Book of Han
Get Book of Han essential facts below. View Videos or join the Book of Han discussion. Add Book of Han to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Book of Han

The Book of Han or History of the Former Han is a history of China finished in 111, covering the Western, or Former Han dynasty from the first emperor in 206 BCE to the fall of Wang Mang in 23 CE.[1] It is also called the Book of Former Han.

The work was composed by Ban Gu (32–92 CE), an Eastern Han court official, with the help of his sister Ban Zhao, continuing the work of their father, Ban Biao. They modeled their work on the Records of the Grand Historian,[2] a universal history, but theirs was the first in this annals-biography form to cover a single dynasty. It is the best source, sometimes the only one, for many topics in this period. A second work, the Book of the Later Han covers the Eastern Han period from 25 to 220, and was composed in the fifth century by Fan Ye (398-445).[3]


This history developed from a continuation of Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian, 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 indicates that the elder Ban's work was meant to be a continuation. Other scholars of the time, including Liu Xin and Yang Xiong also worked on continuations of Sima's history. 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 Jizhuanti (,) 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 in 111, 19 years after Ban Gu had died in prison. An outstanding scholar in her own right, she is thought to have written volumes 13-20 (eight chronological tables) and 26 (treatise on astronomy), the latter with the help of Ma Xu. As with the Records of the Grand Historian, Zhang Qian, a notable Chinese general who travelled to the west, was a key source for the cultural and socio-economic data 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.[4] Other chapters have been rendered into English by A. F. P. Hulsewé, Clyde B. Sargent, Nancy Lee Swann, and Burton Watson.

The text includes a description of the Triple Concordance Calendar System developed by Liu Xin in fascicle 21. This is translated to English by Cullen.[5]

Ban Gu's history set the standard for the writings of later Chinese dynasties, and today it is a reference used to study 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 the Three Kingdoms and History of the Later Han.


Ji (?, annal), 12 volumes. Emperors' biographies in strict annal form, which offer a chronological overview of the most important occurrences, as seen from the imperial court.

# Number Title (Chinese) Title (English)
001 Volume 1 (Part 1), Volume 1 (Part 2) Annals of Emperor Gaozu, 206-195 BCE
002 Volume 2 Annals of Emperor Hui, 194-188 BCE
003 Volume 3 Annals of Empress Lü Zhi (regent 195-180 BCE)
004 Volume 4 Annals of Emperor Wen, 179-157 BCE
005 Volume 5 Annals of Emperor Jing, 156-141 BCE
006 Volume 6 Annals of Emperor Wu, 140-87 BCE
007 Volume 7 Annals of Emperor Zhao, 86-74 BCE
008 Volume 8 Annals of Emperor Xuan, 73-49 BCE
009 Volume 9 Annals of Emperor Yuan, 48-33 BCE
010 Volume 10 Annals of Emperor Cheng, 32-7 BCE
011 Volume 11 Annals of Emperor Ai, 6-1 BCE
012 Volume 12 Annals of Emperor Ping, 1 BCE - 5 CE

Chronological tables

Biao (?, tables), 8 volumes. Chronological tables of important people.

# Number Title (Chinese) Title (English)
013 Volume 13 Table of nobles not related to the imperial clan
014 Volume 14 ? Table of nobles related to the imperial clan
015 Volume 15 ? Table of sons of nobles
016 Volume 16 Table of meritorious officials during the reigns of (Emperors) Gao, Hui, Wen and Empress Gao
017 Volume 17 Table of meritorious officials during the reigns of (Emperors) Jing, Wu, Zhao, Xuan, Yuan and Cheng
018 Volume 18 Table of nobles from families of the imperial consorts
019 Volume 19 Table of nobility ranks and government offices
020 Volume 20 ? Prominent people from the past until the present


Zhi (?, memoirs), 10 volumes. Each treatise describes an area of effort of the state.

