Custom Search

The Letter to Shao-qing Ren 1

Si-ma, Qian 2 (145-86 BCE)

Honorable Shao-qing,
    I received your kind letter. It taught me to make friends with caution and to promote the worthy and able 3. Your tone was caring, as if you were worried that I would not take your advice. I dare not do so because I respect your writing as I admire the writings of other great men, even though I am foolish and frustrated. My reputation was destroyed when I was given the sentence of castration 4. It seems that I will be blamed for whatever I do and will make the matter worse whenever I try to help. Therefore, I keep my sorrow inside. To whom may I speak? There is a saying, "With whom shall I work? Who will listen to me?" It is like the story of Ya Bo. Ya Bo loved to play the zither to Zi-qi Zhong because Zi-qi understood what Ya Bo was playing 5. After Zi-qi Zhong died, Ya Bo no longer played the zither. Why? He did this because a man works harder when someone appreciates his talents and a woman beautifies her face only because someone loves her. I am handicapped. Even if my talent is as brilliant as He Bian's Jade or the pearl of the King of Sui, and I behave like You Xu or Bo-yi 6, I will not be honored. On the contrary, it will only remind people of my shame and give them the opportunity to insult me. I should have replied to your letter earlier. However, when your letter arrived, I was returning to the capital from a trip in which I accompanied the emperor to the east. Also because of trivial matters, I did not have a chance to see you or write you. Now you wonder whether or not you may live through the end of the winter because the emperor considered you a traitor and ordered you to be executed. The execution will take place within a month. Soon I will accompany the emperor to Yong City 7. I am worried that you may die before I get the chance to explain to you why I could not appeal to the emperor for your release 8. Then your spirit would be left with endless hatred toward me. Therefore, I would like to give you my humble opinion. Please forgive me for not replying to your letter sooner.

    I have heard that the performance of good deeds is like a wise man's signature; loving to give alms is the origin of benevolence; giving or taking properly is an expression of virtue; suffering shame tests one's courage; and establishing a good reputation requires a lifetime of devotion. If a man is wise, kind, virtuous, brave, and has achieved many accomplishments, then he will establish a foothold in his society and will be respected as a gentleman. Thus, no attribute is more disastrous than greed. No pain is more bitter than that of a broken heart. No deed is more scandalous than committing a crime that would insult one's ancestors. One's worst shame is being given the sentence of castration. Everyone despises a castrated man. It is true not only now, but has been true since ancient times. After Confucius saw King Ling-gong of the State of Wei and Eunuch Yong-qu ride the same carriage, Confucius was angry and left for the State of Cheng. Liang Zhao was bitterly disappointed that Yang Shang 9 relied on Eunuch Jing-jian's recommendation in order to win the office of prime minister. Si Yuan was furious when he saw Eunuch Tan Zhao accompany Emperor Wen-di of the Han dynasty in a carriage. Everyone has despised castrated men since ancient times. Any mediocre person who befriends a eunuch will be considered a failure, not to mention a fervent and talented man. Although the emperor's court lacks talented officials, it does not need a castrated man like me to recommend people who have extraordinary courage and ability. By inheriting my father's position as the Official Historian, I have worked in the capital for more than twenty years. Let me consider my abilities. In relation to the emperor, I cannot win his trust because I lack talent and fail to give him good advice. Next, I fail to recruit talented hermits by enticing them to leave their caves 10. Regarding foreign invasions, I cannot kill the enemy's generals, fell their flags, or even lead troops to fight in a battlefield. On behalf of my relatives and friends, I fail to acquire power and wealth by which they may feel proud of me. Thus, I have failed in the aspects of ideals, achievements, military affairs, wealth and power. This shows that I can only curry favors from others to drag out an ignoble existence. I used to discuss state affairs with other officials. In retrospect, I should have expressed all my opinions based on political principles before my body was damaged. Now people consider me the same as the base cleaning slaves. If a slave holds his head high and makes judgments on state affairs, does he not disrespect the emperor's court and embarrass the contemporary scholars? Alas! What else can I say? What else can I say?

