|Official of Jin dynasty|
|Died||297 (aged 64)|
|Courtesy name||Chengzuo (Chinese: 承祚; pinyin: Chéngzuò; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng-tso)|
Chen Shou (233–297), courtesy name Chengzuo, was an official and writer who lived in the Three Kingdoms period and Western Jin dynasty. He started his career as an official in the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms era but was demoted and sent out of the capital for his refusal to fawn on Huang Hao, an influential court eunuch in Shu in its twilight years. After the fall of Shu in 263, Chen's career entered a period of stagnation before he was recommended by the minister Zhang Hua to serve in the Jin government. He held mainly scribal and secretarial positions under the Jin government before dying from illness in 297. He had over 200 writings – about 30 of which he co-wrote with his relatives – attributed to him.
Chen's most celebrated work, the Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi), which recorded the history of the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period primarily in the form of biographies of notable persons of those eras, is part of the Twenty-Four Histories canon of Chinese history. Despite his achievements, Chen's life was marred by disgraceful incidents, including his making of false accusations against another official and the controversies surrounding his writing of the Sanguozhi.
Historical sources on Chen Shou's life
There are two biographies of Chen Shou. The first one is in the Book of Jin (Jin Shu), which was written by Fang Xuanling and others in the seventh century during the Tang dynasty. The second one is in the Chronicles of Huayang (Huayang Guozhi), which was written by Chang Qu in the fourth century during the Eastern Jin dynasty.
Early life and career in Shu Han
Chen Shou was from Anhan County (安漢縣), Baxi Commandery (巴西郡), which is in present-day Nanchong, Sichuan. He was known for being studious since he was young and was described as intelligent, insightful and knowledgeable. He was mentored by the Shu official Qiao Zhou, who was also from Baxi commandery. Under Qiao Zhou's tutelage, he read the Classic of History and Three Commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals. He was very well versed in the Records of the Grand Historian and Book of Han.
According to the Jin Shu, Chen Shou served as a guange lingshi (觀閣令史; an official librarian) in Shu. However, the Huayang Guozhi mentioned that he held the following appointments consecutively: Registrar (主簿) of the General of the Guards (衛將軍); donguan mishu lang (東觀秘書郎; an official librarian), Gentleman of Scattered Cavalry (散騎侍郎); Gentleman of the Yellow Gate (黃門侍郎). In the final years of Shu (c. 250s–260s), many officials fawned on Huang Hao, an influential court eunuch, in their bid to win his favour. Chen Shou's refusal to engage in such flattering and obsequious behaviour took a toll on his career: He was demoted on several occasions and sent out of the Shu capital, Chengdu.
Career under the Jin dynasty
After the fall of Shu in 263, Chen Shou's career entered a period of stagnation until he was recommended by Zhang Hua to serve in the government of the Jin dynasty, which in 265 replaced the state of Cao Wei that conquered Shu. Zhang Hua appreciated Chen Shou's talent and felt that even though Chen did not have an untarnished reputation, he did not deserve to be demoted and dismissed while he was in Shu. Chen Shou was recommended as a xiaolian (civil service candidate) and appointed as a zuo zhuzuo lang (佐著作郎; "Assistant Gentleman of Writings", an assistant scribe) and the stand-in Prefect (令) of Yangping county (陽平縣). In 274, he collected and compiled the writings of Zhuge Liang, the first chancellor of Shu, and submitted them to the Jin imperial court. He was promoted to zhuzuo lang (著作郎; "Gentleman of Writings", a scribe) and appointed as the zhongzheng (中正; an official position) of Baxi Commandery. The Huayang Guozhi mentioned that he also served as the Chancellor (相) to the Marquis of Pingyang (平陽侯).
