Courtier and commoner, pp. 46-78, cited above).

. . .

This book owes a great deal to all the students who have worked with me over the years. There are several whom I would have liked to thank by name for their trenchant (sometimes caustic) comments, but the list became too long - in this place a collective anonymous thanks will have to suffice. All errors are mine.

A book like this is a heap of details, and I am heavily conscious of how many errors must remain. I hope teachers and students will share with me their experience in using the book, and inform me of errors to be corrected in a later edition.



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[1] The basic sources for the period have been translated into Swedish by Arvid Jongchell in Huo Kuang och hans tid: Täxter ur Pan Ku's Ch'ien Han shu (Göteborg: Elanders Boktryckeri, 1930). Jongchell translated all of the relevant chapters of the Hàn shoe, then cut up and rearranged the translations to form a continuous text with almost no further comment. This "scissors-and-paste" method is no longer accepted as a way of writing history, but the book will nevertheless be of great value to any student of the Hàn who can read Swedish.