Jia Yi

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Jia.

Jia Yi (Chinese: 賈誼; pinyin: Jiǎ Yì; Wade–Giles: Chia I; 200–169 BCE) was a Chinese poet, educator and statesman of the Han Dynasty. Jia Yi is known both for his general contributions in the history of fu poetry as well as for several of his surviving works. In particular, he is famous for his two fu, On the Owl and his Lament for Quyuan. He is also the author of the treatise Xinshu 新書, containing political and educational insights.[1]


Jia Yi was born in 200 BCE in Luoyang.[2]

When he reached the age of 18, he was already well known in his county for his ability in poems and essay-writing, and was referred to as "Jia sheng", that is, "Student Jia". Soon, he was recommended by Wu Gong (吳公) to Emperor Wen of Han. He soon achieved a high status but was repulsed by older, high-ranking officials at the time such as Zhou Bo and Guan Ying.

Jia Yi made many suggestions to Emperor Wen about governing his empire. As an advocate of Confucian reforms, attacking Xiongnu and lessening the power of local governors, he made enemies at court and lost his position.[2][3] He became the tutor to the King of Changsha (the only king of the time not belonging to the imperial clan Liu),[2] a place he disliked as he feared its humid climate would lead to an early death. When passing the Xiang river, he wrote several poems grieving for his sad fate and compared himself with Qu Yuan, who was sent into exile to Changsha, in an earlier age (that of King Huai of Chu). Thus, Changsha was known as "The home of Qu [Yuan] and Jia [Yi]" (屈賈之鄉) because of their influence. The link was established by Sima Qian who placed the biographies of the two statesmen-poets together.

In 173 BC, after 3 or 4 years in Changsha, he was recalled by the emperor to the capital Luoyang, allegedly to be asked about matters of mysticism by Emperor Wen, and was later made a tutor of his youngest son, Prince Huai of Liang (梁懷王), true name Liu Yi (劉揖).

In 169 BC, Prince Huai of Liang, whom he tutored, fell off a horse and died. The following year Jia committed suicide,[2] allegedly out of feelings of responsibility for the incident.


He is known for his (賦), poems in a mixed prose and poetry style that was popular in the Han Dynasty, and for his political works such as Guo Qin Lun (過秦論) and Zhi'An Ce (治安策), the latter mostly lost. Since he wrote favorably of social and ethical ideas attributed to Confucius and wrote an essay focused on the failings of the Legalist-based Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), he was classified by other scholars in the Han Dynasty as a Confucian scholar (rujia).[2] Jia Yi was known for his interest in ghosts, spirits, and other aspects of the afterlife;[4] and, he wrote his Lament to Qu Yuan as a sacrificial offering to Qu Yuan,[5] who had a century-or-so earlier drowned himself after being politically exiled. Jia Yi's actions inspired future exiled poets to a minor literary genre of similarly writing and then tossing their newly composed verses into the Xiang River, or other waters, as they traversed them on the way to their decreed places of exile.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Svarverud, Rune. Methods of the Way: Early Chinese Ethical Thought. Leiden: Brill, 1998.
  2. ^ a b c d e Loewe (1986), 148.
  3. ^ Di Cosmo (2002), 201–202.
  4. ^ Murck (2000), p. 46.
  5. ^ Hawkes (1985), p. 52.
  6. ^ Murck (2000), p. 16.


  • Di Cosmo, Nicola. (2002). Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77064-5.
  • Hawkes, David (1985). The Songs of the South. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044375-2. 
  • Loewe, Michael. (1986). "The Former Han Dynasty," in The Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24327-0.
  • Murck, Alfreda (2000). Poetry and Painting in Song China: The Subtle Art of Dissent. Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London: Harvard University Asia Center for the Harvard-Yenching Institute. ISBN 0-674-00782-4.