    It is not easy to explain why I cannot help you. When I was young, I considered myself to be talented and preferred not to remain in one position for long. I failed to earn a good reputation in my hometown. However, the emperor let me inherit my father's position as the Official Historian. Thus, I have had a chance to work at the emperor's court and utilize my humble talent. One who wears a bucket on one's head cannot see the sky 11. Therefore, I stopped socializing with my friends and ignored the management of my own property so that I could concentrate on my work. I worked day and night trying to gain the emperor's approval. Who would have expected that things could still go so wrong? Both Ling Li 12 and I worked in the emperor's court. We were not close friends. Our interests were different. We did not drink or socialize together even once. However, I observed that he was a man of high principle. He was loyal to his parents, trustworthy, honest when dealing with money, and just when giving and taking. He was able to concede when arguing with others. In addition, he was frugal, humble and respectful toward others. Furthermore, he was always ready to sacrifice his own life if the country needed him. Thus, the way he built his reputation led me to consider him an outstanding man of virtue. Indeed, it was extraordinary that a man could remain devoted to his country when such devotion put his life in peril so many times. In contrast, many officials in the emperor's court only knew how to protect their own interests when the country was in crisis. As soon as something went wrong, these selfish and cowardly officials immediately concocted slander about Ling Li out of thin air. I was truly disheartened when I saw such things happen. Actually, General Ling Li led less than 5,000 infantry when he penetrated deep into the land of the Huns and attacked their king's camp. Thus, Liís troops were like bait hanging in front of a tiger's mouth. Despite the enormous number of Hun cavalry, our soldiers fought bravely against the enemy. Having fought for more than ten days, Li's troops killed more of the enemy than one could imagine. The Huns did not have enough supplies to care for their dead and wounded soldiers. The King of the Huns was greatly shocked. He summoned all his generals, recruited all his archers, and sent all his cavalry to surround and attack General Ling Li. Li's troops moved and fought over one hundred and forty miles. Their arrows were used up, and their return route was cut off. Our reserve failed to rescue them in time. Our dead and wounded soldiers were piled up. After General Li consoled the ailing and wounded, he raised his arms and cried out. Our soldiers were moved and rose up with tears. With empty bows, they swallowed their tears, let blood wash their faces, and rushed to fight against the enemy despite the danger of swords. Before General Li lost the war, a messenger returned to the capital to report the victory. All the officials in Emperor Wu-di's court held their wine-cups high to congratulate the emperor. A few days later the news arrived that General Ling Li's troops had been defeated. The emperor could not take any pleasure in eating and was distracted with melancholy when listening to briefings. All the officials in the emperorís court were worried, fearful and confounded. Seeing the emperor sad and wretched, I desired to show my loyalty by consoling him despite my lowliness and foolishness. In my opinion, General Ling Li never wanted to gain anything. Whenever there was material gain, he would distribute it among his soldiers. Consequently, his soldiers devoted their lives to him. Thus, the leadership of ancient great generals paled in comparison to his. Although General Ling Li was captured by the Huns, he still tried to look for an opportunity to serve China. Therefore, he surrendered to the enemy. The odds clearly showed that the defeat of Liís troops was inevitable. Actually, the fact that Li's troops caused great damage to the enemy was sufficient to prove General Ling Li's loyalty to China. I did not have the opportunity to express this view until the emperor summoned me and asked for my opinion about Ling Li's surrender. When he did, I spoke about General Ling Li's contributions to China in order to console the emperor and to silence the revengeful slander. However, I failed to clearly explain it to the emperor, so he misunderstood my intentions. The emperor suspected that I was bribed by Ling Li and that I intended to insult General Guang-li Li. Therefore, he ordered me court-martialed. The emperor could not appreciate my straightforwardness and enthusiasm for loyalty. The judge found me guilty of deceiving the emperor and sentenced me to castration. I did not have enough money to bribe him to reduce my sentence. My colleagues would not help me. My friends would not speak a word for me. Unlike wood or stone, I had feelings. After imprisonment I was only allowed to speak with my jailers. To whom could I tell my sorrows? You saw all these events happen with your own eyes. Do I not write the truth? General Ling Li's surrender destroyed the reputation of his family. As for me, I was sent to the air-tight surgical room 13 and became the laughing-stock of China. It was a pity that I could not prove my innocence.