# Number Title (Chinese) Title (English)
021 Volume 21 Treatise on Rhythm and the Calendar
022 Volume 22 Treatise on Rites and Music
023 Volume 23 Treatise on Punishment and Law
024 Volume 24 (Part 1), Volume 24 (Part 2) Treatise on Food and Money
025 Volume 25 (Part 1), Volume 25 (Part 2) Treatise on Sacrifices
026 Volume 26 Treatise on Astronomy
027 Volume 27 (Part 1), Volume 27 (Part 2), Volume 27 (Part 3), Volume 27 (Part 4), Volume 27 (Part 5) Treatise on the Five Elements
028 Volume 28 (Part 1), Volume 28 (Part 2) Treatise on Geography
029 Volume 29 Treatise on Rivers and Canals
030 Volume 30 Treatise on Literature


Zhuan (?, exemplary traditions, usually translated as biographies), 70 volumes. 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 treated in one main article, as they belong to the same class of people. The last articles describe the relations between China and the various peoples beyond the frontiers.

# Number Title (Chinese) Title (English)
031 Volume 31 Chen Sheng and Xiang Yu
032 Volume 32 Zhang Er and Chen Yu
033 Volume 33 Wei Bao, Tian Dan and Hán Xin (King of Han)
034 Volume 34 Han, Peng, Ying, Lu and Wu - Han Xin, Peng Yue, Ying Bu, Lu Wan and Wu Rui ()
035 Volume 35 ? the Princes of Jing, Yan and Wu
036 Volume 36 ? Prince Yuan of Chu - Liu Xiang and Liu Xin
037 Volume 37 ? Ji Bu, Luan Bu and Tian Shu
038 Volume 38 ? the five sons of Emperor Gao
039 Volume 39 Xiao He and Cao Shen
040 Volume 40 Zhang, Chen, Wang and Zhou - Zhang Liang, Chen Ping, Wang Ling () and Zhou Bo
041 Volume 41 Fan, Li, Teng, Guan, Fu, Jin and Zhou - Fan Kuai, Li Shang (), Xiahou Ying, Guan Ying (), Fu Kuan, Jin She () and Zhou Xue ()
042 Volume 42 ? Zhang, Zhou, Zhao, Ren and Shentu - Zhang Cang (), Zhou Chang (), Zhao Yao (), Ren Ao () and Shentu Jia ()
043 Volume 43 ? Li, Lu, Zhu, Liu and Shusun - Li Yiji (), Lu Gu (), Zhu Jian (), Lou Jing () and Shusun Tong ()
044 Volume 44 the kings of Huainan, Hengshan and Jibei
045 Volume 45 Kuai, Wu, Jiang and Xifu - Kuai Tong (), Wu Bei (), Jiang Chong () and Xifu Gong ()
046 Volume 46 ? the lords of Wan, Wei, Zhi, Zhou and Zhang - Shi Fen (), Wei Wan (), Zhi Buyi (), Zhou Ren () and Zhang Ou ()
047 Volume 47 ? the three sons of Emperor Wen
048 Volume 48 Jia Yi
049 Volume 49 Yuan Ang and Chao Cuo
050 Volume 50 Zhang, Feng, Ji and Zheng - Zhang Shizhi (), Feng Tang (), Ji An () and Zheng Dangshi ()
051 Volume 51 Jia, Zou, Mei and Lu - Jia Shan (, Zou Yang (), Mei Cheng () and Lu Wenshu ()
052 Volume 52 Dou, Tian, Guan and Han - Dou Ying (), Tian Fen (), Guan Fu () and Han Anguo ()
053 Volume 53 the thirteen sons of Emperor Jing
054 Volume 54 Li Guang and Su Jian
055 Volume 55 Wei Qing and Huo Qubing
056 Volume 56 ? Dong Zhongshu
057 Volume 57 (Part 1), Volume 57 (Part 2) Sima Xiangru
058 Volume 58 Gongsun Hong, Bu Shi and Er Kuan
059 Volume 59 Zhang Tang
060 Volume 60 Du Zhou
061 Volume 61 Zhang Qian and Li Guangli
062 Volume 62 ? Sima Qian
063 Volume 63 ? the five sons of Emperor Wu
064 Volume 64 (Part 1), Volume 64 (Part 2) Yan, Zhu, Wuqiu, Zhufu, Xu, Yan, Zhong, Wang and Jia - Yan Zhu (), Zhu Maichen (), Wuqiu Shouwang (?), Zhufu Yan (), Xu Yue (), Yan An (), Zhong Jun (), Wang Bao () and Jia Juanzhi (); two parts