When Zhang Hua recommended Chen Shou to serve as a zhongshu lang (中書郎; an official in the central secretariat), the Ministry of Personnel appointed Chen as the Administrator (太守) of Changguang Commandery (長廣郡) instead on the advice of Xun Xu (荀勖), a supervisor in the central secretariat. The Jin Shu mentioned that Xun Xu detested Zhang Hua and disliked Chen Shou for his association with Zhang, so he urged the Ministry of Personnel to reassign Chen to another position. Chen Shou declined the appointment on the grounds that he had to look after his elderly mother. The Huayang Guozhi gave a different account of Chen Shou's relationship with Xun Xu. It stated that Xun Xu and Zhang Hua were very pleased with Chen Shou's Sanguozhi and they remarked that Chen surpassed Ban Gu and Sima Qian. However, later, Xun Xu was displeased by the Wei Shu – one of the three sections in the Sanguozhi – and did not want Chen to work in the same office as him, so he had Chen reassigned to be the Administrator of Changguang.
In 278, before the general Du Yu assumed his appointment as the commander of the Jin military forces in Jing Province, he recommended Chen Shou to Emperor Wu and stated that Chen was capable of serving as a "Gentleman of the Yellow Gate" (黃門侍郎) or "Gentleman of Scattered Cavalry" (散騎侍郎). Emperor Wu accepted Du Yu's suggestion and appointed Chen Shou as a yushi zhishu (禦史治書; an auditor).
The Jin Shu mentioned that Chen Shou took a leave of absence when his mother died, and he fulfilled her dying wish to be buried in the capital Luoyang. However, he ended up being castigated and demoted because his act of burying his mother in Luoyang – instead of in his hometown in Anhan County – was a violation of the proprieties of his time. The Huayang Guozhi gave a varying account of the events: It was Chen Shou's stepmother (not his biological mother) who died. She did not want to be buried together with his father (in Anhan County), so Chen Shou buried her in Luoyang.
According to the Jin Shu, many years after his demotion, Chen Shou was appointed as a zhongshuzi (中庶子; an aide) to the crown prince Sima Yu, but he did not assume his role. He died of illness at the age of 65 (by East Asian age reckoning) in 297 during the reign of Emperor Hui.
The Huayang Guozhi gave a different account of the events before Chen Shou's death. It stated that Chen was appointed as a zhongshuzi to Sima Yu, but was reassigned to be a "Regular Attendant of Scattered Cavalry" (散騎常侍) again after the crown prince was deposed in 299. Emperor Hui told Zhang Hua, "(Chen) Shou possesses genuine talent. He should not remain in his current appointment for long." Zhang Hua wanted to nominate Chen Shou to take up one of the posts of the Nine Ministers (九卿), but lost his life in 300 CE during the War of the Eight Princes. Chen Shou died in Luoyang later. His talents and achievements were not reflected in his status at the time of his death and many people felt that it was an injustice to him. The Huayang Guozhi account apparently suggests that Chen Shou died in 300 CE or after, which did not match his year of death mentioned in the Jin Shu account.
Sometime in the third century after 280, Chen Shou wrote the 65-volume Sanguozhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), which records the history of the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period. The text was divided into three sections – Book of Wei (Wei Shu), Book of Shu (Shu Shu) and Book of Wu (Wu Shu) – and was composed of mainly biographies of notable persons in those eras. Chen Shou received acclaim from his contemporaries for his work and was praised as an excellent historian. Around the time, another historian, Xiahou Zhan (夏侯湛), was writing the Book of Wei (魏書; Wei Shu), which recorded the history of Wei in the Three Kingdoms era. He destroyed his work after reading Chen Shou's Sanguozhi. Zhang Hua was so deeply impressed with the Sanguozhi that he told Chen Shou, "We should entrust the responsibility of writing the Book of Jin to you." Chen Shou was highly regarded as such after he wrote the Sanguozhi.
Extorting grain from the Dings
The first one was about Chen Shou attempting to extort 1,000 hu of grain from the sons of Ding Yi (丁儀) and his younger brother Ding Yi (丁廙) – two very famous officials in Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He promised them that he would write biographies for their fathers in the Sanguozhi if they gave him the grain, but they refused, so he did not write the biographies.