    My ancestors never made so great a contribution that the emperors had to confer titles of nobility upon them. They were only in charge of literature, history and astrology. The ranks of their positions were close to that of a fortune-teller or an undertaker. It was appropriate for the emperors to make fun of them and to treat them like clowns or courtesans. Ordinary people would despise them. If I were to be sentenced to death by law, my death would be as unnoticed as a single hair falling from a herd of cattle or as the squashing of an ant. People would not consider it a death of honor or dignity. Rather, they would assume that I had committed a felony and tried every way to avoid the inescapable capital punishment. Why would they think so? This is because what I have done in the past would not be sufficient to convince them that I was innocent. Everyone has to die eventually. However, some deaths are heavier than Tai-shan Mountain; others are lighter than goose feathers. The weight depends on the manner of death. There are many levels of the importance of death. The highest level of death is one that does not shame one's ancestors and the next best is one that does not bring shame to oneself. Following that is one that does not violate moral codes or cause people to show their scorn. Next is a death that does not suffer reproach. The fifth through ninth levels are deaths that follow one form of insult or another. In order, the insults include the punishment of a long period of kneeling, the indignity of wearing red prison garb, the torture of being fettered with chains and being cruelly flogged, the burden of wearing a pillory, the horror of being mutilated or skinned alive. The worst death of all is one that occurs after the insult of castration. An ancient book says, "Officials will not allow a sentence to be imposed upon them." In other words, an honorable man would rather die than endure the shame of being sentenced. A ferocious tiger in a mountain forest frightens all the other animals. However, when it is captured in a trap or a cage, it will wag its tail to beg for food. This is because its fighting spirit fades after it is tamed. Consequently, a scholar will not enter a prison even if it is a circle drawn in the dirt and will not answer any query even if it is from an inanimate object such as a whittled wood judge. He would make an early plan to commit suicide before being sentenced. While I was in prison, my hands were handcuffed and my feet were shackled. I was stripped and frequently suffered whipping or flogging. Whenever I saw a jailer, I would immediately bang my head on the ground for mercy. In fact, every time I detected someone nearby, I would hold my breath and keep alert. This was a natural response due to suffering intimidation for a long period of time. Under such circumstances, if I had said that the suffering was not a shame, it would not have saved my reputation.

    Throughout Chinese history, many important people have been punished by law. Emperor Wen-wang of the Zhou dynasty was imprisoned at You-li City while he was a duke during Emperor Zhou-wang's reign in the Shang dynasty. Si Li, a former prime minister of the Qin dynasty, received all the five cruel sentences before he died 14. Duke Huai-yin-hou, a former king, was ordered to be fettered at Chen City 15. Yue Peng and Ao Zhang 16, declaring themselves emperors, were imprisoned for their crimes. Duke Jiang-hou, Bo Zhou, who had established Wen-di as the emperor by defeating Queen LŁ and had been the most powerful prime minister in Chinese history, was arrested for treason. Duke of Wei-qi-hou 17 who had crushed the rebellion in seven states wore red prison garb, pillory, and fetters. General Bu Ji 18 became Zhu's slave wearing an iron collar around his neck. General Fu Guan 19 suffered the shame of imprisonment. All these people were able to reach the status of general, duke, prime minister, or king. They were renowned even in neighboring countries. Once they offended the law and were found guilty, they hesitated to commit suicide, hoping to live a little longer. Consequently, they all suffered the shame of being sentenced. This pattern has recurred since ancient times. If one reflects on this, it becomes clear that bravery or cowardice are conditional and heavily dependent on the occasion and other circumstantial factors. Power is an artifact of circumstance. Once you understand this truth, you will not be surprised by the above stories. One who cannot end his life before the law punishes him will forfeit his opportunity to die in dignity. Therefore, in ancient times, judges were careful in giving sentences to officials. It is natural for one to love life, hate death, miss his parents, and care about his wife and children. However, when one is inspired by moral virtue, then it becomes a different matter, for one cannot betray one's belief. It was unfortunate that my parents died when I was still young. I had no brothers to help me, and therefore, grew up completely alone. Shao-qing, look at me, how can I face my wife after being sentenced? A brave man need not die in dignity. It is even possible for a coward to realize his dream once he pursues virtue. Although I was cowardly and lived a life subjected to indignity and humiliation, I am fully aware of the difference between life and death and the choice between the two is clear to me. Why was I willing to endure the shame of imprisonment? Even a slave or a maid has the choice to commit suicide, but I am deprived of such an option. I was patient enough to endure the imprisonment in a filthy dungeon simply because I had not yet fully expressed my ideas. I did not want to die without showing my literary accomplishments to future generations.

