4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
- William Nienhauser, “Wei Ran, Fan Ju, and Qin Politics of the Third Century BCE as seen in the Shiji”
- Cai Yixuan, “The Rise and Fall of Zhou Bo and Zhou Yafu: A Study in the Texts on Early Han Court Politics”
- Hongyu Huang, “A Study of Sima Qian’s Portrayal of the First Han Chancellor, Xiao He”
- Hans van Ess, Discussant
The panel focuses on four of the major figures in Qin-Han history: Wei Ran, Fan Ju, Xiao He and Chen Ping. William H. Nienhauser, Jr., the panel organizer, in his study deals with the manner in which Sima Qian juxtaposes accounts of Wei Ran and Fan Ju leading to the victory of Qin over the Six States. Weiguo Cao takes up the duplicity of Chen Ping—and of Sima Qian’s ambivalence in his account of Chen—in his paper. Hongyu Huang examines how Sima Qian narrated the role of Xiao He as the highest official at the start of the Han and how he maintained this status. Each of these men were to shape the destiny of their states, Wei Ran and Fan Ju by enabling Qin to overcome the Six States and unify the empire and Xiao He and Chen Ping to balance their relationships to Liu Bang and Empress Lü with their own access to power. The papers all address Sima Qian’s claim that he was attempting to record men who “supporting righteousness and harboring extraordinary schemes did not allowing themselves to miss the right moment and were able to establish a meritorious name throughout the empire” and reveal that in empowering their states they more often relied on “extraordinary schemes” than “righteousness.” Professor Hans van Ess will discuss the papers.
William Nienhauser, “Wei Ran, Fan Ju, and Qin Politics of the Third Century BCE as seen in the Shiji“
Although the lengthy reign of King Chao of Qin (307–251 BCE) saw several chancellors, there are two whom later scholars credited with Qin’s success or blamed for its trials on the way to its unification of the empire: Wei Ran (335–266 BCE), The Marquis of Rang, and Fan Ju (d. 255), the Marquis of Ying. Sima Guang calls Fan Ju “a gentleman who could put a state in danger of collapse” and Su Che argued that he did little to benefit Qin. However, although Wei Ran served as chancellor of Qin on five occasions, Sima Qian’s biography of Wei, after depicting the way Wei helped Queen Dowager Xuan win control of the state, consists of just two long persuasions and a coda explaining how Fan Ju was able to replace Wei as chancellor. The excesses of Wei Ran’s power and wealth are further highlighted in the memoir for Fan Ju. Sima Qian may have had personal reasons to identify with Fan Ju, since Fan had been beaten and disgraced early in his career. This paper, however, will focus on the possibility that emphasis on Wei Ran’s relationship with Queen Dowager Xuan and other maternal relatives in both biographies, as well as Fan Ju’s support for a general who surrendered to Zhao, may be intended to invite reflection on the role of maternal relatives and generals who surrendered in the Sima Qian’s own time.
Cai Yixuan, “The Rise and Fall of Zhou Bo and Zhou Yafu: A Study in the Texts on Early Han Court Politics”
Zhou Bo, the Marquis of Jiang, was a commoner, but one of the most important figures in aiding Liu Bang to establish and stabilise the Han Dynasty. He helped conquer many of the enemies and rebels outside the House of Liu, and within overthrew the Empress Lv’s descendants after her death to preserve the rule of the Liu’s. His biography in the Grand Scribe’s Records, the Hereditary House of the Marquis of Jiang, focuses first on his military achievements that helped him earned his enfeoffment and then limns his vicissitudes in the court as a powerful high-ranking official and general, eventually leading to his imprisonment under Emperor Wen whom he had helped put on the throne. His son, Zhou Yafu, also a successful general, is depicted in the second part of the chapter. Both men were brought down by legal officials. This paper will analyse in details the reasons for Sima Qian’s portrayal of father and son Zhous’ accomplishments as well as their downfall, and compare this portrayal to the parallel accounts of the Zhous in Ban Gu’s Han shu.
Hongyu Huang, “A Study of Sima Qian’s Portrayal of the First Han Chancellor, Xiao He”
Chapter 53 of Shiji opens a sequence of five chapters that chronicle the lives of the most eminent and loyal ministers and military commanders of early Han. Xiao He, the subject of this chapter, was the long-time top aide to Gaozu of Han (Liu Bang) in the latter’s grand enterprise to overthrow the despotic Qin and unify China under Liu’s rule. The dramatically charged narrative of Chapter 53 stimulates the reader to pursue its essential questions: among Gaozu’s large group of talented followers, how did Xiao manage to distinguish himself to become the most senior statesman (zaixiang), and retain this coveted position till his last breath? From history’s vantage point, did he justly deserve so much power and prestige? My paper will attempt to respond to these two questions, examining Xiao both as a chief advisor who was instrumental in Gaozu’s rise to power and consolidation of a new empire and as a skilled subordinate who was able to allay Gaozu’s mounting suspicion and survive the emperor’s callous purging of powerful vassals who had outlived their usefulness to him. It will also explore Sima Qian’s use of foil, ambiguity and hu xian fa (telling the same story in different ways) as a means to lend his portrayal of Xiao He more tension and complexity.
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