The Qing dynasty writer Pan Mei (潘眉) rebutted the Jin Shu's account about Chen Shou attempting to extort from the Dings and called it "uninformed". He disproved the claim that the Ding brothers were very famous officials in Wei by pointing out that they had neither held important appointments nor made any significant achievements. Pan also felt that a historian was clearly justified if he decided to not write biographies for the Ding brothers, because, in his opinion, the Dings had committed grievous sins – instigating sibling rivalry and causing instability in the Wei imperial clan – which made them unworthy of having biographies in historical records. Pan further noted that there were also other notable persons in Wei (e.g. Chen Lin, Wu Zhi and Yang Xiu) who did not have biographies in the Sanguozhi, so being notable did not mean that a person should have a biography written for him. His concluding remarks on this issue were that the Jin Shu made a malicious claim (about Chen Shou).
Bias against Zhuge Liang and Zhuge Zhan
The second one suggested that Chen Shou held personal grudges against the Shu chancellor Zhuge Liang and his son Zhuge Zhan, hence he wrote negative comments about them in the Sanguozhi. Chen Shou's father was a military adviser to the Shu general Ma Su. When Ma Su was executed by Zhuge Liang after his failure at the Battle of Jieting in 228, Chen Shou's father was implicated and sentenced to kun (髡), a punishment involving the shaving of a person's head. Zhuge Zhan belittled Chen Shou before. When Chen Shou wrote the biographies of Zhuge Liang and Zhuge Zhan in the Sanguozhi, he commented on them as follows: Military leadership was not Zhuge Liang's forte, and he lacked the resourcefulness of a brilliant military leader; Zhuge Zhan excelled only in literary arts, and he had an exaggerated reputation.
The Qing dynasty writer Zhao Yi refuted the Jin Shu claim that Chen Shou was prejudiced against Zhuge Liang in the Sanguozhi, and remarked that the claim was "an uninformed statement". He commented that military leadership did not necessarily had to be regarded as Zhuge Liang's forte because Zhuge also made outstanding achievements in other fields. Zhao also pointed out two pieces of evidence which contradict the Jin Shu claim: Chen Shou gave highly positive comments about Zhuge Liang's ability as a politician in the Zhuge Liang Collection and in his personal commentary at the end of Zhuge's biography in the Sanguozhi. Zhao's concluding remarks on this issue were that Chen Shou had clearly identified Zhuge Liang's strengths and weaknesses in his appraisal of Zhuge in the Sanguozhi.
After Chen Shou's death, the official Fan Jun (范頵) and others wrote a memorial to Emperor Hui: "In the past, Emperor Wu of Han issued an imperial decree: 'Sima Xiangru is critically ill. Retrieve his writings.' The emissary who collected Sima Xiangru's writings told Emperor Wu about the fengshan ceremonies, which were mentioned in Sima's writings. The emperor was very surprised. We, Your Majesty's subjects, propose: The late zhishu shi yushi Chen Shou wrote the Sanguozhi, which contains good advice and evaluates successes and failures. It is beneficial to promoting culture. Even though its writing style is not comparable to the works of (Sima) Xiangru, its message is simpler and clearer. We hope that it can be collected and reproduced." Emperor Hui approved and issued an imperial decree ordering the Intendant of Henan (河南尹) and Prefect of Luoyang (洛陽令) to send scribes to Chen's house and copy the Sanguozhi.
In the fifth century, Emperor Wen of the Liu Song dynasty felt that Chen Shou's Sanguozhi was too short and not comprehensive enough, so he commissioned Pei Songzhi to annotate the Sanguozhi. Pei completed his assignment in 429. He included new materials he collected through research, and added his personal commentary. Pei's annotations increased the length of the Sanguozhi to nearly twice its original.
According to the Jin Shu, Chen Shou collected and compiled the writings of Zhuge Liang during his early career in Jin. The compiled text was called Shu Xiang Zhuge Liang Ji (蜀相諸葛亮集; Collection of the Shu Chancellor Zhuge Liang). The Huayang Guozhi mentioned that later on, Zhang Hua proposed to Emperor Wu to let Chen Shou revise the original text. At the time, Chen Shou had collected more information on Zhuge Liang's works and he rewrote the text, which became the 24-volume Zhuge Liang Gushi (諸葛亮故事; Stories of Zhuge Liang).