    Since ancient times, there have been innumerable wealthy and powerful men whose reputations were obliterated by time. Only the outstanding and extraordinary ones continue to be glorified. Take Emperor Wen-wang of the Zhou dynasty for example. It wasn't until after he was imprisoned that he arrived at the idea he later presented in his book, The Book of Changes (Yi-jing). Early in his career Confucius traveled all over China seeking to gain employment by offering his political ideas. In response to his lack of success, he decided to return home and then write his masterwork, The Spring and Autumn Annals. Yuan Qu 20 wrote Encountering Sorrows while he was in exile. After Qiu-ming Zuo 21 became blind, he collected the historical documents from various states in China and wrote The National Languages of China. After suffering amputations 22, General Bing Sun wrote a master treatise on military tactics. Similarly, it was not until after Prime Minister Bu-wei LŁ 23 was dismissed that the writings of his house guests became popular. Fei Han 24 wrote the King of the State of Han a letter to offer his advice, but the king did not adopt it. Following the rejection, Fei wrote many great essays such as "Lonely Indignation" and "Hardship" to express his dismay. Most of the three hundred and five poems in The Book of Poetry were written by scholars who used poetry as a vehicle to vent their sorrows. All of these people had great ideas but somehow could not realize their dreams. Therefore, they wrote down their past experiences to benefit future generations. For example, eventually Zuo's loss of sight and Sun's amputations would have prevented them from remaining employed. Consequently, they resigned their positions and wrote books to vent their sorrows. They desired to pass down their work to future generations to show their accomplishments. Despite my lack of writing ability, I challenged myself to express my ideas. I collected ancient and lost historical documents in China, verified their authenticity, analyzed their causes and consequences, and synthesized the principles of success and prosperity. The time frame of my book, Chinese History 25, extends from Emperor Huang-di 26 to present. In this book, I wrote one hundred and thirty essays, ten concerning the time table of historical events, twelve on emperors of China, eight on institutions of government, thirty on aristocratic families, and seventy on outstanding figures. I would like to take the opportunity to study the relationship between the heavens and human life, analyze the changes from ancient times to present, and establish my own style of writing. When I began to write my draft, I encountered this catastrophe. Because I had not yet finished my book, I resolved to endure the severe sentence without any complaint. I thought if I could finish my book, hide it in a mountain for protection, and thereby pass it down to future scholars who will popularize it, then the pain I suffered from being blamed for failing to die in dignity would be alleviated. In this event, I would not regret what I have done even if I were to die a thousand times. I can only explain this to a wise man like you. It is too difficult for me to explain it to an average person.

    In addition, having been found guilty, I have a hard time even dealing with myself. A man with a low social status will be an easy target for slander. The catastrophe occurred to me due to my careless talk. My neighbors ridiculed me with a chorus of laughter, which shamed my ancestors. How can I have the courage to visit the tomb of my parents? The blame placed on me will continue to grow even after three hundred years. Consequently, my worried bowels churn many times a day. At home I am often absent-minded, as if I have lost something. When I leave my house, I am often unaware of my destination. Whenever I think about my shame, cold sweat covers my back and drenches my shirt. Now people treat me like a eunuch. How can I pretend to be noble like a hermit in a cave? Therefore, I drift with the crowd around me and raise or lower my face according to circumstances in order to blend with the madness and bewilderment of crowds. Now you have taught me to promote the worthy and able. Wouldn't that greatly contradict my present intent? Even if I try to use the most beautiful words to cover my shame, it will not save my reputation. It will only incur more insult because people will not believe my words. More importantly, determination of whether one is right or wrong does not occur until after one's death: history will make the final judgment. In this letter, I can hardly express all that I have had in my mind. I can only present my humble opinion in brief. Best wishes.

