2016/01/02

Liu Xiang - A Scholar of Western Han

Liu Xiang was a famous Confucian scholar of the Han Dynasty. He was born in Xuzhou and related to Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty. His son, Liu Xin, developed the "Triple Concordance" astronomical system.

Portrait of Liu Xiang
Portrait of Liu Xiang


Liu compiled the first catalogue of the imperial library, the Bielu, or Abstracts, and was the first editor of the Shan Hai Jing (finished by his son). He was a prodigious collector of old stories, which he compiled into the Zhan Guo Ce, the Xinxu (新序, "New Prefaces"), the Shuoyuan (说苑, "Garden of Stories"), the Lienü Zhuan, and probably the Liexian Zhuan.

In 26 BCE he was commanded by the emperor Han Chengdi to reorganize the neglected imperial library. This was done with the assistance of Liu Xin, who completed this task after his father's death. Thus in the cultural history of the Han, the Lius became the second famous family after Sima Tan and Sima Qian. They are credited with creating the canonical book format for classical texts, some of which went unchallenged until the Guodian discovery of 1993. Liu Xiang was also a poet in his own right, and is attributed as the author of the Chu ci anthology's "Nine Laments" ("Jiu tan").