Since the end of the Jianwu era (25–56 CE) in the Eastern Han dynasty, writers such as Zheng Boyi (鄭伯邑), Zhao Yanxin (趙彥信), Chen Shenbo (陳申伯), Zhu Yuanling (祝元靈) and Wang Wenbiao (王文表) had co-written the Bashu Qijiu Zhuan (巴蜀耆舊傳; Biographies of Famous People from Bashu). Chen Shou felt that the Bashu Qijiu Zhuan was not comprehensive enough, so he expanded it to the 10-volume Yibu Qijiu Zhuan (益部耆舊傳; Biographies of Famous People from Yi Province). His work was presented by the official Wen Li (文立) to Emperor Wu, who praised it.
Other writings by Chen Shou include: the 50-volume Gu Guo Zhi (古國志; Records of Ancient States), which received high praise; the 7-volume Guansi Lun (官司論; Dissertation on Bureaucracy), which used historical examples to discuss reforms; Shi Yi (釋諱; Explaining Taboos); Guang Guo Lun (廣國論).
Family and relatives
Chen Fu (陳符), whose courtesy name was "Changxin" (長信), was the son of Chen Shou's elder brother. He was also known for his literary talent and he succeeded his uncle as an "Assistant Gentleman of Writings". He also served as the Prefect (令) of Shanglian County (上廉縣).
Chen Fu's younger brother, Chen Li (陳蒞), whose courtesy name was "Shudu" (叔度), served as an Attendant Officer (別駕) in Liang Province and later under Sima You, the Prince of Qi (齊王) and "General of Agile Cavalry" (驃騎將軍). He also died in Luoyang.
Chen Li had a younger relative, Chen Jie (陳階), whose courtesy name was "Dazhi" (達之). Chen Jie assumed the following appointments: Registrar (主簿) of the governor of Yi Province (益州); baozhongling (褒中令); West Commandant (西部都尉) of Yongchang Commandery (永昌郡); Administrator (太守) of Jianning (建寧) and Xinggu (興古) commanderies. Chen Jie was also well known for his literary talent.
Behaviour during the filial mourning period
The Jin Shu mentioned that Chen Shou fell sick during the filial mourning period after his father's death. Some guests who visited his home expressed disapproval when they saw him being served medicine by his servants, because he was expected to lead an austere life during that period. His fellow townsfolk criticised him when they heard about it.
Friendship and rivalry with Li Xiang
According to the Huayang Guozhi, Chen Shou was a close friend of Li Xiang (李驤), who was equally famous as him. Li Xiang, whose courtesy name was "Shulong" (叔龍), was from Zitong Commandery (梓潼郡). He was known for his talent and was recommended as a xiucai (秀才) and served as a "Gentleman in the Imperial Secretariat" (尚書郎). He was reassigned to be the Administrator (太守) of Jianping Commandery (建平郡), but he declined the appointment and claimed that he was ill because he wanted to remain in Zitong. He was then appointed as the Administrator of Guanghan Commandery (廣漢郡). Relations between Chen Shou and Li Xiang deteriorated later and they started making false accusations against each other. Their behaviour was regarded with contempt by others.
Qiao Zhou's advice to Chen Shou
According to the Jin Shu, Chen Shou's mentor, Qiao Zhou, often told Chen, "You will become famous for your talent. However, it might not be a misfortune if you encounter any setback. You should be more mindful about what you do." Fang Xuanling remarked that Chen Shou's experiences – being demoted and humiliated when he was in Shu, and again while he was serving under the Jin dynasty – fitted what Qiao Zhou said about him.