Your humble servant,

Qian Si-ma


1 An was Shao-qing Ren's alternate first name. In 91 BCE, Crown Prince Ju Liu (128-91 BCE) entered Prime Minister Chong Jiang's office and killed Chong Jiang because he was angry about having been framed by Jiang. Ju asked General Shao-qing to send troops to join the rebellion. Shao-qing received Ju's messenger, but he did not send troops as Ju requested. After the rebellion was crushed, Emperor Wu-di thought that Shao-qing was an opportunist who sided with whoever was winning. Therefore, Emperor Wu-di ordered him to be executed by cutting him in half at his waist. Shao-qing asked Si-ma for help. This letter was Si-maís reply. The main point was to encourage his friend to have vision and realize that although they were being treated like criminals for the time being, history would eventually prove them innocent. Si-ma used this letter to console his friend as well as himself.

2 Zi-chang was Qian Si-ma's alternate first name. His ancestral home was at Xia-yang City in Zuo-feng-yi County. Qian Si-ma was born in Long-men City during the Han dynasty.
    Qian Si-ma's ancestor was the Official Historian in the Zhou dynasty. After the Zhou dynasty moved its capital eastward, Qian's ancestor lost his position. Tan Si-ma, Qian's father, was an erudite scholar. In the Jian-yuan and Yuan-feng Periods during Emperor Wu-di's reign, Tan Si-ma was made the Official Historian. When Qian Si-ma was ten, he could recite Writings to the Throne, Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals, The National Languages of China, and many others. When he was twenty, he was ordered by Emperor Wu-di to travel all over China to collect lost books. During this period, he started to visit famous mountains, large rivers, and many scenic spots of historic interest. Two years later, he returned to the capital and became a member of the Royal Academy. The next year he became a senior secretary of a board. At the age of thirty-five he went on an expedition with the army as they tried to conquer the border tribes in Southwestern China. When he was thirty-six, he followed the emperor to Tai-shan Mountain in order to worship the Supreme Deity of Taoism. At the age of thirty-eight, he succeeded his father as the Official Historian. When he was forty-two, he, Sui Hu, and Qing Gong-sun formulated a twelve-month calendar. Qian Si-ma's high ambition was to succeed Confucius in writing Chinese history. He considered promoting virtue as his own mission. Perhaps he began to write Chinese History at this time. When he was forty-eight, he argued for General Ling Li and thus offended Emperor Wu-di. As a consequence, he suffered the cruelest and most humiliating sentence of castration. The next year he was reinstated as the Head of the Legislative Bureau. Although he was treated with respect and courtesy, he lost the heart for politics. He resolved to focus all his energy on writing Chinese History. He desired to take the opportunity to study the relationship between the heavens and human life, analyze the change from ancient times to present, and establish his own style of writing. In December, 91 BCE, he wrote this letter to Shao-qing Ren.
    Qian Si-ma was a learned and knowledgeable scholar with outstanding talent and integrity. Consequently, his Chinese History is broad and profound. The book includes astronomy, geography, history, philosophy, politics, economics, civil engineering, irrigation works, and handicrafts. In fact, the scope of this work is so comprehensive that it includes almost every endeavor in society. Whatever he wrote was so thorough that it appeared as though it were composed by an expert in each field. He was not only an outstanding historian, but also one of the greatest writers of all time.

3 Shao-qing wished that Si-ma could have appealed to the emperor to reduce his sentence.

4 In 99 BCE, China attacked the Huns. Army Commander Guang-li Li, whose younger sister was Emperor Wu-di's favorite concubine, led 30,000 cavalry as the main force. General Ling Li (200?-74 BCE) led 5,000 infantry as a secondary guerrilla force. Commander Guang-li never met the Hun's troops. However, General Ling Li met the Hun's main force of 200,000 cavalry. Ling Li's troops were surrounded by the enemy. Although Ling Li's troops fought hard, they were defeated. At last General Ling Li surrendered to the Huns. Qian Si-ma told Emperor Wu-di that General Ling Li did his best. Emperor Wu-di suspected that Si-ma was bribed by General Ling Li and intended to insult General Guang-li Li, so he ordered Si-ma court-martialed. It turned out that Si-ma was found guilty of deceiving the emperor and received the sentence of castration.

5 Zi-qi Zhong was able to appreciate Ya Bo's talent while listening to him play the zither. When Ya Bo thought of a mountain, Zi-qi would tell him, "Great! The mountain is as imposing as Tai-shan Mountain." When Ya Bo thought of a river, Zi-qi would tell him, "Great! The music reminds me of the flow of a mighty river. It is said that the ancient melody, "Tall Mountains and Flowing Water", in a music book published in 1425 was composed by Bo-ya. One may listen to this melody by visiting or

6 You Xu and Bo-yi were ancient recluses with high principles.

7 Yong City is now called Feng-xiang-xian City and is located in Shaanxi Province.

8 Qian Si-ma was determined to spend the rest of his life writing Chinese History. If he were to help a "traitor", Emperor Wu-di might kill him. Then he would not be able to finish writing Chinese History.

9 Yang Gong-sun was Yang Shang's (395-338 BCE) original name. He was a native of the State of Wei. While he visited the State of Qin, Eunuch Jin-jian introduced him to King Xiao-gong of Qin. Yang initiated a political reform to strengthen Qin's power. He was made Duke Shang-jun. Thus, people called him Yang Shang. Liang Zhao thought that Yang Shang's use of a eunuch's help was an improper approach to success. Consequently, Liang Zhao was bitterly disappointed.

10 In ancient China, a hermit in a cave represented a scholarly recluse with integrity.

11 This sentence says that one should not engage in two tasks at the same time. "Wearing a bucket on one's head" and "seeing the sky" hinder each other. Working for the emperor conflicts with taking care of personal matters.  "Tian" is the Chinese character that means sky or heavens. "Tian-zi" (son of heavens) means "emperor".

12 Ling Li was a native of Long-xi City (present day Long-xi-xian City in Gansu Province). Shao-qing was his alternate first name. He was a grandson of General Guang Li.

13 "The air-tight surgical room" refers to the room where the surgery of castration was performed. According to ancient Chinese medicine, open air might cause the inflammation of the affected part. Consequently, the room had to be air-tight.

14 "The five cruel sentences" were tattooing one's crime on one's brow, cutting off one's nose, feet, sex organ and head.

15 "Duke Huai-yin-hou" refers to Xin Han (?-196 BCE). He was first made the King of Qi and then the King of Chu. The capital of Chu was Xia-pei City (south of present day Teng-xian City in Shangdong Province). Someone accused Xin of planning a rebellion. By adopting Ping Chenís plot, Emperor Gao-zu claimed to be going to visit Yung-meng City. The emperor summoned Xin Han to meet him at Chen City (present day Huai-yang City in Henan Province). When Xin arrived, Emperor Gao-zu ordered guards to arrest Xin and sent him to Xian-yang, the capital of the Han dynasty. Then Xin was pardoned and made Duke Huai-yin-hou.

16 Yue Peng was made the King of Liang in the early Han dynasty. Someone accused him of planning a rebellion. Emperor Gao-zu arrested him and then imprisoned him at Luo-yang City. Later, he was killed. Ao Zhang was a son of Er Zhang, the King of Zhao. Ao Zhang married Princess Lu-yuan. Gao Guan, the King of Zhao's general, planned to assassinate Emperor Gao-zu, but the plot was discovered. Both Gao Guan and Ao Zhang were arrested.

17 "Duke Wei-qi-hou" refers to Ying Dou (?-131 BCE). He was a nephew of Queen Dou, the wife of Emperor Wen-di during the Han dynasty. During Emperor Jing-di's reign, Ying Dou was made Duke Wei-qi-hou for his contributions toward crushing the rebellion in seven states.