065 Volume 65 ? Dongfang Shuo
066 Volume 66 ? Gongsun, Liu, Tian, Wang, Yang, Cai, Chen and Zheng - Gongsun He (), Liu Quli (), Tian Qiuqian (), Wang Xin (), Yang Chang (), Cai Yi (), Chen Wannian () and Zheng Hong ()
067 Volume 67 Yang, Hu, Zhu, Mei and Yun - Yang Wangsun (), Hu Jian (), Zhu Yun (), Mei Fu () and Yun Chang ()
068 Volume 68 Huo Guang and Jin Midi
069 Volume 69 ? Zhao Chongguo and Xin Qingji
070 Volume 70 ? Fu, Chang, Zheng, Gan, Chen and Duan - Fu Jiezi, Chang Hui (), Zheng Ji, Gan Yannian (), Chen Tang and Duan Huizong ()
071 Volume 71 ? Jun, Shu, Yu, Xue, Ping and Peng - Jun Buyi (), Shu Guang () and Shu Shou (), Yu Dingguo (), Xue Guangde (), Ping Dang () and Peng Xuan ()
072 Volume 72 Wang, Gong, two Gongs and Bao - Wang Ji (), Gong Yu (), Gong Sheng () and Gong She () and Bao Xuan
073 Volume 73 Wei Xian
074 Volume 74 Wei Xiang and Bing Ji
075 Volume 75 Sui, two Xiahous, Jing, Ji and Li - Sui Hong (), Xiahou Shichang (?) and Xiahou Sheng (), Jing Fang (), Ji Feng () and Li Xun ()
076 Volume 76 ? Zhao, Yin, Han, Zhang and two Wangs - Zhao Guanghan (), Yin Wenggui (), Han Yanshou (), Zhang Chang (), Wang Zun () and Wang Zhang ()
077 Volume 77 ? Gai, Zhuge, Liu, Zheng, Sun, Wujiang and He - Gai: Gai Kuanrao (), Zhuge: Zhuge Feng (), Liu: Liu Fu (), Zheng: Zheng Chong (), Sun: Sun Bao (), Wujiang: Wujiang Long (), He: He Bing ()
078 Volume 78 ? Xiao Wangzhi
079 Volume 79 ? Feng Fengshi
080 Volume 80 the six sons of Emperors Xuan and Yuan
081 Volume 81 Kuang, Zhang, Kong and Ma - Kuang Heng (), Zhang Yu (), Kong Guang () and Ma Gong ()
082 Volume 82 ? Wang Shang, Shi Dan and Fu Xi
083 Volume 83 Xue Xuan and Zhu Bo
084 Volume 84 ? Zhai Fangjin
085 Volume 85 Gu Yong and Du Ye
086 Volume 86 ? He Wu, Wang Jia and Shi Dan
087 Volume 87 (Part 1), Volume 87 (Part 2) Yang Xiong
088 Volume 88 Confucian Scholars
089 Volume 89 Upright Officials
090 Volume 90 Cruel Officials
091 Volume 91 Usurers
092 Volume 92 Youxias
093 Volume 93 Flatterers
094 Volume 94 (Part 1), Volume 94 (Part 2) Traditions of the Xiongnu
095 Volume 95 Traditions of the Yi of the southeast, the two Yues, and Chosun (Korea) - Nanyue and Min Yue
096 Volume 96 (Part 1), Volume 96 (Part 2) Traditions of the Western Regions
097 Volume 97 (Part 1), Volume 97 (Part 2) the Empresses and Imperial Affines
098 Volume 98 Wang Zhengjun
099 Volume 99 (Part 1), Volume 99 (Part 2), Volume 99 (Part 3) Wang Mang
100 Volume 100 (Part 1), Volume 100 (Part 2) Afterword and Family History

Mention of Japan

The people of Japan make their first unambiguous appearance in written history in this book (Book of Han, Volume 28, Treatise on Geography), in which it is recorded, "The people of Wo are located across the ocean from Lelang Commandery, 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 Ky?sh? in the 18th century.[6] According to the Book of Wei, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago in the third century was called Yamatai and was ruled by the legendary Queen Himiko.