The Wanjuanlou (traditional Chinese: 萬卷樓; simplified Chinese: 万卷楼; pinyin: Wànjuànlóu; literally: "tower of 10,000 volumes of writings") – a tourist attraction in the Xishan Scenic Spot, Shunqing District, Nanchong, Sichuan – is named the source of the culture of the Three Kingdoms period by the Sichuan provincial government. The tower was constructed in the early third century (222–237) during the Three Kingdoms era, and was the place where Chen Shou studied in his early life. It was destroyed in the 1960s after years of neglect, but was rebuilt in 1990 by the Chinese government at a cost of four million yuan. The present tower, which covers an area of 2,400 square metres, consists of three main attractions – the Reading Tower of Chen Shou, the Chen Shou Memorial Hall, and Collecting Books Tower. The tower has on display a collection of writings, illustrations, objects and photographs related to Chen Shou's life, his works and his legacy.
- List of people of the Three Kingdoms
- Records of the Three Kingdoms
- Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms
- Hu (斛) was an ancient Chinese unit of measurement of weight. Depending on the historical era, it could be equivalent to 5 or 10 dou (斗). 1 dou was equivalent to 120 jin. 1 jin ranges from 500g to about 605g by modern standards.
- The younger Ding Yi's name was erroneously recorded as "Ding Hao" (丁暠) in the Jin Shu.
- The Ding brothers were close associates of Cao Zhi, a younger brother of Wei's founding emperor, Cao Pi. In the mid 210s, Cao Pi and Cao Zhi engaged in a power struggle over the succession to their father's place. The contention concluded in 217 with victory for Cao Pi, who executed the Dings after he ascended the throne in 220.
- The identity of Chen Shou's father is unknown. However, it is believed that Chen Shou's father was the Shu military officer Chen Shi, even though this speculation is not supported by historical evidence.
- The book was called Yidu Qijiu Zhuan (益都耆舊傳; Biographies of Famous People from Yi Province's Capital) in the Jin Shu.
- Chen Shou's biography in the Jin Shu mentioned that he died at the age of 65 (by East Asian age reckoning) in the 7th year of the Yuankang era (291–299) in the reign of Emperor Hui of Jin. By calculation, Chen Shou's birth year should be around 233.
- (凡壽所述作二百餘篇，符、蒞、階各數十篇。二州先達及華夏文士多為作傳，大較如此。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (少受學於散騎常侍譙周，治《尚書》、《三傳》，銳精《史》、《漢》。聰警敏識，屬文富豔。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (初應州命，衛將軍主簿，東觀秘書郎，散騎、黃門侍郎。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (陳壽，字承祚，巴西安漢人也。少好學，師事同郡譙周，仕蜀為觀閣令史。宦人黃皓專弄威權，大臣皆曲意附之，壽獨不為之屈，由是屢被譴黜。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- Roberts 1991, pg. 946
- (及蜀平，坐是沈滯者累年。司空張華愛其才，以壽雖不遠嫌，原情不至貶廢，舉為孝廉，除佐著作郎，出補陽平令。撰《蜀相諸葛亮集》，奏之。除著作郎，領本郡中正。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (出為平陽侯相。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (張華將舉壽為中書郎，荀勖忌華而疾壽，遂諷吏部遷壽為長廣太守。辭母老不就。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (中書監荀勗、令張華深愛之，班固、史遷不足方也。 ... 華表令兼中書郎。而壽《魏志》有失勗意，勗不欲其處內，表為長廣太守。)
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 80.
- (杜預將之鎮，複薦之於帝，宜補黃散。由是授禦史治書。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (鎮南將軍杜預表為散騎侍郎，詔曰：「昨適用蜀人壽良具員。且可以為侍御史。」) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (以母憂去職。母遺言令葬洛陽，壽遵其志。又坐不以母歸葬，竟被貶議。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (繼母遺令不附葬。以是見譏。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (後數歲，起為太子中庶子，未拜。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (元康七年，病卒，時年六十五。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- Zizhi Tongjian vol. 83.