18 Bu Ji was a native of the State of Chu. When he was Yu Xiang's general, General Bu Ji defeated Gao-zu's troops several times. After Gao-zu became the founding emperor of the Han dynasty, he offered a large reward for information about Bu Ji. Fearful of Emperor Gao-zu's revenge, Bu first hid in the Zhou family. Zhou shaved Bu's head and put an iron collar on his neck. Then Bu wore clothing made of coarse material and mingled with a group of slaves to conceal his identity. Unfortunately, he was sold to the Zhu family before he had the opportunity to escape.

19 Zhong-ru was Fu Guan's alternate first name. He was a native of Ying-yin City. He was upright and loved to drink wine. Fu Guan, a friend of Ying Dou, was imprisoned for his disrespect because he shouted abuses during Prime Minister Fen Tian's banquet.

20 Ping and Ling-jun were Yuan Qu's (340-278 BCE) other first names. He was a trusted advisor of King Huai-wang of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period. Later, Yuan Qu was slandered by Shang Jin and thereby sent into exile. During his exile Yuan Qu wrote the poetry book, Encountering Sorrows. Yuan Qu is honored as the Father of Chinese Poetry for his work.

21 Qiu-ming Zuo (556?-451? BCE) was the Official Historian of the State of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period. He wrote Zuo's Extended Version of the Spring and Autumn Annals based on The Spring and Autumn Annals written by Confucius.

22 Bing Sun (?-316 BCE) and Juan Pang (?-342 BCE) both studied strategies under the tutelage of Gui-gu-zi (the Man of Ghost Valley). Before their graduation, Gui-gu-zi gave them a final exam. He sat in a room and challenged his students to persuade him to leave the room. Pang said, "If you don't leave the room, I will set a fire." The Man disapproved of Pang's strategy, but let him pass the exam. Sun said, "I cannot make you leave the room, but I can make you enter the room if you are outside it." Gui-gu-zi said, "Let us try that", and left the room.
    Later, Pang became a general of the State of Wei. He was jealous of Sun's talent, so he enticed Sun to visit Wei in order to capture him. He used the punishment of law to brand Sun's face and amputate both of his feet. Pang thought the disability would prevent him from using his talent. Soon after, the envoy of the State of Qi came to carry him home. Sun then became the Adviser of the King of Qi. Later, Sun designed a strategy which caused Pang's troops so much difficulty that Pang committed suicide.
    Bin Sun was a descendent of Wu Sun (535-? BCE), a native of the State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period. Wu Sun helped He-lu, the King of the State of Wu, dominate among the kings in China. Wu Sun was also the author of The Art of War, a book including thirteen essays. Note that The Art of War and Bing Sun's master treatise on military tactics are different books.

23 Zhong-fu was Bu-wei LŁ 's (291?-235 BCE) alternate first name. He compiled the writings of his house guests as LŁ 's Spring and Autumn Annals. This book included eight volumes, twelve periods, six subjects, and more than 200,000 words. Later, he was dismissed from the position of prime minister due to his crime. He moved to the State of Shu and committed suicide to avoid the dishonor of punishment.

24 Fei Han (ca. 281-233 BCE) was a Prince of the State of Han during the Warring States Period. He was born to one of the king's concubines. Both Fei Han and Si Li (?-208 BCE) studied under the tutelage of Kuang Xun (310-220 BCE). After the King of the State of Qin read Fei Han's essays, he valued them highly. Later, when Fei Han became the ambassador to the State of Qin, the King of Qin was glad to meet him. Fei was framed by Si Li, the prime minister of Qin, and was imprisoned in Qin. Later, Li fatally poisoned Fei.

25 The original title of Chinese History was The Records of the Official Historian. The essay entitled "The Biography of Biao Ban (3-54)" in The History of the Late Han Dynasty says, "Qian Si-ma wrote Chinese History." Consequently, later generations called Qian Si-ma's book Chinese History. It was the first history book to focus on the people involved in historical events rather than the events themselves. It records historical facts fully and accurately, describes people vividly, and analyzes events carefully. It was the progenitor of formal history books, and its essays served as the models for later generations.

26 In 4600 BCE, Huang-di unified China and declared himself emperor at You-xiong (having bears) City (present day Xin-zheng City in Henan Province), the capital of China at that time.