See also


  1. ^ Notable Women of China. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0765619297.
  2. ^ Bary, Wm Theodore de; Bloom, Irene (1999). Sources of Chinese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231517980.
  3. ^ Wilkinson (2012), pp. 711-712.
  4. ^ Homer H. Dubs. (trans.) The History of the Former Han Dynasty. 3 vols. Baltimore: Waverly, 1938-55.
  5. ^ Cullen, Christopher (2017). Foundations of Celestial Reckoning - Three Ancient Chinese Astronomical Systems. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 32-137.
  6. ^ "Gold Seal (Kin-in)". Fukuoka City Museum. Retrieved .

References and further reading

  • Dorn'eich, Chris M. (2008). Chinese sources on the History of the Niusi-Wusi-Asi(oi)-Rishi(ka)-Arsi-Arshi-Ruzhi and their Kueishuang-Kushan Dynasty. Shiji 110/Hanshu 94A: The Xiongnu: Synopsis of Chinese original Text and several Western Translations with Extant Annotations. Berlin. To read or download go to: [1]
  • Dubs, Homer H. (trans.) The History of the Former Han Dynasty. 3 vols. Baltimore: Waverly, 1938-55. Digitized text. (Digitized text does not retain volume or page numbers and alters Dubs' footnote numbering.) Glossary.
  • Honey, David B. "The Han shu Manuscript Evidence, and the Textual Criticism of the Shih-chi: The Case of the Hsiung-nu lieh-chuan," CLEAR 21 (1999), 67-97.
  • Hulsewe, A. F .P. "A Striking Discrepancy between the Shih chi and the Han shu." T'oung Pao 76.4-5 (1990): 322-23.
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P. (1993). ""Han shu "". In Loewe, Michael (ed.). Early Chinese Texts - A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China & Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley. pp. 129-136. ISBN 1-55729-043-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC - AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979.
  • Knechtges, David R. (2010). "Han shu ". In Knechtges, David R.; Chang, Taiping (eds.). Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part One. Leiden: Brill. pp. 339-45. ISBN 978-90-04-19127-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Sargent, Cyde B., Tr. Wang Mang; A Translation of the Official Account of His Rise to Power as Given in the History of the Former Han Dynasty, with Introd. and Notes. Shanghai: Graphic Art Book Co., 1947.
  • Swann, Nancy Lee, tr. Food and Money in Ancient China: The Earliest Economic History of China to A.D. 25. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1974.
  • Stange, Hans O.H. "Die monographie über Wang Mang." Abhandlungen für die kunde des morgenlandes XXIII, 3, 1939.
  • Stange, Hans O.H. Leben und persünlichkeit und werk Wang Mangs. Berlin, 1914.
  • Tinios, Ellis. "Sure Guidance for One's Own Time: Pan Ku and the Tsan to Han-shu 94." Early China 9-10 (1983-85): 184-203.
  • Van der Sprenkel, O. B. Pan Piao, Pan Ku, and the Han History. Centre for Oriental Studies Occasional Paper, no. 3. Canberra: Australian National University, 1964.
  • Watson, Burton. 1974. Courtier and Commoner in Ancient China. Selections from the History of the Former Han. Columbia University Press, New York. (A translation of chapters 54, 63, 65, 67, 68, 71, 74, 78, 92, and 97).
  • Wilbur, C. Martin. Slavery in China during the Former Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.-A.D. 25. Publications of Field Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Series, 35. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1943. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967. Selected translations from the Han shu.
  • "Main Sources (2): Hanshu," in Wilkinson, Endymion (2012). Chinese History: A New Manual. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center. ISBN 9780674067158.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link), pp. 711-713.
  • Wu, Shuping, "Hanshu" ("Book of Han"). Encyclopedia of China (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.

External links

Further Reading

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes