Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书

The first biographical history book describing the last dynasty in Chinese history


Chinese Name: 汉书

English Name: Han Shu, Hanshu, Book of Han

Other Names: History of the Former Han前汉书(Qian Han Shu), Book of Former Han前汉书

Author: Ban Gu班固, Ban Zhao班昭, Ma Xu马续

Originally Published: 105 A.D

Genre: History

Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书
Book of Han 汉书

Brief Introduction of the Book of Han

The Book of Han汉书 or Han Shu, also known as Book of Former Han前汉书, is one of the “Twenty-Four Histories二十四史”.It was compiled by Ban Gu班固, a historian and scholar in the Eastern Han Dynasty. It took more than 20 years to complete. Among them, the Babiao八表 of Han Shu were supplemented by Ban Zhao班昭, the sister of Ban Gu, and the Tianwen Zhi天文志(Astronomical Record) of Han Shu were supplemented by Ma Xu马续, a disciple of Ban Gu.

Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书
Han Shu汉书

The Book of Han is another important historical book in ancient China after Shi Ji史记 , The whole book of Han Shu mainly describes 230 years of history from 206 BC to 23 AD. Han Shu includes 12 Ji纪, 8 Biao表, 10 Zhi志, 70 Zhuan传, a total of 100 chapters, and a total of 800000 words.

Ban Biao班彪(A.D. 3 ~ A.D. 54), Ban Gu’s father , continued to write 65 chapters for the Shi Ji史记. After Ban Biao’s death, Ban Gu, 22, began to sort out his father’s manuscripts and was determined to inherit his father’s career and complete this successive masterpiece, that is, the Han Shu.

Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书

The historical materials of Han Shu are very rich and accurate. The times recorded in the book intersect with the Shi Ji. The history of the Han Dynasty and the Western Han Dynasty before the mid-term of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty is recorded in both books. This part of Han Shu mostly uses the old articles of Shi Ji, but due to the differences in the author’s ideas and the different standards of material selection, there are also additions, deletions and changes in the transfer.

The historical events after Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty not only absorbed Ban Biao’s suicide note and the notes of famous scholars reading Shi Ji at that time, but also adopted a large number of imperial edicts, memorials, poems and Fu, Han records similar to daily notes, astronomical and calendar books, as well as the “Hearsay” of Ban’s father and son. Many original historical materials, Ban Gu are recorded in the book in full text, so they are more valuable than Shi Ji.

Author of the Book of Han

Ban Gu班固 (A.D. 32 ~ A.D. 92), the son of ban Biao, a historian in the Eastern Han Dynasty, the brother of Ban Chao班超, was born in Fuling, Fufeng (now Xianyang, Shaanxi). Ban Gu has been smart since childhood. “He can write and recite poetry at the age of nine”. When he grows up, he has read extensively, “the words of a hundred schools have been deeply studied”.

Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书
Ban Gu班固

After Ban Gu’s death, the “Babiao八表” and “Tianwen Zhi天文志” in the Han Shu had not been completed, so emperor Liu Zhao刘肇 asked Ban Gu’s sister Ban Zhao班昭 to write the “Babiao” and Ma Xu to write the “Tianwen Zhi”.

Ban Zhao班昭 (about 45 A.D. – about 117 A.D.), also known as Ban Ji班姬, was a historian, writer and Confucian scholar in the Han Dynasty and the Eastern Han Dynasty. The daughter of historian Ban Biao and the sister of Ban Gu married Cao Shishu曹世叔 of the same county at the age of 14, so it is also called “Cao Dajia曹大家” in later generations.

Book of Han/Han Shu 汉书
Ban Zhao班昭

Ma Xu马续, whose birth and death year is unknown, was born in Fufeng Maoling (now the northeast of Xingping, Shaanxi).

Excerpts of the Book of Han


If the water is too clear, the fish can’t live; If you are too strict with others, you will have no partners.


You know one, but you don’t see the other; Only see the appearance of things, do not understand the essence of things.


Disasters are mostly hidden in secret and subtle places, but arise in people’s neglect.


It’s hard to show your skill by carving on gold and stone; It’s easy to show its power by destroying the dead and tearing up the decadent.

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