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Pan Ku

Pan Ku (also translated as Ban Gu), whose courtesy name is Mengjian, was a 1st century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in the Book of Han. He also wrote the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called fu.

What is the life story of Pan Ku?

In the 3rd century BC, Ban Gu's ancestors gained prominence on the northwestern frontier as herders of several thousand cattle, oxen, and horses, which they traded in a formidable business and encouraged other families to move to the frontier.

Ban Gu was born into a scholarly family, and his father, Ban Biao, was a prominent historian. He took over a responsibility to write a history of the former Han Dynasty, a book known in modern times as the Hanshu or Book of Han. However, from his father. His work was interrupted by political problems, as his association with the family of Empress Dowager Dou led to his imprisonment and death.A few volumes

Pan gu

of his book in eight chronological charts and astronomical biography, however, was completed by his younger sister, Ban Zhao, and became a model for many other works about later dynasties.

The modern historian Hsu Mei-ling states that Ban Gu's written work in geography set the trend for the establishment of geographical sections of history texts, and most likely sparked the trend of the gazetteer in ancient China.

Book of Han

How was the Book of Han finished?

The History of the Former Han Dynasty is a classical Chinese history finished in 111 CE, covering the history of China under the Western Han from 206 BCE to 25 CE. It is also sometimes called the Book of Former Han. Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE. The book also contains the first written historical mention of Japan.

This history developed from a continuation of Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian or, more correctly, Records of the Grand Scribe, initiated by Ban Gu's father, Ban Biao, at the beginning of the Later Han Dynasty. This work is usually

referred to as Later Traditions, which clearly indicates that the elder Ban's work was meant to be a continuation. After Ban Biao's death, his eldest son Ban Gu was dissatisfied with what his father had completed, and he began a new history that started with the beginning of the Han dynasty. This distinguished it from Sima Qian's history, which had begun with China's earliest legendary rulers. In this way, Ban Gu initiated the format for dynastic histories that was to remain the model for the official histories until modern times.

For the periods where they overlapped, Ban Gu adopted nearly verbatim much of Sima Qian's material, though in some cases he also expanded it. He also incorporated at least some of what his father had written, though it is difficult to know how much. The completed work ran to a total of 100 fascicles, and included essays on law, science, geography, and literature. Ban Gu's younger sister Ban Zhao finished writing the book 19 years after Ban Gu had been imprisoned. An outstanding scholar in her own right, she is thought to have written volumes 13-20 and 26.

What is the influence of the Book of Han?

Ban Gu's history set the standard for the writings of later Chinese dynasties, and today it is  used  as amain teaching material of the Han period. It is regarded as one of the "Four Histories" of the Twenty-Four Histories canon, together with the Records of the Grand Historian, Records of Three Kingdoms and History of the Later Han.

As with the Records of the Grand Historian, Zhang Qian, a notable Chinese general who traveled to the west, was a key source for the cultural and socio-economic data

Lv hou

on the Western Regions contained in the 96th fascicle. The "Annals" section and the three chapters covering the reign of Wang Mang were translated into English by Homer H. Dubs. Other chapters have been rendered into English by Anthony Hulsewé, Clyde B. Sargent, Nancy Lee Swann, and Burton Watson.

Dong zhongshu

What is the content of the Book of Han?

Ji covers 12 or 13 juan. It recorded Emperors’ biographies in strict annals form, which offer a chronological overview of the most important occurrences, as seen from the imperial court.

Chronological Tables
Biao (also named tables) covers about 8 juan. They are chronological tables about fundamental people.


Zhi (also named memoirs) covers 10 juan. Each treatise describes an area of effort of the state.

Zhuan (exemplary traditions, usually translated as biographies) covers 70 juan. They are biographies of important people. The biographies confine themselves to the description of events that clearly show the exemplary character of the person. Two or more people are described in one main article,depending on their social class. Moreover, the last articles describe the relations between China and the various people beyond the frontiers .

A bit of Japan
The Japanese first appear in written history in this book, in which it is recorded, "The people of Wo are located across the ocean from Lelang, are divided into more than one hundred tribes, and come to offer tribute from time to time." It is later recorded that in 57, the southern Wa kingdom of Na sent an emissary named Taifu to pay tribute to Emperor Guangwu and received a golden seal. The seal itself was discovered in northern Kyūshū in the 18th century. According to the Book of Wei, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago in the 3rd century was called Yamataikoku and was ruled by the legendary Queen Himiko.

What is “fu”?

Fu is a kind of prose-poem popular in ancient China, especially during the Han Dynasty. During the Han Dynasty, the Chu Ci-type of lyrics evolved into fu. It is a type of prose-poem with introductory, concluding, or other interspersed passages that are in prose, typically in the form of questions and answers. The fu is usually called rhapsody in English, but has also been called "rhyme-prose," "exposition," and sometimes "poetical essay."

A Han fu is typically very long, describes a subject in a very detailed way from every

Four Han

possible angle, and is usually meant to display the poet's rhetorical and lexical skill rather than express personal feelings. Since it is meant to impress and discribe, the Han fu is termed the "epideictic fu." One of the most well-known Han fu is Sima Xiangru's Tianzi Youlie Fu ("Rhapsody on the Son of Heaven on a Leisurely Hunt"). The historian Ban Gu also wrote important rhapsodies during Han. With Zhang Heng, Sima Xiangru and Yang Xiong, Pan Ku is named as “Four Han”, for their contribution to the development of “fu”.

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