- (數歲，除太子中庶子。太子廢後，再兼散騎常侍。惠帝謂司空張華曰：「壽才宜真，不足久兼也。」華表欲登九卿，會受誅，忠賢排擯。壽遂卒洛下，位望不充其才，當時冤之。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (吳平後，壽乃鳩合三國史，著魏、吳、蜀三書六十五篇，號《三國志》 ... ) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (撰魏吳蜀《三國志》，凡六十五篇。時人稱其善敘事，有良史之才。夏侯湛時著《魏書》，見壽所作，便壞己書而罷。張華深善之，謂壽曰：「當以《晉書》相付耳。」其為時所重如此。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (議者以此少之。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (或雲丁儀、丁暠有盛名於魏，壽謂其子曰：「可覓千斛米見與，當為尊公作佳傳。」丁不與之，竟不為立傳。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
《晉書‧陳壽傳》雲：丁廙有盛名於魏。壽謂其子曰：「可覓千斛米見與，當為尊公作佳傳。」丁不與之，竟不為立傳。按丁儀﹑丁廙，官不過右刺姦掾及黃門侍郎，外無摧鋒接刃之功，內無升堂廟勝之效，黨於陳思王，冀搖冢嗣，啟衅骨肉，事既不成，刑戮隨之，斯實魏朝罪人，不得立傳明矣。《晉史》謂索米不得不為立傳，此最無識之言。同時如徐幹、陳琳、阮瑀、應瑒、應璩、劉楨、吳質、邯鄲淳、繁欽、路粹、楊脩皆無傳，益足證《晉史》之誣。) Sanguozhi Kaozheng vol. 5.
- (壽父為馬謖參軍，謖為諸葛亮所誅，壽父亦坐被髡，諸葛瞻又輕壽。壽為亮立傳，謂亮將略非長，無應敵之才，言瞻惟工書，名過其實。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
其頌孔明，可謂獨見其大矣！) Ershi'er Shi Zhaji vol. 6.
- (梁州大中正、尚書郎范頵等上表曰：「昔漢武帝詔曰：'司馬相如病甚，可遣悉取其書。」使者得其遺書，言封禪事，天子異焉。臣等案：故治書侍御史陳壽作《三國志》，辭多勸誡，明乎得失，有益風化，雖文豔不若相如，而質直過之，願垂採錄。」於是詔下河南尹、洛陽令，就家寫其書。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (撰《蜀相諸葛亮集》，奏之。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (華又表令次定《諸葛亮故事》，集為二十四篇。時壽良亦集，故頗不同。復入為著作。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (壽又撰《古國志》五十篇、《益都耆舊傳》十篇，余文章傳於世。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (益部自建武後，蜀郡鄭伯邑、太尉趙彥信，及漢中陳申伯、祝元靈，廣漢王文表，皆以博學洽聞，作《巴蜀耆舊傳》。壽以為不足經遠，乃並巴漢撰為《益部耆舊傳》十篇。散騎常侍文立表呈其《傳》，武帝善之。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (... 又著《古國志》五十篇；品藻典雅。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (上《官司論》七篇，依據典故，議所因革。又上《釋諱》、《廣國論》。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (兄子符，字長信，亦有文才，繼壽著作佐郎，上廉令。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (符弟蒞，字叔度，梁州別駕，驃騎將軍齊王辟掾，卒洛下。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (蒞從弟階，字達之，州主簿，察孝廉，褒中令，永昌西部都尉，建寧、興古太守。階辭章粲麗，馳名當世。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (遭父喪，有疾，使婢丸藥，客往見之，鄉黨以為貶議。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- (時梓潼李驤叔龍，亦雋逸器，知名當世。舉秀才，尚書郎。拜建平太守，以疾辭不就，意在州里。除廣漢太守。初與壽齊望，又相昵友。後與壽情好攜隙，還相誣攻。有識以是短之。) Huayang Guozhi vol. 11.
- (初，譙周嘗謂壽曰：「卿必以才學成名，當被損折，亦非不幸也。宜深慎之。」壽至此，再致廢辱，皆如周言。) Jin Shu vol. 82.
- "Nanchong, Real Source of Culture of Three Kingdoms". Sichuan Provincial People's Government. General Office, Sichuan Provincial People's Government. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
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